Sunday, June 11, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: The Ninth One - Part 4

"The GTDRI Stories" is a series telling the history, untold tales, and showing the sights from the run of Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitationals. This series will run on Sundays. Thanks for reading!

It is an ironic thing when you stop to think about it. We often choose to ride gravel roads and lonely rural paths to get away from the madness of automobiles and the people that pilot them. These oft distracted, unskilled operators of machines traveling with velocities and weights that can easily kill a cyclist, even if that cyclist is wearing a helmet. Gravel offers an antidote to all that. A getaway. Peace of mind. 


One would not be argued with much, if at all, for believing that. Yet, there I was, laying on my back in a grassy ditch, looking skyward after having been hit by what I thought was a parked truck in what felt like a preconceived attack on our group. What had just happened? Was I okay? Was Dan okay? Was anyone else mowed down by this driver?

My view from where I landed in the ditch. I wasn't allowed to move so this was taken well after the incident .
There was a lot of commotion. I could move, so I sat up and looked to my right where I saw a white GMC trying to move forward with a bicycle stuck underneath it. Before I had time to comprehend what it was I was seeing Tony McGrane, a firefighter by trade, and well versed in EMT and trauma situations, was standing over me. He asked a few brief questions to assess my condition. He then sternly commanded that I not move, then he rushed over to the vehicle, where a few of the other guys were yelling at the driver to stop. Tony joined in with a loud, commanding voice. 

In the confusion it occurred to me that the driver wasn't right in the head, as in he was intoxicated. All the signs were there. The driver was trying to back the truck up now and then he put the vehicle in park. The guys were all yelling at him to shut off the engine. Someone managed to drag Aaron Shnee's Ti Fargo out from underneath the truck. The driver dropped the vehicle into drive again, and the chorus of yelling reached a fever pitch. Suddenly the driver looked over at me, "Is he alright?", he asked,  to which Tony responded, "NO!! HE ISN'T ALRIGHT!". At this, fear must have taken a hold of the driver and he revved the engine as a warning. The guys stepped back, and he drove away at a high rate of speed down the hill.

The Edgewood Fire and Rescue crew took good care of the group.

After this, I learned that a few of the guys had taken images of the license plate, the vehicle, and the man. Mike Johnson was calling the authorities, who were confused that we weren't on the RAGBRAI route as cyclists. Finally, a DNR guy monitoring the channel, figured out what was going on and guided the Fire and Rescue to the place we were at. In between all this a shirtless young man on a quad-runner ATV pulled up, asked what had happened, and sped away promising to send help. I'm not sure anything came of that though.

Meanwhile an ambulance was called up from Manchester, Iowa, the nearest regional care center, and Tony advised me to take the ride in and get checked out. Edgewood Fire and Rescue hauled the rest of the group and the bicycles back to the Edgewood Fire Station where they were regaled with tales and cold beers. A couple of the guys were then ferried over to Backbone State Park where the vehicles were, went back, and picked up everyone, took them back to retrieve the remaining vehicles, and my truck, and then everyone dispersed. All of that happened without me, of course, as I went to get checked out.

I cleared examinations and was released and my wife had to come and pick me up. Five and half hours later, after getting hit, I was back home. Mike Johnson and Jeremy Fry got my truck and bicycle back to me. The bike was fine beyond a nick in the handlebar tape. My Oakley sunglasses were destroyed, and I was a bit banged up. 

My Tamland after the incident back at home. Hardly a scratch on it!

So, what about the GMC driver? Well, due to the evidence gathered by the guys on the ride, the authorities were able to identify the driver as a local Edgewood man who was known to have an issue with drunken driving in the past. He had rushed to his home after the incident on Fantail Road and was holed up there when Iowa State Patrolmen surrounded his house and demanded that he come forth. They arrested him at around 6:30pm, several hours after the incident, and he was still well above the legal limit for driving. 

The case went to trial and as far as I know the man was sentenced accordingly. As for Dan and I, we both were eventually okay. Dan walked away with a few bumps and scratches. I had a few scratches and some pretty good deep bruising. Tony said to me later that he figured I was thrown into the air about eight feet and I ended up somewhere close to five yards from where I had been on the side of the road. I had no idea! It all happened in a flash and as far as I knew, I closed my eyes and opened them like I had blinked and there I was. 

Months later I realized that my intestinal tract was not working like it had before and I had weeks of discomfort and irregularity. I still have lingering issues going back to that hit I suffered to this day. But, what are ya gonna do? 

Aaron got away with a bent handle bar, a crushed helmet, and was covered by insurance, as were Dan and I, since the drunk driver did have good insurance. Aaron still rides the Ti Fargo to this day. Otherwise it was a day that none of us probably will ever forget. 

I don't ever want to end a ride like that again!

Next: The aftermath of the 9th GTDRI.


Rydn9ers said...

Glad everyone was okay and that they were able to prosecute the guilty party.

Guitar Ted said...

@Rydn9ers - As I wrote my stories up on this incident immediately afterward in 2014, I used the title "It Could Have Been Worse". And that easily. We escaped being harmed gravely and from death. The man was caught. Justice was served. It usually doesn't end that way.

Nooge said...

First off, I am glad that everyone was mostly alright, in a glass half full sense. Your lingering issues are nothing to dismiss though, even if it could have been far worse.

I do wonder, if everything else was equal, but the driver hadn’t been drunk, if he would have faced any jail time. Far too often cyclists are hot and it’s just deemed an accident and there’s no consequences for the person operating the deadly machinery. It’s sad that there’s a severe lack of accountability in our country, unless it’s financial. Then they’ll get you for sure. Sigh.

Guitar Ted said...

@Nooge - Thank you for the thoughts and comment.

Had the driver not been drunk? Oh, yeah, no doubt he'd have gotten off Scot free,in my opinion. The law is tilted so much in the vehicle operator's way that it is really just amazing what they can get away with.