Above: Typical hilly landscape in Wisconsin.
Above: The cabins at Camp Croix before the storm.
Above: The view from my cabin door, the morning after the storm.
Above: The front of my cabin, the morning after the storm (my bike has been picked up).
Above: A peaceful conclusion to one of the scariest days of my life.
Sunday, 7/30 9pm
Location: Objibwa State Park, WI
Today’s mileage: around 65
Tomorrow’s destination: Minoqua, WI, or Trout Lake, WI
“The Day That Tried to Kill Me”
I’m going to describe yesterday and today in one entry.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I got a later start on Saturday morning, on account of a storm. So, I had to scale back my ambitions for the day and shoot for somewhere near highway 70, which will take me halfway across the state. At about 6pm, I stopped in a convenience store and asked the clerk where I might be able to camp for the night. He said that there was a place nearby called Camp Croix. I called Camp Croix, and the people on the other end said it’d be fine if I stayed there for the night. Well, not until I arrived at Camp Croix did I realize that it was a summer camp, not a campground. At first, I thought that it was going to be a very awkward evening, but in fact, the “campers” had left that afternoon, so there were only a few families left.
The people who were still at the camp were extremely gracious and kind to me. A man named Richard took me on a tour of the camp, and he set me up in my own cabin overlooking the lake.
Richard offered, “If you prefer, you’re free to set up your tent here on the grass, but of course, you’re more than welcome to stay in the cabin too. Either way.”
I decided to sleep in the cabin, since even a bunk bed is usually more comfortable than the ground. Well, despite the fact that I had stumbled upon this place accidentally, things had worked out perfectly.
Well, that’s how Saturday ended. Within a few hours, the most death-defying day of my life began, with a bang.
At four in the morning, I was abruptly awoken by the crash of thunder close by. I sat up in my bunk bed and witnessed a fireworks display of lightning close at hand. The wind outside was ferocious. The rain was pelting the cabin. I got up and closed the open windows. Suddenly, a powerful burst of wind assaulted the forest around me, creating a roar of the limbs and leaves lashing about. BANG! Something heavy hit my cabin. BANG! AH! What’s going on?! My mind was filled with images of Coleharbor, ND, the town that was flattened by a storm, only miles away from where I had stayed the very same night. I felt a bit hopeless, knowing that if a storm were going to destroy the cabin that I was in, there was nothing I could do about it. I looked outside again, and an entire tree had fallen ten feet in front of my cabin, on the exact spot where I considered setting up my tent that night. The tree measured about a foot and a half in diameter, easily large enough to crush a human. The top of another tree was piled onto the wreckage of the first tree. My bicycle was mixed in with the debris.
Moments later, another strong gust of wind showed its might by knocking out the electricity in the camp.
The thunder continued raging for quite some time, even though the pounding wind let up after about 15 minutes. I fell back asleep once the brunt of the storm had passed, leaving only a steady shower of rain in its place.
When I awoke the next morning, it was still raining. Finally, at around 9am, the rain stopped and I went outside to survey the damage. Amazingly, the cabins and my bicycle managed to avoid damage, if by only a few feet. Somehow I had managed to dodge this disaster. Unfortunately for me though, that was only the first of three close calls today.
Close-call #2: I came within a few feet of being run over by a clueless Jeep driver. I was riding along 70 when I came upon an intersection with a minor county road. A man in a Jeep Grand Cherokee was driving down the county road, headed perpendicularly towards me . He stopped at the stop sign, looked both ways for cars, and then proceeded to cross highway 70. The only problem was: apparently he didn’t look for bikes! As a result, just as I was crossing the intersection in front of him, he accelerated directly towards me. The whole incident happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to react. I just kept pedaling forward, as I was supposed to be doing. By the time the driver finally saw me, he was about 8 feet from hitting me. He slammed on his brakes just before his front wheels hit my trailer. Whoa! That would have ruined my day in a big way, real fast.
Close-call #3: Again, I was riding down 70, minding my own business. The shoulder on 70 is about 4 feet wide, which is not nearly the width of a full shoulder, but when people are driving safely, it’s enough to keep steel happily separated from flesh.
I heard a car approaching me from behind, as happens hundreds or thousands of times a day. There were no cars approaching from in front of us, so the car going in my direction had plenty of time and room to drive around me. Since I was in the shoulder, cars passing me didn’t even need to adjust their positions to pass me.
WHACK! I felt an intense pain in my left hand, and I could see the side of a car inches away from me. The wheels of the car were over the white line onto the shoulder. Without a moment’s hesitation, the car continued on, speeding away at probably 60 miles an hour. I squeezed my brakes and came to a stop.
“What are you doing?!” I yelled, as I waved my right arm in the air.
Another car, only several dozen yards behind the first car, also passed me by, but it drove by at a safe distance.
“What the f-ck was that!” I yelled at the first car, hoping to get either car to stop. Both cars sped on, as if nothing had happened.
I felt a surge of both anger and fear. That car’s sideview mirror just hit me! If that car had been an inch or two closer, it would have killed me! I inspected my hand, certain that it would be covered in blood or mangled. Amazingly, no damage at all. That driver is either drunk, or he/she did it on purpose. There is no way a normal driver would not hear or feel his or her car hitting a cyclist.
Well, I guess I should be thankful that I wasn’t killed. However, I’m mostly just pissed off because someone almost killed me and they’re going to get away with it.