While I had checked the tire before putting in the first replacement tube, this time I took the tire off, turned it inside-out and ran my finger around the inside, which was now outside thanks to the above mentioned inside-out turning. This time, I found the tiniest piece of tire cord, just barely extending above the surface. I put in quite an effort before I finally got it out. I was carrying two spare tubes, so I was able to repair the flat for good and made the remainder of the trip home without incident.
It isn't often that I have two flats on one ride, but I suppose in this case, I had the same flat twice. As I rode on towards home, I thought about what had transpired and what came to mind, of course, was the well-known first line of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." So it is with tires. Inflated tires are all alike; every flat is flat in its own way. I've had flats from a large staple, a small nail, belted tire wire and even what looked like a rose bush thorn. There is no end to the ways in which you can get a flat.
And, it struck me, that the mission trips to Africa are like that. Successful trips are all alike: people we visit are helped, those of us who go learn something important and we all grow a little bit. And so it was on this last trip.
But there is no end to the ways that trouble can creep in. This time, there were two auto accidents (no serious injuries except to our rental cars), a flat tire, a visit to a service center for an oil and filter change, late delivery of bikes, an extra trip to the rural school to sort out issues with the book order and even an emergency landing in Iceland (this happened to Samuel on his way home yesterday - I don't know the details yet, but he is back, safe and sound).
Unlike the binary condition of either happy OR unhappy families, the trip was successful AND sprinkled with moments of drama. Again, there will be reports...
What a good trip looks like