The road to Dubuque restarted in Waterloo on Friday with threats of thunderstorms and heavy rain. In the midst of our discussion about whether to leave early and try to get ahead of it, the skies darkened and rumbled and the rain and lightning followed. There would be no getting ahead of this and so we mounted and got into the teeth of it. We had pounding rain and a 15 mile head wind for half of our 60 mile run.
And then we hit the little town of Quasequenton, whose residents can’t seem to agree on how to pronounce their town’s name. Two little Indian princesses told me that everyone on town just calls it Quasy. The rain and punishing head winds had quit by the time we hit Quasy and the Iowan heat kicked in full force. I found myself riding with teammate Bill Wendlandt, who hails from a farm in rural Minnesota, and has a steady fast pace that eventually gasses me as I lose him just outside of Winthrop.
The sudden return of the stifling heat and blinding sun slows my pace and I decide to take my time getting to our overnight town in Manchester. At the top of a steep climb (yes, there are hills in Iowa) I realize I need to pull off the road and take shelter under an awning provided by a local doctor who gives me a banana, peanut butter and more water. I am most grateful for the ice pack that I wrap around the back of my neck and shoulders, where I feel its healing powers.
I am soon back on my bike riding in yet another peloton, a fast pack of bikers sitting on each other’s front tire to draft from one another. Among them is a woman from Boston who is talking about riding in the Pan Mass Challenge the following weekend. After 6 miles of riding at a steady 20-mph plus speed, I let them go and concentrate on finishing these last 6 miles at a slower pace. It is then that I quickly sense a bike coming into me from my right and as I look to escape him to my left, I see a bike on my left squeezing me in from that side as well. There was no where to go but down and within a second I am sliding down into the pavement on my backside, then onto my right leg and finally into a sitting position.
I know I haven’t broken anything but don’t know if I will survive the next five seconds when descending bikers often make a bad situation worse, but they are paying attention and several dismount to ask me if I am okay. I stand up, convince them I am good enough to ride and mount my bike for the last six miles. On entering Manchester, I go straight to the First Aid tent where I am patched up, get IV saline drip to deal with heat and dehydration and then go find my colleagues for supper. I didn’t know as we ate and I was then repatched by our riding colleague Dr. Dave Johnston that only hours before, a 68-year-old man riding in RAGBRAI was pronounced dead from a similar fall that went horribly wrong.
As frightening as my fall felt as I was going down, I landed right and perhaps had someone watching over me. I am grateful to my brother Jim for giving me a St. Christopher medal to wear for the ride. You can never have too many prayers or too much good luck.