Don’t worry. I survived the previous night without walking even funnier. Apparently “Alf” isn’t into guys.
Today was Fathers Day and so I wanted to wish my Dad a good one. Although I managed to get Skype up and running (craig.hamnett if you want to add me) the WiFi connection was such that I sounded like I was “playing ping pong”. What was more frustrating was that I could hear him perfectly well.
After ensuring I got a picture of the sex offender in the toilets and waiting for the spot of rain to pass, I set off towards Douglas. Well, that was until I tried to change gear. The back derailleur wasn’t shifting so I had a choice of 3 gears. Obviously with impending hills that wouldn’t do – I had to fix it.
I brought it back around to the shelter, just as it started to rain again, and unloaded all of the bags. Now I know little to nothing about either derailleur, I can figure out the mechanics of it and roughly how it works (levers and cables, but mainly magic) but I have no idea how to go about fixing it.
I turned the screws which adjust the alignment of the derailleur and I poked and prodded at it a little bit. More tweaking and I appeared to have somehow hit the nail on the head and get the bloody thing to move again. I hopped on the bike for a quick test and sure enough I had my full range of gears back! An hour delay in total, but no worrying – I was feeling limber after my extended stretching routine during the rain break.
I carried along Route 20 until I hit a minute place called Shawnee, just after here I was to take County Road 52 – according to Google Maps bike navigation. The road was gravelly and sandy but it was compacted enough that it was solid and fairly easy to ride on. Not as efficient as the tarmac, probably around 6mph slower on average, but this was the only way to Douglas on a bike as Route 20 soon became an Interstate and bikes aren’t allowed on there.
15 miles in I stopped for a little break under a bridge. Not for the first time, I got dive-bombed by around 30 little birds who were all acting very territorial in protecting their nests in the rafters. Since they were pissing me off I started throwing rocks up at their nests and managed to bring four of them down. A storm rolled in and the rain turned from light smatterings to heavy globules. I donned my full waterproof attire and battled on.
The road now started to get a little hilly and it was exceedingly unwelcome. I was now hunched over the bars, absolutely sodden, thinking that this is probably the worst I’ve felt the whole trip. It was pure misery, but it was going to get worse before it got better.
Just before the summit of the climb it defeated me. The first hill to do so. I avoided a large rock, turned my front tyre sharply, but couldn’t get any purchase on the sandy surface so I ground to a halt. I trudged up to the top of the hill on the bike and it soon became apparent that I was in a spot of bother.
My back tyre was slipping on what was now a sandy bog. I had to wrestle with the bike to get it moving anywhere. The road was now like an arena for a mud-wrestling event. Clay-like mud was now clogging up my bike the further I rode. I must have got about 20 metres in 5 minutes of attempted riding. I yelled at the top of my voice signifying defeat. Now it was time to get off and push.
Pushing was a little easier but I was slipping and sinking in the mud with each push, but not as much as the bike. It was carving out a nice path in the mud pit, but it got to the point after a furious 10 minutes of pushing that I simply had to give up because the wheels now wouldn’t turn. Every inch of the bike was packed tightly with mud.
This was a Sunday afternoon, people were back home from church, and there was very little traffic on the road. After the 10 minutes of pushing I heard a car coming in the opposite direction and whilst in the middle of the road I waved and flagged the car down to stop. Or so I thought. The woman behind the wheel waved back at me, smiled, and drove on. Arse.
I moved over to the ditch next to the road and laid my bike down. I was now unclogging the clay and mud with my hands. It surrounded the brakes, rear gears, clogged up between the mud-guards (fenders) and packed itself tightly between the back wheel and the bags on the panniers. I picked up the bike and the wheels could at least move now, but I couldn’t go back on the road.
The ditch was part of a field and as a result had a bit of vegetation growing in it. This held the mud together and was less susceptible to sinking in. I pushed the bike through the long grainy grass, careful to avoid anything which might puncture the tyre and got 100 metres before I heard another car coming in the opposite direction.
This time, after waving the little car down it came to a stop and 18 year old Brandon got out. I told him my predicament and asked if he could ask a farmer down the road if they would come and pick me up in a truck. He said he would phone his Granddad who just so happened to own the 1,500 acre farm I was stranded next to. His Granddad didn’t sound to pleased and Brandon said he would go down and try his Uncles. I thanked him very much and said I would go and wait by the white water tower about 50 metres up the road, it was the only distinguishing landmark around.
Brandon left and I carried on pushing my bike along the ditch. 10 metres before the water tower I found a mobile phone in the mud, filthy and wet. I picked it up and carried on to the tower. I open the flip phone and to my surprise it was working! It had a lot of battery and even an internet connection. Now even if Brandon didn’t come back at least I could phone for help, and at the very last resort call 911.
Whilst waiting I kept myself busy by cleaning up the phone, getting all the dirt out of it and utilising my cotton buds to get into all the nooks and crannies. It cleaned up pretty well and I started looking for any signs of who it belonged too. An initial flick through everything didn’t reveal much at all, but more importantly a truck had just pulled up – it was Brandon’s Granddad.
After thanking him greatly he helped me load the bike onto the back of the truck (nearly onto a big screw sticking out of a post) and gave me a lift 10 miles into Douglas. Even the truck was sliding all over the place, swerving pretty violently as it mud-planed down the hills and through an even muddier section of road.
He asked where I wanted dropping off and said I’d look for a cheap motel. He knew of the Super 8 in town and drove me to the door. I checked they had a room (after taking my coat off to make it look like I wasn’t too filthy) and gave Granddad the thumbs up. I unloaded the bike, expressed my gratefulness for the ride and apologised for disturbing his peaceful Sunday evening.
I checked in and lugged all my stuff up the flight of stairs. I wasn’t sure I’d make it to Douglas at one point but thanks to the help of strangers I was now warm and dry in a motel. I put nearly everything I owned into the washing machine, got a shower and found a local eatery.
Once I got back to the motel my task was to find out who the phone belonged too. There were no personal messages and as I was checking the contact list the phone rang. I answered, explained the scenario and Teddy told me I had Jim’s phone. I asked if Jim had a wife. He did, and her name was Tina. Now I had something. I rang the Tina in the phonebook but it went to voicemail. Plans scuppered. I went through the contact list and found “Home”. I gave that a call and sure enough Tina answered. I gave her the skinny and after being extremely thankful, she said they would come and pick it up in the morning. Mission accomplished. Good deeds for the day were now repaid.
I checked the the next days route to Casper and Google was taking me on more County roads. After todays debacle I wasn’t risking being stuck in the mud again so I did a little research. It turns out that in the state of Wyoming (and a few others) bikes are allowed on the Interstate. Head, meet desk. Had I of known this the majority of today’s events would have been avoided. At least I knew now, and with that nugget of information I knew my ride to Casper tomorrow would be fairly uncomplicated.