Kevin and I went on a great bike ride on the Sangamon Valley Trail on Sept. 16th, our 14th anniversary. It’s a lovely, flat path, and 23 miles round-trip.
We decided to hit the trail again on November 6th and I was looking forward to the ride because it was a lovely warm but not too warm day.
After we’d ridden about eight miles we stopped to take a look at the Sangamon River. Kevin said Glenn knew that a house on the river had recently come up for sale and we talked about how fun it would be to have a house on the river. The house is over there on the far left but almost impossible to see from the bridge.
We reached the end of the trail, 11.5 miles up the road, stopping briefly and then headed back, realizing that the wind had been helping to propel us forward. On the return trip the upstream wind was kind of a challenge to ride into, but still all good.
Until we got back to the bridge that is. We stopped on the bridge again and then cycled to the end of the bridge to a bench.
Well, I cycled to the end anyway. I turned around to see Kevin pushing his bike. “Why aren’t you riding?” i asked. “I have a flat,” he replied.
Kevin had a few tools but there was no way to see where the hole in the tube might be so he couldn’t fix it and he didn’t have a spare tube.
Now what? Kevin said i should finish last eight miles of the ride, put my bike on the truck and ride back to pick him up. meanwhile, he’d walk his bike a little way. He said I’d be safer riding instead of walking.
This made me a little panicky and I suggested that he could ride my bike and I could walk his, but once again he said it’d be better for me to ride. Because I’d looked up the map on my phone and I’d taken a few pictures, my battery level was low – since my phone is kind of old the battery tends to drain pretty quickly. I asked Kevin how I’d find him and berated myself for leaving my phone charger in the truck, but he said we’d be fine. He gave me the truck keys and off i went.
I got about a mile and a half down the trail and heard a dog in a yard at the edge. I climbed off my bike and yelled over to a woman in the yard, explaining that MY HUSBAND HAD A FLAT TIRE AND I HAVE TO COME BACK AND PICK HIM UP and asked her if there was a road in front of her house.
Of course there was a road in front of her house, because houses are always on roads. I was feeling way too panicky about the whole thing. She told me her address and said that he could wheel his bike through their driveway up to the road.
I thanked her and decided to use my precious phone power to call Kevin. YOU NEED TO GO TO 1335 TOZER ROAD, I said to him. That’s not the actual address, of course i can’t remember it now, but you get the idea. I tried to describe the spot to him – there was a flag and a fence and the house was a beige ranch style.
He said he’d do that and I continued down the trail, convinced that something very very bad was likely to happen to either him or me. Instead of nodding to passing bikes I constantly looked in my rearview mirror, convinced that the next guy riding up to me was surely going to attack me.
Yeah, quite hysterical. One guy riding up behind me was on a single-speed cruiser and i watched as he got closer and closer…and then i was indignant as he easily passed me right by. HOW IS HE GOING SO FAST ON A ONE SPEED BIKE WHEN I’M PEDALING AS FAST AS I CAN???
Sometimes the wind got really strong as I continued my frantic journey. I worried that something terrible would happen to Kevin, but what was I thinking could happen to him?
Finally there was only one more mile to go, and shortly thereafter I coasted to a stop at the parking lot. The lot was completely full at this point and I called Kevin and told him I’d made it back safely. We agreed to meet at the point where Tozer Road came to a dead end. I plugged my phone into the charger and managed to hoist my bike up onto the rack. I’ve never done this and it was mighty heavy, but I safely finished that task and then had to back the giant truck out of the parking space as two cars waited at the lot entrance to fight for my spot.
I’m never good at backing, and I don’t recall ever trying to back up in the giant truck plus now there was a bike attached to the back. I inched backwards an inch at a time, turning and backing, turning and backing, as I’m sure the people in the cars thought I must be a complete moron.
Finally I made it out of the lot and rushed down the road to get to Kevin. By this time it was rush hour and the roads were a little crowded, and he was twenty minutes away. That’s pretty far. But traffic thinned down to nothing by the time I reached him. There he was, pushing his bike down the road.
I was so happy to see him! He was cheerful, telling me how several people had asked if they could help him. A couple of people asked while he was on the trail and then as he sat down at the side of the road a kid ran out of his house and asked if he needed assistance. A couple of guys working on a car in a driveway also offered to help. He always cheerfully replied, “nope, i need a new tube and my wife is coming to pick me up,” not realizing that his wife had worked herself into a complete dither.
But Good Times for Kevin. I was extremely happy that he drove us home because i realized I was exhausted from the furious pedaling and the frantic driving and the general hysteria.
It’s especially good that Kevin had a positive experience because many years ago, before I knew him when he was living in northern Illinois, he was riding his bike on a country road and a gravel truck purposefully hit him, knocking him on the ground and leaving him for dead. Monstrous.
Kevin managed to crawl to a nearby farmhouse where the owner said he could come in but Kevin said he didn’t want to bleed on their floor. He laid on a picnic table trying to remain conscious after they called an ambulance. His shoulder had been dislocated, his retina detached, he had a minor concussion and lots of scrapes and bruises. And the trucker had hit him on purpose and drove off, leaving him for dead…
So this little adventure was good for him, restoring faith in humanity and all that, and good for me, maybe I won’t be such an incredible wuss if this happens again.
It also makes me think about our bike trip in Scotland several years ago, how we were out in the middle of nowhere a lot of the time and it rained almost every single day and sometimes the roads were gravel and the hills were very steep and it’s a miracle that nothing bad ever happened to us back then. But Kevin says he did have a spare inner tube back then, and I’m sure he’ll have one from now on.
And tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I hope you have a safe one.