25 August, 2019.
Things began to go awry about thirty seconds into my first sketch. It was Friday night, and we were in Rocheport, Missouri to ride BikeMo – a cycling event that has become an annual tradition for us. Rocheport is a tiny little hamlet nestled along the Missouri River and – more importantly – along the KATY Trail. It’s a hub for cyclists, with a couple of esoteric eateries and a handful of bed and breakfasts operating out of nineteenth century houses. It’s the kind of place you wish was just a little bit larger than it is just so you can spend more than twenty minutes walking the sidewalks, taking in a taste of what Tom Sawyer must have lived.
Anyway, regarding my sketch … I turns out the pen I brought was almost out of ink. It began to fail me almost immediately and my sketch quickly turned into about a three minute affair as I shook the barrel and nursed what ink I could out of it. Having brought only one fine line pen and a single “fill” pen, I knew right away that my plans to sketch riders and the small towns I’d pass through in the morning had been dashed to pieces. Dammit!
Saturday dawned bright and cool. The forecast called for continued cool weather, and I planned to enjoy this very uncharacteristically beautiful August day as much as possible. With no sketchbook to carry in my back jersey pocket, I pedaled down the steep hill from Les Bourgeois Vineyards atop the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River, and flew through Rocheport where the road flattened out. Although I wasn’t “feeling it” on the hills to come, apparently the pace was much faster than it seemed: the first twenty miles of rolling hills were completed in a little over an hour. Not Tour de France speeds, mind you, but respectable for an aging artist.
In fact, the ride itself was pretty enjoyable overall, excepting the numerous occasions when drivers “buzzed” cyclists by intentionally zooming past as close as possible. Climbing one exceptionally long and steep hill, I found myself engulfed in a cloud of diesel smoke when one yokel gleefully sprayed me with “rolling coal.” This is a perverse practice of modifying a diesel engine to increase the amount of fuel entering the engine in order to emit large amounts of black or grey sooty exhaust fumes into the air, usually to intentionally aim it at environmentally friendlier cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. It’s a stupid, stupid hobby, and it perplexes me to no end: I was deeply ashamed of my fellow Missourian drivers this weekend.
I’d completed a little over fifty miles when I realized I had a message on my phone. Cell coverage goes in and out in the river bottoms, so I pulled over to read the message. I was alarmed to find out out Kim had been struck by another cyclist and taken a hard fall. I was nearly spent and there was still one long and very steep climb left to get back to my car. Shifting into my lowest gear, I spun like crazy to reach the top, threw my bike into the back, and very quickly made my way down the hill toward the bottoms to locate her.
Pulling up at an intersection I stopped and waited for a car on my right to complete his turn. Suddenly I realized the SUV behind him was not slowing… or stopping. A young lady slammed into his car, destroying the entire rear of his vehicle and deploying her airbags. His car spun 180 degrees. Glass and twisted metal were sprayed around the ground everywhere.
I couldn’t believe it. I really needed to go check on Kim, but here I was, the only witness to an accident and, as it turned out, the person on the scene who needed to alert emergency responders, direct traffic around the mess, and assist those in the accident. The young lady seemed to be alright, but the man who was struck was very pale and I worried he was in shock. He absorbed one hell of a blow and it didn’t surprise me that he was eventually carried to the hospital on a back board. State Troopers directed me to stay and with first responders on the scene I got out of the way and waited. Cyclists from BikeMo were easing their way through the intersection along the shoulder and asking me if the accident involved other riders – it didn’t, fortunately. I found myself the unwilling center of a drama, though. Meanwhile, I kept trying to reach Kim but cell coverage on my carrier was zero. Many riders stopped to rubberneck; one astute lady noticed my dilemma – she had service and called Kim for me to explain what was going on. We arranged to have a SAG vehicle carry her back to the vineyard, and eventually I was able to extricate myself from the scene of the accident and drive back up the bluffs. There, I found her resting in the back seat of a truck, bruised and very, very sore. She advised me that our planned afternoon picnic was rescheduled indefinitely.
So… only very short one sketch this weekend, a long visit to the urgent care facility for x-rays (just badly bruised, thank goodness), and an evening in front of the television, hobbling around on crutches.
Kind of hoping Sunday is uneventful.