I am out of it. I truly thought I already posted it. So much that I have all of the photos below on my ipad already and set to go. Oops. I guess I got busy and forgot to tell this daring tale of adventure and excitement.
Back in April, I won a $200 award at work for one contest or another. Those happen all the time. My lifelong friend Harold had been bugging me to get a bike to ride with him. He had been riding since last summer and was using it to be better in shape and keep his diabetes in line. So, I decided, yeah, I wanted a bike. My neighborhood gang ALL used to ride our bikes all over the north country all summer long. As kids, we would ride ten miles a day, easy, if not more. As we got older, that grew to twenty miles in a day. SO yeah. Fuck it. Let’s get back to that! I need that in my life.
So, I bought a bike.
She’s a beauty and exactly what I wanted. I wanted to take advantage of all of the snowmobile and ATV trails that surround my area. I also added, as I discovered later, cross country ski trails.
Once the bike arrived, I took a week or two to get myself adjusted to the routine… and adjusted to holy hell my thighs hurt. Harold and I took to the Black River Trail, which is a paved walkway through the Black River in Northern New York. It’s a VERY simple ride. It’s only about three miles. That was our warm up.
Harold had been biking for nearly a full year more than I had, so he was more adjusted to the routine.
A few weeks go by, after both of our schedules not meeting up, until May 29th. It’s game on. He heads over to my place. We throw the bikes in the truck and do a quick 1 mile off road loop around the Tug Hill area. It was too easy so, we needed to do more. We were just getting started.
It was a mild day. Nothing outrageous. A little warm. A bit sunny. Nothing unreasonable. It was also 9am.
“I know a trail nearby,” I say, “that I have been dying to try out. I walked it last year. It’s perfect for mountain biking.
This trail, the Oak Rim Trail, near Barnes Corners, NY is a cross country ski trail. It’s pretty rough terrain, but, as I had hoped, absolutely perfect for mountain biking.
We’re seasoned enough at this point, that this is a fairly easy ride. It’s gorgeous countryside and it overlooks one of the biggest ravines and cliffs in the area. You literally ride along the tops of the cliffs and try not to fall off as you stare off into the cliffs across the way.
I’m booking along at a pretty good clip. Up hills. Down gullys. Crags. Tree roots. Hopping and grinding my way along this tight path of a trail. Every once in a while, we would stop to check the markers on the trees to make sure we were headed on the right path.
What Harold neglected to tell me in his year of riding is that he wasn’t really an off road guy. He was a strictly ON road guy with the bike and had been, most recently, riding fifteen miles every couple days.
I tore through the forest… until I realized he wasn’t behind me any longer. I thought that perhaps, I had ridden a little too fast. He’s a big guy and I can be pretty limber and quick when I’m into what I’m doing. I stop and turn back, riding back, nearly as quickly as I had left, to find Harold, walking his bike.
“Dude,” he said, “I pulled something in my back,”
He was in pain, I could see it.
“While I was pedaling up that hill, I just felt a strain in my left leg, and something popped in my back. How far are we from the end?”
I checked my “Map My Ride” app. (I had been running it the entire day). We were only about 1 1/2 miles in.
That white circle is where we entered. That Red X is where he was.
Since I had walked this path before, I knew of that straight line right there. That, was high voltage power lines. That, was a service road.
“We’re not far form the service road,” I said, and showed him on a different app that I had been using for trails.
“Okay, I think I can make it to there,” he said and we took off on the bikes again.
I sped away, thinking he was right behind me. Again, I realized that he wasn’t.
Okay, he’s just walking, I thought. I’ll wait here.
Fifteen minutes pass.
Okay then… I had better go back and look for him.
I ride back, he’s on the ground. Prone. Staring up at the now very sunny sky.
“It’s my back. I can’t do anything,” he said.
I tried to help him to his feet. Nothing. Too much pain. Howling, grunting, painful back pain.
I’m going to need to call 911, I thought.
“I’m not going to make it out of here on my own,” he said.
“Do you need me to call 911?”
After some short deliberation, “Yeah,”
I step away down the trail and call 911. Now, I’ve never called 911, but I have seen it on TV. I was a little nervous and excited.
The operator came on and I explained the situation.
“I can see you on the map,” she said, “but how do we get emergency services to you?”
Again, the service road is nearby. That’s the best route.
“They’re on the way. Please stay on the line,”
She talks to him. We know it’s not a super emergency. It’s not a heart attack. He is a city firefighter, so he is trained in as much EMS as anyone that would be headed our direction.
“Can you ride out to meet them?” The 911 operator asks me.
Here I go. Adventure time!
“Please stay on the line, until they find you,” she says.
I strapped my phone into my shoulder bag. Yeah, it’s a fanny pack I have just for travel and carrying water with me while biking. (Harold, maybe you should invest in one). I begin my trek to the tree line and the service road.
I chug along at a pretty good clip. I could feel the muscles in my thigh starting to burn. I could feel the sweat gathering all over my head, under my helmet. I tear through that forest like she’s my bitch. Until I came to a hill that I definitely had to walk up.
Walked it out. Rode through the downed trees and hollow ground. It had the weirdest feeling. Tree roots had extended far under everything in the forest and you could feel the ground beneath you hollow from years of tree roots.
I make it to the tree line. I’m sweating. The sun is getting hot now.
The power lines tower above me. The sky is spotless and crystal blue. The sun is bright and hot. The path below me. Green. Filled with life and weeds and… a giant gaping swamp where the “Service road” is. It’s not a service road at all. It’s just where the power lines go through and where the forest had been cleared.
I explained this to the operator and made my way through the swamp. I hefted my bike to my shoulder and slogged through the muck, which was much deeper than I had anticipated. The mud went straight up to my calves and I almost lost my shoes twice.
FINALLY, I got to the road. Ten seconds later, the operator guides the EMS crews to me.
From here, Aside form the seventy year old men that responded, I led the younger EMS crews back, on foot to where Harold had gone down. I ditched my bike and walked them back through.
We get to Harold and they begin to assess the situation. He’s sweating. He’s pale. He doesn’t look good. Not. At. All.
“First thing, we have to get you to your feet,” they say. It’s a four man operation to get him to his feet. He’s coherent, despite laying in the only spot of sun in a dense forest.
We all grab him and heft him up. He gets to his feet and the pain is overtaking his body. They diagnose him as dehydrated. They give him water. He tells them he’s diabetic. They give him a glucose packet.
The pain is great, so he sits down on a fallen tree, with everyone holding him up.
As soon as the glucose packet hits his lips, the lights go out.
He falls to the ground unconscious.
The EMS crew leaps into action. They whip out a little pack with a portable IV to get him some fluids. They attempt to call for help from the others who are still arriving, the radios don’t work. We’re too far out in the sticks. The woman tries her cell and has no signal. Another EMS worker uses his and has signal. (Verizon)
Harold SPRINGS back to life, fists swinging. He clips one of the EMS guys right in the thigh. He is OUT OF IT. He has no memory of where he is, who is is or what happened. Thirty seconds later, the pain comes back and he’s on his back, again.
The discussion of how to get him out takes place. The ATVs can’t get through the trails. They are too narrow. …they also can’t get past the swampy service road.
The town guy tried. But that didn’t fare well. When I left, later in the day… he was still back there.
It’s obvious that they need to call in help to have more people come and carry him out. The phone calls begin.
I grabbed Harold’s bike and rode it out to the road. There was all sorts of commotion by this time.
People are arriving left and right. I’m hanging out with all the old people. More people arrive. More people head back into the woods.
An hour goes by. I’m hot. Having a blast. I got to do exciting off routine stuff all day.
We went in at 10 AM. I got back to my house at 2:30 PM.
It was an adventure. There’s more details I’ve left out. The story gets longer each time I tell it. By the end we had three fire departments there. NYS conservation officers. A park Ranger. Two state police officers and a bunch of volunteer helping hands to carry the big guy out.
That, was my biking adventure.
Harold is doing fine. Two bulging discs. He’ll be back on the bike again soon.