Cycling Fiasco

Sunrise at Crew Lake

A great cycling day that started with this beautiful sunrise over Crew Lake ended very badly. The day was just about a complete fiasco. Somewhere around noon, in the pouring rain, I took off my helmet, and laid down as flat as I could on my back. After an ordeal that lasted over an hour, I finally slithered and squeezed under the fence that separated me from the bike path that would take me back to where I parked at Crew Lake. As I emerged on the other side of the fence, bloodied and covered with dirt and leaves, I now knew I was probably going to make it home. I felt like Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption. You might wonder how I got in this predicament, so here is an account of my disaster day full of mistakes. About 40 miles into the ride, I saw dark thunderstorms in the area that I had to return to. So I cut the ride short by taking an unknown shortcut. That was mistake number one. The road was partially paved. Rain started pouring on me while riding on a sandy and dirt road making the surface quite treacherous. I reached the Suncoast Parkway, a 4 lane limited access highway guarded on both sides by chain-link fence with barbed wire on top. I was on the east side of the SC Parkway, and needed to get to the west side of the Parkway. On the west side is a bike trail that runs along the Parkway. I needed to get on that trail to get back to where I parked my truck. The shortcut I was on turned into a paved road running south along the Parkway. Even in the pouring rain, I thought I was in good shape, I would just have to ride south beside the parkway until I reached one of the roads that went over or under the parkway. Then the road dead ended. I was caught in a torrential Florida thunderstorm downpour stuck in the middle of nowhere. I don’t mind riding in the rain, but I don’t like riding in thunderstorms, it’s too dangerous. The idea of riding back the way I came for 10 miles, plus the 10 extra miles to loop around to get on the parkway in a torrential downpour seemed overwhelming. Then I got the bright idea I would dart across the parkway. The spot I needed to reach was clearly visible just 100 yards away. That was mistake number two. The chain-link fence on the east side of the parkway was only about 4 feet tall. With just a little trouble I was able to lift the bike on the other side of the fence and climb over the fence while getting only minor cuts. Then I picked up the bike, ran across the northbound lanes of the parkway, across a wide median, and then ran across the southbound lanes of the parkway. That is where the real trouble began. The fence on the west side was about 6 feet tall. I managed to lift my bike over the fence. That was mistake number 3. When I went to gently drop the bike on the ground, the handlebars caught the barbed wire and dangled from the top of the fence. That turned out to be very fortunate. When I tried to scale the fence, I discovered I couldn’t get over the fence. I was in a torrential downpour, and I just could not get my bike shoes far enough into the chain-link fence to get a toe hold to get up and over the fence. I tried at least ten times before giving up. I couldn’t walk very far from where the bike was hanging to see if there was a place I could get over the fence. My Colnago bike is my one prized possession, and I can’t afford to replace it. I very carefully grasped the bike securely with both hands and lifted it back over to my side of the fence, knowing if I dropped the bike I was really screwed. At this point I briefly entertained the idea of riding on the Parkway till the next exit where I could get back on the trail. But I had no idea how far the next exit was. Since the Suncoast Parkway is a highly patrolled limited access toll road, I was sure I would get caught by a cop, especially on Labor Day weekend. So I decided I would just have to walk, probably somewhere between 7 miles and 10 miles till the next exit where there would be a break in the fence, I figured it would take me about two hours. The rain was still pouring as I trudged through high grass and bushes when I saw a gate in the fence after walking for about 15 minutes. I figured the gate was locked but I tried anyways which is was. Then I noticed that the gate’s hinges were slightly bent, and there was about an 8 inch opening between the ground and the bottom of the fence gate at the center of the gate. I thought, I think I can get under that. So I carefully hoisted the bike over the fence, only this time I carefully hung the bike on the barbed wire in case I could not squeeze under the fence. After I slithered under the fence I continued the ride. Turns out I would have had to either have walked 5 miles or ridden 5 miles on the SC to get to SR 50, the next opening to the trail. I noticed a several gates along the way, and none of them were bent with opening underneath. I also realized that the fence is there to keep animals from running onto the highway, not to keep idiots like me from crossing the highway. The fence is very well maintained including a steel rod along the bottom to keep animals from burrowing under the fence. The rained continued to pour down on me for the next ten miles or so, which was good in a way as it washed away a lot of the blood and dirt. Then then sun came out, and temperature quickly rose into the 90 with 100% humidity and cooked me the last ten miles of the ride. As I said once before, the sign of a true adventure is when you say to yourself, “Looks at this mess I have got myself into to, I wish I was sitting quietly on my sofa at home.”

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