Bicycle tourists spend part their time riding on the edge. I’m not just talking about the edge of the road, but the edge of their limits for physical and mental stress. Veer over the edge, and there can be a crash. End of tour.
That’s especially true for the so-called self-contained cycling tourists. No sag wagons. No mechanics. No large group for support. And, in the “old days,” no cell phones.
When my friend and I rode the TransAmerica Trail in 1984, we talked to other cyclists who had come too close to the edge, but it seemed someone always came along to offer help, a lift, a place to stay.
We called this a rescue.
For us, the most unusual rescue came in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Kansas.
It was the 30th day of our east-to-west cross-country bicycle tour. In the morning, we pedaled 35 miles from Golden City to Pittsburg. After lunch, things went smoothly until after our stop in Girard. Heading north we hit a tailwind, and I took off fast. Seven miles up the road, I turned left to follow the route marked on my map, stopped about 15 feet down the road, and fished around in my handlebar pack for a plum while I waited for Bruce, who didn’t have a map.
As we put it together later, he must have passed while I was looking for that plum. I didn’t see him and he didn’t see me. He kept heading north, and I cycled back to Girard fearing that something had happened to him.
The miles did not fly by after I didn’t find him in Girard and returned to the route. Kansas is a big state, and I had lost my touring partner. We had mentioned spending the night in Chanute, so all we had to do was hook up in a town of 10,000 people.
I stopped at the first motel at the south of town. No Bruce. I checked a campground across the street. No Bruce. I rode down to the city park. No Bruce. I was riding into downtown after 6 o’clock when a bicyclist coming my way waved me over. He asked if I’d lost my friend. I couldn’t believe it. Five minutes later, I was walking into the T-Restaurant and there was Bruce, relaxing at a table with a glass of iced tea and a plate containing the debris from a fried chicken dinner sitting in front of him.
Our rescuers, Bryan and Janette, joined us and invited us to spend the night at their house. We accepted. There’s nothing like a hot shower, shave and clean sheets on a pull-out sofa to make everything right again.
Why do people do this? Some, like Bryan, are cyclists. They can take a vicarious pleasure in hearing about what we’ve seen and experienced on our bicycle tour. Others just sense our vulnerability, and see a need to come to the rescue.