I have always felt riding in a group is hazardous. Even if you know all the riders and have ridden with them multiple times there are hazards that come into play that can make a good day turn bad in an instant. Add to this a group of riders who have never ridden together and couple that with the few riders in the back who want to be in front. The potential for disaster is very prominent. About 20 minutes into the ride I’m tooling along about mid-way through the pack. We were on a country road that is not in the best of conditions with a shoulder lined with medium size stones from a local quarry; 4 to 6 inches in diameter. I’m on the right side of the lane monitoring the activity around me; paying particular attention to riders in close proximity. I had never been in a group where a rider behind weaved in and out between the staggered formation in an effort to cater to a lead position until that day. Out of nowhere a rider came up behind me, weaved around my left side and cut in front of me to weave past the right side of the rider in front of me. He weaved a bit too soon and had I not moved in the only direction available to me we would have made contact. Long story short, he cut me off and ran me off the road; in an instant I am bouncing across these rough stones thinking to myself, “I can’t believe this, 20 minutes in the ride and I’m gonna crash… my wife is gonna be soooo mad at me!” I recall wondering what my corpse would look like.
Not sure how I managed, but I got back on the road without going down. Riders around me who were maintaining situational awareness moved over and slowed to give me room. Or perhaps they were just getting out of the way so I would not take them down as well. Maybe they were just getting into a position where they could have a better view of the accident that was sure to happen any second; either reason works for me, it gave me room to maneuver. I got three thumbs up from fellow riders after that stunt. Of course I acted nonchalant as if I had total control of my ride at all times, but the truth is I think my heart was pounding at about a 120 beats per minute. I slowed down, let the pack pass and from that point on rode most of the remaining 8000 miles of the route solo. There were three occasions I rode with other Hoka Hey riders during the event, but never more than two extra riders and never more than a few hours.
I ran into a husband and wife team about half way through day one, but we only rode together for about 30 miles. The second set was coming out of Canada and we rode together during the night for about 200 miles. The third set was in Minnesota. I stopped at a gas station about 2:00AM. I was out of gas and the pumps were locked down so I waited. While I waited two riders rode in and, after the station opened, we got gas and we rode together up until about 2:00 that afternoon. The rest of the trip was just me, my bike, the wind (rain, hail, snow, dust…) and my thoughts.
I have ridden long rides in the past, but never so determined a ride as Hoka Hey. In the past I had a destination in mind and the route I took was entirely of my own choosing. Staying on the route specified by the Hoka Hey organizers was a challenge. That is not to say the directions were faulty, quite the contrary. I had no issues or gripes with the directions. Indications are a considerable amount of time and effort was put into play to ensure accuracy and clarity. There was the occasional missing sign identifying the specified route or a hidden turn (Gulf Road comes to mind), but will admit most wrong turns were of my own design. Most of the time I knew I had made an error within the 1st mile and initiated the necessary corrections to get back on the right track.
On those occasions when a U-Turn was required I endeavored to not interfere with traffic and either went around a block, turned into a parking area or found a wide place in the road with clear view of both directions of traffic. On one occasion I was in the middle of nowhere and turned left when I should have gone straight. There was no traffic anywhere so I pulled off the road, backed up a bit to readjust my angle and attempted to make a one mile per hour U-Turn. I’ll claim the ledge between the road and the shoulder for lack of a better reason; whatever the reason, I went down. Don’t laugh, we have all been there and if you haven’t yet then it is only a matter of time until you find yourself in the same predicament. Honestly, if my ride weighed three more pounds I would not have been able to get vertical. Lesson here is… sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t.
A few times I was oblivious to my wrong turn and rode for miles and miles enjoying the scenery not viewed by other riders more attuned to accuracy of the printed directions. Sadly this happened all too often.
I was told gas stations are few and far between in Canada; we’ll put that under the category of “understatement.” While in the nether regions of Canada I came to an intersection where I would change routes. Just prior to that intersection was a gas station. I had about a half a tank but figured, based on the number of stations I saw during the past 500 miles, it made sense to pull over and top off the tank. I got gas, took a pee break and headed out again. Except, for some reason, rather than going left at the intersection I went right; don’t ask me why, I am unable to provide an intelligent answer. I realized my mistake about 20 miles up the road. Prudence dictated I needed to turn around, so I did. Prudence would also dictate, as I rolled past that gas station, I top off again even though I had only 40 miles on that tank of gas. I should have listened to prudence, but I did not. Bad call on my part.
Missed Hoka Hey 2013 Rider Part One? Click here to read it.