I’ve been stranded while traveling home a few memorable times in my life. There was the time that I tried to fly standby out of Buenos Aires over Argentina’s winter vacation week after 5 months of living abroad. I spent 48 hours living in the airport until I thumbed a flight back to Santiago, at which point I connected through Atlanta, New York, and finally Boston. There was also the time when Sarah and I tried to drive back to Chicago in my ‘91 VW GTI after living in Seattle for the summer. We were stranded for 3 days while we replaced the clutch in San Jose, only to blow out a tire 2 days later, 50 miles west of Cheyenne WY. The nearest replacements for the GTI’s rare tire size were in Arizona, several days away.
As Rory and I approach Chicago I’ve found myself in a somewhat similar situation, albeit traveling by bike rather than car or airplane. Last Thursday as we rode into Fargo my right leg felt unusually tight and achy, but I didn’t think much of it. On bike tour everything hurts eventually. Two days later (Saturday) as we headed eastward on US Route 2 towards the Upper Peninsula—battling rain and wind–the ache came back, and by the end of the following day (Sunday) I could barely ride. We rested for one blissful day (Monday) in Conover WI, hoping that near complete lack of movement combined with ibuprofen would fix me up just long enough to get us to Chicago.
We left Conover on Tuesday, which is why I spent most of Wednesday sitting outside a gas station in Townsend WI–a small town 80 miles southeast of Conover–unable to pedal further. While traveling by bike is relatively straightforward, traveling with a bike is a nightmare. Townsend’s transportation options are limited to a small UHaul rental or hitchhiking, and Green Bay (the nearest city) is only serviced by bus. Neither hitchhiking nor busing are particularly bike friendly, which left UHaul as the only way out.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s UHaul fleet was at capacity on that particular Wednesday in Late August. After deciding against both waiting 2 days for a small truck in Townsend and taking their available 26 foot truck that day, Rory backtracked 60 miles north to pick up a truck in Iron Mountain and returned to Townsend to collect me. We loaded our 2 bikes and 4 panniers into the UHaul and drove the large, mostly empty box to Chicago. What should have been a 4 day ride took about 6 hours (including a dinner stop in Green Bay) and 34 gallons of gas.
Now I’ve been teleported to Chicago a few days early, hoping that the 2 weeks we’ve allotted to stay here will be long enough to heal. It’s comfortable to be home, but it also feels empty without the usual friends, work, and training/racing. So, what’s the takeaway from this retrospectively hilarious but disappointingly inefficient situation?
Maybe patience. We probably should have taken the day off in Duluth when my leg started to hurt, and probably should have taken more days off in general after leaving Glacier. In Conover I probably should have rested more than one day while we had a roof, a stove, and electricity in order to avoid getting stuck in a place where we had nothing.
Maybe that a credit card and a smartphone are a huge safety net–a “get out of jail expensively” card. I feel disappointed that I used them, but I think I’m ultimately happier than I would have been camping/living in Townsend until the tendinitis disappeared.
Maybe flexibility. By definition adventures will rarely turn out as expected and plans require modification. You re-evaluate, you try to learn, and you move forward. Sometimes you find an elegant solution, but sometimes you take the atomic option and rent the UHaul.