I put the Hoopty back together. I went up to the shop and made my bicycle safe and rideable again. I don't have any money, so the drivetrain wasn't replaced. Riding 4,500 miles on one chain and cassette is fairly extreme treatment - but as I rode away from the shop, it still felt alright. "It works, don't it?" Those were one wise man's words once.
The Hoopty is still my pride and joy. I owe this bicycle more than the work I put into it today, and I look forward to getting it perfect soon. And I will always continue my strict regimin of needless upgrades, rearrangements, and parts experimentations. This is the most love a Hi-Tensile steel frame has ever received.
"You rode all the way across the country with that piece of shit derailer?"
I know Alex wasn't trying to upset me. I think it was mostly a joke. But I'm not sure what percent serious he was. Maybe he doesn't understand to fortitude and reliability of a simple "7 SIS" Shimano derailer. It's literally the only original component on my bicycle. Everything else is randomly upgraded and different.
"Yes. I rode all the way across the country on this awesome derailer. And I also used it on my previous bicycle tour. It's the only original component on the bicycle."
I also pointed out that the return spring is strong, meaning crisp shifts even after gunk and crap have gotten into the cable housing, etc.
If there is one thing that's true about bicycle parts, it's that you can really easily spend too much on a derailer. You can literally spend hundreds of dollars on derailer, and not feel the difference between that and a $15 dollar one if you're not looking at it while you pedal. If you use friction shifting and low-cost equipment, you are the king. I am the king. Dig it.