The bicycle swap meet at Trexlertown happens twice a year. Spring and Fall. People set up folding tables and lay out blankets all around the velodrome. They lay out bicycles, frames, wheels, and parts for every type of bicycle from every era of cycling. Spandex-y bicycle shops try to blow out last year's inventory. Greasy bicycle shops go to stock up on repair parts. I used to go to buy low and sell high. Now I go mostly for myself.
Arriving the night before is a ritual. People get there early and build a few fires - in the back of a field and beside the gravel part of the parking lot. It's a secluded location, so this kind of thing flies. Greasy enthusiasts drink beer and talk excitedly about bicycle touring. As close as I can tell, these folks are my people. If you give a slight allowance, I almost fit right in.
There was no party this year. The forecast was for cold and rain. I can't sit still before game day, so I drove up early and arrived as the sky became dark. Aside from an RV in the main parking lot, and a pickup truck parked in the grass, I was alone. I had a hoagie, a full charge on my laptop, and a fresh skein of yarn. I had 51 ounces of beer from Acme, and a tall pumpkin spiced coffee from the Wawa.
I had a nice little evening to myself. Watched a movie; practiced some crochet. I slept well. When I woke up at 6am, I knew I wouldn't get back to sleep. I rose up, put on some pants, and headed straight back to the Wawa a few miles away. I got another tall coffee - pumpkin spice again - and two breakfast sandwiches for now and later.
I took a new spot close to the side gate, and pretty soon people started to arrive. Shelly and Nielle showed up, and I helped set up a table and a tent. For that plus $15 I got a special wristband that let me on the track an hour early.
I had $1000 in my pocket. All 10's and 20's to make it easier to spend.
I've seen better swap meet turnouts. There was lots of empty space. I didn't bargain hard enough, and felt less invested than times in the past. The threat of rain never materialized, but I suspect it kept people away.
I made circle after circle, buying bread and butter parts. Square taper bottom brackets, discount derailleurs, old handlebars, and of course lots of cranks. I got a Holdsworth frame for $20 - big dent in the top tube, and also missing the fork. I never back down from a challenge. I don't always step up, but I don't back down much either. Show me a damaged frame-up project, and I'll show you twenty bucks. Yes, sir. I bought pedals. I got Dura Ace and Suntour. I got a Shimano Sante bottom bracket. I got a Specialized bottom bracket with a Hatta nutted spindle. I got a Dean seatpost, and Campy Record carbon ergo shifters. Everything was barely making sense.
I stuck around until the end, and had a little less than half of my money left. The bank envelope was thin and deteriorated. I ate the cold second sandwich. I loaded up and went home.
Some of these parts will be sold. Some of them will be used for my own experimental projects. But as I drove home from the swap, I felt a certain doubt that any of my projects are getting finished fast. In fact, I bought that new frame, so the incomplete bicycles are only adding up. I have a new personal rule to leave the Hoopty alone. I need at least one bicycle to actually ride some time.