|A Guitar Ted Productions series|
This won't have a lot of bicycle stuff in it at times, but it is all essential to the story of "Guitar Ted". This isn't about where the name came from. That's all here. No, this is about the person.
As with previous historical series on the blog, images will be a rarity. Cell phones, social media, and digital images were not available to take advantage of in those last days of analog living.
This post will tell the story about the last fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour I have done up to this point. A quick weekend get-away to a State Park called Backbone State Park.
As the Summer of 1996 waned, it came to the time when I had thought at one point we'd be heading off to New Orleans to do another big tour. After two years of doing these big rides, I was still stoked about trying to do another ride, but life at the shop pretty much commanded my every ounce of energy that Summer, so I never really pushed the "go" button on the plans. However; Ryan, who had done the "Race Against Death Tour", had said we should do something. Tim, another co-worker, had said he'd like to come along, but it couldn't be anything long. A weekend was chosen in August, and we made plans to leave early on a Saturday to head approximately 80 miles to the East of Waterloo, Iowa to a State Park called Backbone State Park. It featured good camping and scenery. So, early on a Saturday, we took off.
This ride didn't have the feeling of urgency we had with the past two tours. Of course, Troy was not along, as he was running Bike Tech by this time and was "the enemy", so to speak. So, we never asked him to go. Not that he could. I say "enemy", but I really didn't feel that way about it. Anyway, without Troy's pushing the pace we didn't feel the urge to bury ourselves in trying to maintain any certain speed. So, the day was sunny, hot, and humid. Typical weather for Iowa in August. We were loose, laughing, and having a pretty good time riding over there. I don't recall anything remarkable about the ride out other than it was fun.
Once we had arrived, it was so blasted hot, it felt like we were suffocating, and there wasn't an ounce of air moving. I recall that we three were laying down on our backs in the grass underneath the towering trees on the West side of the park. Looking at the tree tops, not one leaf was stirring. It was as still and quiet as it ever gets in Iowa. Hot, stifling air was no relief, even in the shade we were miserable. So, we planned on going down to the stream that cuts through the park's middle and we waded in the cool water. Washing ourselves of the sweat and grit of the road felt wonderful. Then it was time to eat something, set up camp, and go to sleep in the big, six man tent we had used the year before.
I recall that we all were putting off getting into that dome tent until the last minute. It was still so hot and humid, even hours after the Sun set. Mosquitoes pretty much made up my mind for me, and I crawled into the tent first, with Tim not far behind. Ryan had mosquito repellent, so he bathed in that, and planned his repose to be on the top of the picnic table there where we had some gear piled at one end. Things got quiet for about an hour. I think I was sweating a river, getting drowsy, and maybe about to fall asleep when such a commotion arose outside the tent that it made Tim and I sit straight up. Apparently Ryan awoke to a raccoon licking his face! Of course, he ended up getting into the tent with us after that. He was so pissed off and excited about the encounter we didn't get settled again for about another hour. Then sweet sleep finally overtook us.
The next morning I awoke to Tim's motions as he made his way out of the tent to use the restroom down the hill a ways away from us. Maybe ten minutes later, Ryan felt the urge and was going to leave. However; when Tim left, he inadvertently zipped the storm flap of the zipper under the zipper head, effectively locking Ryan and I in the tent. Ryan was frustrated, then frantic. He was getting desperate and was nearly having a conniption when Tim finally ambled back up to the tent. Once Tim figured out what was Ryan's issue, he chuckled and unzipped the tent. At once, Ryan burst out like a jack-in-the-box, cursing up a blue streak. I had followed him out and observed a trailer maybe 50 yards away from us which had a Boy Scout troop number emblazoned on its side. As soon as Ryan finished his tirade I pointed out that the Boy Scouts probably were well entertained by his fit, at which point Ryan hung his head in shame and quickly disappeared in the direction of the toilets!
We planned on getting something to eat for breakfast at the convenience store up the road on our way back, so we packed up and rode on out Westward. It was cloudy, but stifling hot and humid when we left. The clouds parted ways eventually after we got going. It was another cooker of a day, and Ryan was riding no-handed as he searched for his Oakley sun glasses. Then he set off to cursing again. Those damn raccoons had licked his sunglasses and he couldn't see a thing. Tim and I burst out laughing so hard we almost crashed. The disgusted look on Ryan's face was priceless.
Well, it was the last fun thing that happened, as it turned out. We eventually found ourselves in a torrential down pour. Maybe ten miles out of town until we got back to Waterloo, it was just survival mode, and we were not having anymore fun. And that was pretty much our goodbyes. We each just headed our own way back once we got back to town as quickly as we could to get out of the weather.
That was the last of my efforts to tour self-supported. Not that I didn't want to do that, but I was working way too much to consider it then, and for years afterward.
Next: The Estate Wagon