This post is probably going to be huge, due to the fact that I haven’t updated in almost a week and the fact that the trip has been cut tragically short.
This post was supposed to start something like this:
Oh yeah baby! Today all our hard work, perseverance, and terrible eating habits have paid off, and we have officially completed the first century of the trip! For those who aren’t familiar with cyclingo, that translates to “100 miles”, or “I no longer have sensation in my toes”. But neuropathic issues asides, woo! It can only go uphill (downhill?) from here!
Blah blah blah
Instead it’s going to be more like:
But first, it’s time for the SOOPER FAST WEEKLY RECAP!
47 miles of the Ozarks. As a completely unrelated side note, the Ozarks are now my least favorite mountain range in the continental US. Met a cool old guy named Roger Robison, a former architect turned fellow bike tourer. He runs his own blog called Roger Rides West, so you should definitely check it out.
33 largely unforgettable miles, save for the fact that my toes started to go numb, presumably from boredom.
Concerned about the level of excitement in my lower regions, I decided to sit this day out. We were camping, so I basically bummed around in the car all day trying to avoid the muggy Kansas heat. I was largely unsuccessful.
Easy 50 mile day (remember, Kansas is flaaaaaaaaat). After I stopped at the most epic bike shop ever where they did a casette swap in like 5 minutes, we biked through 45 miles of steady road and 5 miles of dirt road, in which we learned that sand is to a bicycle as a bad boy/girlfriend is to basically anyone: hard to control, gets you into trouble, makes everything dirty, and is generally not worth the effort unless you get a kick out of it.
Speaking of romance, an ostrich attempted to woo Kevin with a mating dance. It was not successful.
Also had a little too much fun at the local waterpark, which wasn’t much bigger than a tennis court..
WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED YESTERDAY?
This was the setup: Flat road. Full bellies. Amazing weather… for summertime in the Midwest, at least. If we were ever to get over that 100-mile hump, today would be the day.
Normally, we start pretty early: wakeup at 6 AM, actually get up at 6:30 AM, pack up for an hour and leave for the next destination. Today, though we woke up at 5 so we could make use of as many not-sunny hours we could, out of fear of the heat.
That turned out to not be a problem on this particular day.
I have since come to believe that weather forecasts in the Midwest during summertime are about 50% accurate for any given day. We were supposed to have mostly cloudy conditions, followed by afternoon heat, followed by evening thunderstorms. What we actually had were clouds and thunderstorms, with brief sections of sunny weather. This is to be the beginning of one of two patterns describing yesterday: that nothing went at all as it was expected to, usually in the worst possible way. In other words, Finagle’s Law.
The first thing that happened was that I encountered some railroad tracks around 20 miles in. This isn’t unusual in for the Transam trail: it runs along old highways and backcountry roads that are closer to the old railroad tracks than the new highways to minimize traffic and maximize safety for bikers. We had all encountered train tracks before, so I didn’t think anything of it.
In retrospect, I should have. The train tracks were deeper than they normally were (something difficult to see when it’s dim and raining), and I approached them at a shallow angle, less than 45 degrees. My front tire slipped into the tracks and got stuck, causing a rapid deceleration that flipped the bike and ejected me from the saddle. Landed on my right side and my head hit the pavement, cracking the helmet in the process. I don’t think I passed out, which was good, as being sprawled out on a rural state highway in dark, rainy conditions is a good place to be in. As far as scrapes go, I got off very lightly, with the only nastyish one being to my right hip. The slickness of the road may actually have helped me in this regard, causing me to slide more than skid. The fact that I was wearing full raingear also definitely helped.
When I caught up with Hongyu and Kevin, it turns out that Kevin had also fallen at the tracks, but didn’t get hugged as badly by the pavement. Unfortunately for him, when people don’t accept the road’s love, it only gets more clingy.
80 miles in, conditions were perfection. The storm had stopped, and in its wake it left us a tailwind that was pushing us along at a zipping 25 mph due to Kansas’ thrice-blessed geological boringness. I was leading, checking that I was still within visual range of my partners using my fabulously practical vanity mirror, when I noticed that I could not see them. I stopped for a quick drink break, figuring they could catch up.
After 10 minutes, they didn’t. I reluctantly turned around and pedalled into the wind, which reduced my speed to something like 14 mph. After around a minute of this, I was getting annoyed… a feeling that changed rather quickly when I saw why my buddies had stopped.
Kevin had hit a bit of gravel while riding on the shoulder, and he momentarily lost control. Things happened so fast that he couldn’t really respond before he found himself on another unexpected date with the pavement, ending with a nasty rash and bad feelings all around. When I came upon him, his forearms and palms were bloody with abrasions.
(Picture not shown since some blog readers may be delicate flowers)
This is where the second pattern emerges: how lucky we were – or perhaps more accurately, how minimal the bad luck we got was.
The first is the fact that I’m a licensed EMT, so dealing with this stuff is kinda my job. I cleaned out Kevin’s wounds as best I could using the leftovers from my hydration bladder (like a Camelbak, not to be confused with a urinary bladder) while waiting for our support van to arrive.
This is where the second bit of luck comes in. Since Kevin had crashed only 7 miles away from our rest location of Scott City, our support van was able to meet with us in minutes. After it got there, everyone got busy packing up the bikes while I got my first-aid kit out. Luck #3: me being paranoid enough to have a FAK. I burned through several alcohol swabs and all my iodine swabs and sterile dressings as I treated Kevin.
Then things got worse.
We were on a road running through prairie, of which there is a lot of in Kansas. There must have been the perfect confluence of time, location, weather, and fleshy food, because after a few minutes we were swarmed by flies. And I ain’t talkin’ ’bout no houseflies neither. These were cattle flies, bugs that like to dine on blood, and the were gunning for us. Being the hot stud I am the, the hungry flies seemed to be disproportionately attracted to my ankles as I helped Kevin into the van (Hongyu would bike the rest of the way to Scott City). I could attempt to describe the horrible, agonizing itching I endured today. Instead, I’ll just leave you a picture to cringe at.
Those red bumps are all bites. Both my feet look like this. I have learned what true suffering is.
Anyways, there I was: attempting to clean and dress Kevin’s abrasions in a bumpy van while under continuous attack from the flier nation. As my calm, medical-professional voice was being periodically interrupted by my violent, filthy swearing at the %@#$ing flies, I noticed that we were slowing down. This is where the last major stroke of luck hit: Scott City had a newly-constructed hospital, something that was definitely not a standard fixture of the small towns we passed through. We were able to get him into the ED in less than 20 minutes, all told.
The final bit of luck was that Kevin got off as lightly as he did, with only some sick scrapes and a broken index toe to show for it. I suppose me being thrown from my bike, hitting my head, and still being able to write this counts as well.
Unfortunately, luck can only go so far. If you recall, the main support driver for our trip is Kevin’s dad. Because Kevin’s not in a fit state to ride for a while, and because of personal reasons that cause his dad to be very, very concerned about infection, our ride’s been terminated. Kevin will fly back home to Virginia to recover, while me and Hongyu are getting drive home to California. Sucks, but that’s the way it is.
That doesn’t mean I’m done, though. Oh no, not by a long shot. Tune in for more news
tomorrow the next time I get wifi!