Bike Trip 2003

30 May 2003

The infamous bike trip of 2003...

As I do every year, I set one week aside for a bike vacation. This year it was the first week of June. I planned to ride down to Illinois and visit my grandparents. I had done that last year and really liked the scenic route which spends a significant amount of time along the Mississippi. But what would set this trip apart from that last one was that I would also ride back and I would ride my Rans recumbent and tow my BOB trailer. (Last year I had ridden my Klein mountain bike and gone minimalist style with just a backpack.) So instead of a 300 mile trip, it would be a 600 mile trip. I was really looking forward to it. Roughly 3 days down, 3 days there, and 3 days back.

Finally Friday arrived. I finished work and went home. It was about 9:30am. The weather was pretty good although it was very windy (the flags were stiff in the wind which was from the northwest). Predictions of showers and thunderstorms all day but for now it was sunny with large cumulus clouds lumbering across the sky. I began my preparations to leave. Packed. Ran errands. I had 5 stops I had to make before I could get on the road. Finally at 3:30 I was ready and headed south.

I started on Highway 93 which would take me to Trempealeau on the Mississippi River. Very beautiful route. Rolling hills. Lots of farmland but not at the expense of losing all of the trees.

Just outside of Eau Claire, the sky began to get very ominous and dark. The wind picked up and large drops of rain began falling. I pulled over to a gas station and went around to the back where I was out of the wind so I could make my rig rain resistant. Once I was relatively satisfied with my arrangements, I headed back south. The wind was both a blessing and a curse and frankly it would have been nice to do without it. It was partly a tailwind but there was enough of it that was from my right side that it would knock me slightly off balance as it gusted and I would have to compensate for that. I did notice and appreciate the large portions of the road that had tree clusters or wooded areas that offered a bit of a windbreak.

Although I had not been down that way since last year, I recognised the scenes and everything looked very familiar. I saw spots where I had stopped before...

At County Hwy F there was a scenic view overlook/picnic area where I stopped for a few minutes to stretch and remove some of the rain protection (since nothing wet had happened really). I checked my cell phone and still had full service. I listened to my voice mail and chugged some kefir and then started riding again. It was a bit after 5pm.

A while down the road I encountered an interesting sight. Off to my left, the farmland rose up into a kind of ridge and along that ridge was a line of cows heading single file somewhere (I assume it was milking time). I found it to be a humourous and rather interesting image.

Finally I arrived in Eleva and found myself in the midst of a big festival. The annual BroilerFest. Food and fun for the whole family! One of those situations where I would have liked to have had the freedom to stop and hang out with people and divert myself from the road and enjoy the local attractions for a bit. But so far, I have not had that luxury on any of my bike trips. Someday I will though. That is my goal and dream.

I continued on through Eleva. It was beginning to clear up. I could see some sun trying to peek out from the clouds off to my right when I look over my shoulder. I was beginning to feel a bit warm with my hat and coat on so I started to think about stopping to take one or both of them off. Finally I passed Deetz Rd and came up to the point where I had stopped for the night last year. (Deetz Rd makes a kind of rural cul de sac where somewhat in the form of a U, it leaves the highway and then a mile down it comes back to it.) I could see Holden Rd and Deetz Part 2 and to my right was the spot where I had exited the road...

So that was satisfying to pass.

Then my descent began... I came to a downhill area and was enjoying the coast. I thought about how BOB was acting better this time as opposed to the last time I had brought him along and he tended to fishtail a bit on fast descents. I then was hit with a gust of wind that did ironically cause a fishtail so I began braking but in compensating for being off balance, I ended up on the gravel shoulder. As I tried to turn back onto the pavement, my front wheel lost traction and went out from under me. We fell and my left foot was caught under the bike. I slid on my arm, hip, knee and the top of my foot. Judging from the groove from my pedal, I figure I slid about 10 feet. Quickly I got up and made an attempt to right the bike. Once it was back up, I sat on my seat and kind of paused for a bit to get over the shock. My foot was oozing blood in several places as was my arm and little finger. I could feel the pain from the various spots on my leg and thigh where I knew that I had been scraped. I had a moment of queasiness as I watched my sandal get redder. It was torn and ruined – so were my pants. Finally I noticed that my chain was derailed from my front cogs and so I bent down to fix that. In doing so, I discovered that somehow (I have no idea how.) my rear derailleur hanger had gotten bent and the derailleur was pulled up and into my spokes. The bike was not going anywhere. So I disconnected BOB (which was a difficult chore since without any form of support, I had to hold the rig upright with one hand and disconnect with the other while the front wheel tried to go every which way... Plus one of the cotter pins was jammed!) and laid the bike back down. I had to dig into the trailer to get my tools and then I removed the derailleur and reset the chain so it wouldnt drag too much in the gravel. For a moment I thought that the bike was immovable and that I was stuck there. I was at a loss because down in the valley, I had no cell service so I couldnt call for assistance. Speaking of that, I was really surprised that nobody stopped to see that I was OK. There were 3 cars that were passing as I crashed. None of them stopped (although one honked). And then I was sitting on the shoulder with my bike parts strewn about for at least 20 minutes and nobody stopped. When I was trying to disconnect BOB, I was actually on the pavement and passed my several vehicles including a semi and nobody stopped...

Finally, slowly, I gathered everything up and started to laboriously walk my bike back up the hill. When I reached the top, I tried my cell again to no avail. So on I trudged. The most exasperating thing was that I kept getting pebbles and gravel in my sandals – and 90% of them ended up in my left sandal under my injured foot. I would have put my shoes on but didnt see that as an option with all of the blood and gashes. So every few hundred steps, I had to stop and jiggle the stones out.

Over an hour went by and eventually I came to a point that was pretty open so I tried my cell again. This time it connected and I called Shermie. He said that as soon as he heard my voice he mentally went, “Uh oh”. Quickly he volunteered to come out with his van. Then I called my parents to tell them that I was going to have to cancel the trip. Not only was the bike too damaged to travel but so was I. Then since I was getting chilly just standing there in the wind, I began my trek again.

Somewhere between Cty Rd V (which goes to Strum) and Hansen Rd, Shermie found me. We drove to his house and I tended my injuries and ate.

And so ended my great bike trip of 2003...

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