Location: Hartsburg, MO (Small town park)
One month to Topsail.
I had my first real crash today. I’ve fallen before on this trip, but today I crashed. Just after we got started on the KATY, I noticed my front tire was low on air. It was slowly leaking, but I thought I might pump it up to full pressure and reach town, where I could change the tube at a picnic table and out of the nagging mosquitoes of the flooded bottomland forest.
I pumped up the tire and started pedaling. Faster and faster I went along the crushed limestone. The path was so firm it was as though it was paved. As I stood on my pedals and really put every bit of weight and muscle into each pump of the pedals, my front tire exploded. I heard the gravel crunch and ground under my skidding tire rim, and I lost the bike to the right. I crashed into the path and skipped into the ditch. My bike rolled with me and it came to rest on top of me, standing perfectly upside down on the handlebars and seat.
I lay in the ditch for several moments. Immobile and unsure of my condition. My head and shoulder throbbed. I was afraid I had hurt my right leg that was trapped beneath the gears when I fell. I squeezed and flexed each hand, arm, foot and leg, still lying in the ditch. Everything was fine, though I was pretty shaken. Brian pedaled up soon after. He didn’t see me buried in the bushes and tall grasses until I called his name.
Brian dragged the bike off of me and I crawled from the ditch (after a picture, or course). I was quite shaken and stunned. I paced in circles for several minutes, even after I learned that my front tire was destroyed beyond use. I could think clearly after I assured myself that I wasn’t badly injured. Our only solution to the problem was to have Brian bike the rim and tire to the bike shop, seven miles down the KATY trail in a small town. He willingly volunteered, and again I’m in his debt.
I sat on the trail and read my book for a couple hours until Brian returned. When he did, we discovered that the pin to attach the rim to the fork was not through the hub as it had been when Brian left with the tire. With a frustrated smile, Brian returned to the bike shop to either retrieve the pin or purchase a new one. On the street in front of the shop, Brian found the piece and returned it to me in the early afternoon. The ordeal consumed our entire morning.
Once my bike was back in working order, we rode seven miles to Rocheport where Brian had already been twice. We ate lunch at a small, empty café. Neither of us was carrying foods for lunch, and many of the towns along the KATY are small and rarely have more than a convenience store for the basic processed foods, nothing substantially nutritious.
We headed back onto the KATY after lunch in hopes of making up some time lost. However, we soon encountered our next problem, mud. The Missouri River had flooded because of Hurricane Ike, and in some places it flooded the KATY for miles. The water receded for the most part, but it left deep mud behind. We encountered about a mile stretch of deep black mud.
A car had driven through the mud, probably a park ranger, and left deep ruts in the mud. I pedaled into the mud in a high gear, staying in the ruts. Mud flung up everywhere as I slid along the road. It clotted in my gears, cassette, and my chain, building into large and dense lumps with each pedal. Brian followed me into the mud, but with his thin street tires he sank deep in the mud. He couldn’t advance or even rotate his pedal. He pushed his bike, but the mud had built up so thick in his cassette and chain that the rear tire stopped spinning. He dragged the bike, stomping through inches deep mud.
We traversed the mud, and our bikes looked as through the sky had rained mud on us. In the process of dragging his bike, though, Brian sheared off the rear derailleur on his bike. It broke clean off and dragged on the ground, making his bike unable to be ridden because the chain could not run on the grooves of the sprockets.
Brian had to jog the bike to town. He ran several miles while I biked slowly behind him. We set up camp at a small park in town and almost immediately went to the local bar to seek help. There were no other businesses open in the town of ninety people. While we sat drinking beers and watching football, Brian met a young man named Sean who eventually agreed to take Brian to Jefferson City the next morning where he could get his bike fixed.
Brian and I ended up hanging out with the locals that night. We drank with the bartender, Jeff, at first, and then his friends showed up. We drank dark beer and played pool, enjoying ourselves thoroughly in the tiny bar. We ate some frozen pizza as we ran up an eighty dollar tab. It was a rough day capped off by a long night.