"Looks like your steering is loose," T-Bone said, twisting the forks out of alignment to demonstrate.
"Damn," I muttered, "well, let me find out where this back tire is rubbing, then, I'll tighten it." We'd stopped a few kilometers south of Hue and had pulled over on a dirt road to make a minor adjustment of an irritating but otherwise benign nature. I was able to quickly make the repair, then, I turned my attention to the steering issue. T-Bone was right; it was loose and I was giving the bolt a few degrees of a turn when I heard a snap, and the bolt suddenly spun as freely as if it were mounted on ball bearings.
"Son of a..."
"That didn't sound too good," T-Bone said. We traded knowing looks.
My heart sank. We were truly in it now. All connection between the handlebars and the front wheel was lost because of my carelessness. There was no way to steer the bike. It was out of commission until a new part could be found. And we sure as heck weren't going to find it out here in the middle of rural Vietnam.
"I broke it," I moaned, "now we're in real trouble!! Stuck out here with no way to repair this thing, dammit, now what do we do?"
T-Bone smiled wryly. "First off, we don't panic."
"Let's figure out what's wrong and see if we can cobble together an emergency repair that will last long enough to get us back to Hue."
"Oh, man," I whined, " there's no way in hell we're gong to fix this!" I paced around in circles a few times, "We're just..."
As I fretted and fumed, T-bone calmly removed the stem and after a cursory examination held up the tightening bolt. "Yeah, you stripped it alright. This bike isn't going anywhere except in the back of a truck."
"Oh, that's just great! Where are we gonna find a truck out here!?" I waved my hand in the direction of the busy highway a few meters away where, in the span of a few seconds, half a dozen trucks rumbled past.
"We'll get a cab," T-Bone said.
"Oh, yeah, sure, neither of us speaks Vietnamese, and we have no idea where we are." My lip began to quiver. "Game over, man, game over."
T-Bone strolled over to a nearby road sign and took a picture of it with his iPhone. Then, I could see him making a call. He walked back to where I stood. "It's all taken care of," he said, "I got a hold of our hotel in Hue and sent them a picture of our location. They're sending a cab."
I stared in dumb disbelief. "Huh?" I croaked, wiping a tear from my eye, "you mean..."
"Yup. It's all taken care of." T-Bone offered me his water bottle, " get some water in you and hang over there in the shade until the cavalry arrives".
I gave him a look. "You're pretty damn smug," I grumbled. "You know, no one likes a show-off".