Thursday, July 31, 2014

GTDRI Report: It Could Have Been Worse- Part 5

The scene at the convenience store in Garber Saturday, July 26th, 2014
We watched the RAGBRAI spectacle for a while, but eventually I motioned that we should move along to the convenience store and resupply if anyone needed to. That we did, and we negotiated about a half mile of anti-RAGBRAI traffic flow to get to our turn off and back into the hinterlands. This was going to be a dark place for me. That I knew what was coming wasn't any solace, since the day was brutally humid and the temperatures were in the mid-80's by this time. We crossed the old iron bridge as we rode over freshly spread gravel for several of the opening miles of this sector.

Not as many tiger lilies as '09. 
The climb up out of Hawk Road isn't all that long, thankfully, but it gets progressively steeper as you go. I was trudging up this one tailing Michael Lemberger who was ahead of me by about a 100 yards. The crew had crossed the county black top that was on the RAGBRAI route as well, and were all waiting on the other side. I rode across and as I rolled up to them I said that I was cutting them loose. I knew I could make the route, but I was going to be walking every climb from here on out, most likely, and I didn't want anyone to feel hindered by my slow pace.

Kudos to them, as they all agreed that we were in it together and that they were willing to wait on me. So it was that we soldiered onward. Hawk Road continued to climb, then Hamlet Road gave no quarter. Finally a short, fast down hill to Fantail Road on Glacier Road and a tiny respite of flat to rolling territory until Fantail kicked upward to an 18% grade.

Check out the hazy sky. The heat and humidity were double nasty!
I was first off the bike. I knew better than to throw myself at this beast and walking wasn't really helping either. Really, I had no choice but to walk as the lowest gear on my bike was laughably too high for anyone to try this after 90+ miles. Not on this course on this particular day.

Michael Lemberger was off next, then Aaron Schnee. The rest of the guys were up around a bend out of my sight line. I had to stop halfway up to cool down. I was over-heating very badly. I could barely put one foot in front of another, but I was super determined to finish out. After the Fantail Road climb we had one more nasty ascent out of Bixby Preserve and that was it. The rest I probably was capable of riding. I was sure I could get this done. At the top of this climb I would have a hair over 20 miles to go with plenty of daylight to get it done.

This climb was well over a mile long and I walked most of it. There was more at the top but it leveled out quite a bit. Over all, the Fantail Road climb is over two miles in length. I stopped just shy of the first crest where the rest of the guys were strung out alongside of the road. I was nearly delirious from the heat. I simply laid down on my back and closed my eyes. Minutes passed. I heard a vehicle drive up near to where Michael Lemberger stood. It was a big, white Chevy Silverado. It sat on the left side of the road as it faced East, motor running, just sitting there. I was too tired to wonder too much at that. Maybe it was a local making sure we were okay? I didn't want any fuss over myself or the others, so after a bit I stood up, grabbed my bike, started walking alongside the road and then.....

I ended up sitting here near the fence.
Jeremy Fry shouted something. I looked up as I heard tires on gravel getting nearer. As I looked up, Dan Buettner was flying in the air, a bike was flipping away by him, and the Silverado was coming straight at me. I turned away at the last second, was hit, and flew through the air, landing on my back in the grassy ditch. The truck then hit Aaron Schnee's bike and suddenly stopped. I was dumbfounded, I had no idea why someone would be trying to take us out. That was my first reaction, but that changed.

As I sat gathering my wits about me, Tony McGrane, who is a professional EMT/Fire rescue by trade, asked if I was okay, and told me not to move. Suddenly loud voices were being directed at the driver. He wanted to pull away, and the guys were pleading with him to shut off the truck. He was jerking the rig back and forth, with Aaron's bike wedged just underneath the front end. Finally the driver calmed down a tad, but even I could tell he was acting like he was extremely intoxicated. Aaron managed to dislodge his bike from under the truck. Then the driver asked if I was okay, and Tony shouted that no- I wasn't, and that the guy needed to stick around. Apparently fear got the best of this fellow and he sped away down the hill. Not before Michael, Jeremy, and Tony had images of his plates and truck. Then we all were just shell-shocked. Attention turned to me and Dan to see how we were.

Ditch Selfie with Dan Buettner checking out my Tamland
  I was under advisement from Tony to stay put until the EMT's could evaluate me and then I could decide what should be done, but Tony was pretty adamant that I get looked at. He saw me flying through the air and was concerned. I decided to take his advice, even though I just felt banged up, not really hurting at the moment. I had two superficial cuts, a couple of bruises on my elbows, one on my knee, and my shoulder felt janky. My kidney area felt sore where the truck hit me. Dan seemed okay, a chainring tattoo was his only mark and he may have gotten cut a bit. Later I heard he dinged his head on something when he was knocked into the ditch. My bike and Dan's bike were essentially okay. Aaron was not as lucky. His bike suffered damage and his helmet was squashed under the truck's tire. Fortunately he was no where near it.

As the story unfolded a young teenager on an ATV rolled up and offered to go get help. Tony called 911 and the dispatcher had a hard time figuring out we weren't on RAGBRAI. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew was telling their versions of what they saw and as far as we could discern, the facts seemed to point to this fellow passing out/falling asleep as he idled there and his foot slipped off the brake, allowing his truck to roll down the hill toward us as we stood right at the road's edge. We figured the driver was jolted to awareness by hitting me or hearing Aaron's bike getting drug underneath his truck, or getting slowed up by Aaron's helmet.

Not the guys you want to see on your gravel ride. That said, these men were awesome and much appreciated.

I don't know how long it took the authorities to reach us, but it was a long wait due to the chaos of RAGBRAI, our situation as cyclists in an unlikely place, and the remote area we were in. No harm though, as I wasn't in dire need. The paramedic that examined me advised that I get X-rayed and cleared by a physician due to the nature of the accident and what not. So, I got hauled away in an ambulance and that was the end of riding the 2014 GTDRI course.

My story ended as well as it could have. No severe injuries. No broken bones. Just sore and banged up. I'll be fine eventually. The rest of the gang got hauled away to Edgewood Fire Department. Dan and Tony got a ride to Backbone, where they got their vehicles, drove back, and ferried all the guys and bikes back to their cars. Jeremy Fry, who had ridden with Mike Johnson, drove my truck back home and they brought my belongings with them. My wife and son came out to get me.

 The driver was arrested, charged, and admitted to the crime.

Now I know it wasn't my fault, but I want to offer my sincere apology for how this all turned out. It could have been much worse, but I never wanted to see it end anything like this either. Thanks to Mike, Michael, Jeremy, Aaron, Tony, and Dan for coming on this adventure. Thanks to the Edgewood Fire & Rescue, Iowa DNR, Iowa State Troopers, Regional Medical Center at Manchester, the driver and paramedic of the ambulance, and anyone else I forgot for helping us out and nabbing the suspect. Thanks to my wonderful wife for fetching me.

Needless to say, I feel very blessed and fortunate to come out of this one nearly unscathed and that no one else was seriously injured.


graveldoc said...

I just read of how your GTDRI ended and so sorry to hear of the accident but glad for you and your friends it did not end worse. Hope you have a rapid physical and emotional recovery!

gerrireggi said...

I wish all the best for recreation for you and the others.


Capncavedan said...

Mark, no apology necessary! It was a great ride up through mile 95 and I'm already looking forward to next year.

MG said...

I'm so glad it wasn't worse... It's a good reminder to make the most if every day. Nothing is guaranteed.

Unknown said...

GT scary story, glad it ended well. Take care and heal up.

Nathan said...

Very glad to hear that you and your crew are safe and not more seriously hurt

(I still wish I could have found a way to get out east for this ride, maybe next year.

Unknown said...

Holy smokes! Glad you're ok and glad they caught the guy. I rode my fat bike on RAGBRAI this year and if I'd have seen you there at Garber, it wouldn't have taken much coaxing to get me to ditch the pavement and join you. Get well soon and see you on the geezer ride!

Paul said...

Very weird. I am glad you are all okay. Hope you are 100% soon and back to riding!

Tyler Loewens said...

Wow! Glad you all made it out OK!

George said...

Damn!!! I'm glad that none of you got seriously hurt!! Bikes can be repaired a lot more easily than you guys. Hang in there and heal up quickly! See you for the geezer ride.

worldskipper said...

Maybe it's time to contemplate a name change for the ride...Maybe the GTNDRI. Glad y'all are ok.

Shane said...

This scares the bejeezus out of me because I ride as a lone wolf so often. How fortunate to have an EMT along and others to capture the plate#. So glad nobody got seriously hurt. Best thing now is get back on that bike and ride on!