I ride between 120 and 170 miles a week: usually a mix of country roads and mountain roads--sometimes dirt and gravel roads--and many of my miles are done in the early morning and out of cell-phone range. Yet, I'm still less than comfortable when it comes to changing a tube. I can do it. I've done it several times. I'm actually pretty good at it. But anytime I hear or feel an indication of a flat, I get a little panicky. A few weeks back, I had a front flat coming down after a decent climb. I got it changed without much trouble and was on my way. The very next day I had a rear flat. It seemed to be a slow leak, so I just inflated it with C02 and hoped it would last the rest of the ride. Two miles later, totally flat. I changed the tube, and tried to use the rest of the C02. As I was releasing it, the tube literally froze and crumbled. I've heard that this can happen: I've talked to people who have gotten frostbite from C02, and who are generally weary of it. So, at this point I was stuck. I had a tube with a puncture, a completely ruined tube, and zero C02.
Luckily, it was a brilliant day around noon, and several cyclists were out. As I was attempting to phone a friend, a man rolled up and introduced himself: Chuck. He sat down and patched my not-entirely-ruined tube. Kind people exist everywhere, but I've been especially impressed with how willing cyclists in northern Colorado are to lend a hand. It took Chuck a while to properly patch my tube, but we talked about retirement (his), local music, and the toughest climbs in the area. After patching me up, he hand-pumped air into my fixed tube, and sent me on my way. The next day, I invested in a hand-pump of my own, and now carry 2 tubes. I'll still pack a C02 cartridge, and have nothing against it, but if I had been any farther out: up a mountain or in the country, and someone as kind (and prepared) as Chuck hadn't come along, I would have been out of luck. It's a tricky thing when the only way to learn is to practice, but the best case scenario is not to have to practice. I feel a little more equip now, and a lot more grateful for kind people.