This is Part Two of a two part story by Denver Bicycle Café regular Scott Houchin. Scott is a trained Medic who serves on a lot of popular organized cycling events.from his current trip back east for a series of cycling events, serving as a Medic, and some of his own touring with Colorado friends.
Hey Jose, you aren’t really welcome in New England!
Roll the calendar forward and now I am in Massachusetts two weeks later (mid-September 2017), expecting beautiful fall weather like always. To my dismay I’m greeted by ANOTHER HURRICANE! I have been riding with some Colorado pals in Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard for a couple of days and then we got the word to get off the island because Hurricane Jose was close and the ferries were going to quit running. We got back to Hyannis for a couple of days to wait out Jose. We had a lot of fun. I had forgotten how much fun hosteling is living here in Colorado where there are no “real” hostels.
I met folks of all ages from all over the world, new folks from other places in the world every afternoon. Like I said, I miss hosteling and soon I will be going to California where there are 18 hostels after getting back to Denver for a few weeks.
So, sitting out Jose, which was a couple hundred miles off the shore of Nantucket was not bad, especially since I found an excellent bar, The Black Cat, only a five minute walk from the hostel. My biking buddies and I, as well as a woman from Cornwall, England would haunt the Black Cat waiting out the hurricane. Great music and a very good local amber beer. I liked it a lot.
However, the time came when there was nothing left to do but go do the ride. I packed up, said goodbye to some really nice folks I met from Germany and drove to Plymouth, Mass. for the Autumn Escape Bike Trek
The Escape is a fully supported three day, 160 mile, or two day, 105 mile, ride from Plymouth to Provincetown Mass. I got to Plymouth Thursday night and the weather turned considerably worse during the night. I woke early Friday morning to be at the start by 7:30 am and the news was, “Jose has come ashore”. It was no longer a hurricane, but it was a major pain in the ass.
I checked out the ride conditions – pouring rain. I grabbed a chance to chat with the ride organizer, she knew me from years past, and I explained that I was not going to ride in this BUT I could work the AID stations. Probably there would be a lot of hypothermia and road rash. I also let her know that I would work the crowd and let folks know how to spot hypothermia in themselves as well as their friends. She was VERY glad I was doing this and just said thanks for being there helping out!
The wind was truly getting worse. The startup was at a Hotel and there were TV’s all over the lobby. The lobby TVs blasted constant updates on the status of Jose and the weather was basically going from bad to worse. About 15 minutes before the ride start time, the inevitably bad news happened, they canceled the ride for the first day’s route.
Being as the riders were hardy and maybe just a bit stubborn Massachusetts people, at first they were going to ride even though it was classic hypothermia weather (35+ MPH wind – constant, thick rain – 55 – 65 degrees F). Sounds warm and cozy BUT being New Englandahs (as they say it) they were gonna try it. However, the state closed the ferries and much of the local services to keep people at home. So, another ride, another HURRICANE. Jose did it to me again. They were expecting about 300 or more riders for the three day route and 450 + for the two day route.
Foggy glasses, white knuckles on a familiar route
They shipped folks (and bikes) without a car over to the place for the first overnight lodging, and the rest of us, with cars, followed. The morning of the 2nd day was absolutely beautiful, by New England standards – raining hard – thick fog – high winds – it did not matter – we are bicyclists – they do not cancel the Tour de France for a hurricane do they?) So, we get on our bikes and ride, and ride we did. Constant rain, 60+ degrees – gusting wind – fog – and FOGGY GLASSES. As a skier that wears glasses as well as goggles, this is not an uncommon occurrence. I’ve developed a system. Forget cleaning off the glasses, I just wipe my glasses with one finger and it would clear the fog well enough to ride. Unfortunately, doing this on my mirror was almost impossible so I could not see what traffic was behind me.
Just to make it a bit more challenging, the roads were horrible. When my bike buddies and I first got to Hyannis earlier in our trip, we went riding what locals called a “bike route” (no shoulders – heavy traffic – a WHITE knuckle experience). This had the same sort of conditions combined with the weather. Unfortunately, I could not adjust my temperature in the cycling gear I chose, alternately sweating with heat and shivering with cold. I was thinking, “I need a vest”. All of a sudden at about mile 19, I was riding and things started looking strangely familiar. And then there it is, THE BLACK CAT! Yes, we were going to the same “white knuckle” route my buddies and I had done just a few days before.
I stopped at the same hostel I had stayed at to see if they had a trash bag that I could convert into a vest type garment. Sadly, it was closed (end of season) so I just gave up on that idea and started riding again. Riding with about 250+ other riders always helps but it was still unpleasant. And, yes, the entire Autumn Escape group of riders did the entire “white knuckle” trail from Hyannis to the Cape Cod Bike trail. It was a 60 mile day and the weather never let up. After a while you just get used to it and ride on. I can add riding in tropical storms to my long list of cycling experiences.
In my role as one of the medics for the ride, I lucked out, to my surprise. I saw no patients that day but there was a serious accident, another dislocated elbow. I have barely even heard of a dislocated elbow in 9 years of doing ski patrol and a medic on bike rides and now 2 of them on the same trip.
This patient was hurt bad. They flew him/her to Boston and performed a C-scan and the bone was not broken but there were other apparently serious complications. I was informed that the patient would be kept in the hospital and operated on the following morning. I can only imagine the extent of the injury, probably ripped all of the tendons, ligaments, etc., completely out. I suspect that patient will have some serious down time.
Friends with benefits, or benefits of riding with friends?
I found all this out at the second night lodging. And for those of you who have never done a multi-day ride, one of the best parts is the people you meet, the tales they tell and the stories you create. I was assigned a cabin with some guys who knew the person that hurt their elbow, who was riding on their team. They were getting constant updates from family members from the hospital. They gave me free beers because I showed them how to take a tennis ball (which I had) and how to roll the ball between their back and a wall. Muscles that had not been released in years were now being “released” (at least that is what the PT people call it).
Anyway – you would think these guys were having an intimate experience with the tennis ball – – ohhhhsss and awhyyyss – even heavy breathing (part of the exercise). I am not kidding on this! These guys went from reluctant, stoic types to literally rolling the ball back and forth on their back for 20 minutes. This was good for about three really good amber beers and then I had enough.
What would a ride in New England be without some Lobstah?
Another benefit of these rides is the food! The 2nd night is “LOBSTAH” night. Earlier in the night every table was full and I sat down at a table with 2 really nice women. We were doing our chit chat and then the ride leader came over and let me know I needed to attend to a patient and I had NOT yet done the 3 beers so, I treated the patient then I returned back to the table with the two women, Elizabeth and Ashley from Portland Maine. I have always liked Portland and worked there back when I was with the “Fed” in Boston which usually involved staying in Portland 3-4 days and nights. My two new riding friends from Portland agreed to ride some tomorrow to make the ride more enjoyable. This is one of the best benefits of the multi-day ride, the experience of riding with pals, both old friends and new ones.
The sun did come out, finally, along with some “friendly” mosquitoes!
We head over for breakfast on day three and there’s a slight drizzle and no wind, Jose is leaving! But only 15 minutes after the ride starts, I get to see my first patient. Jose had blown leaves and tree parts all over the bike path we were on plus it was still very wet. All it took was a slight turn at the bottom of a hill and folks were routinely going down. We tried to slow them down but bicyclists are bicyclists (sometimes crazy or just having too much fun to slow down!). I had to treat a mild road rash, it was going ok and then we (myself, the patient and about 3 of his/her friends) started being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I patched him/her up as best I could, including some tape over the torn bike shorts, and said meet me at the aid station where I could clean out the wound better and, more importantly, the AID station was not in the shade in the woods, thus less mosquitoes. When I got to the aid station it was in the open so no mosquitoes, but I could NOT find that patient. However there was plenty more patients with the same sort of injury – – slick bike path + 250+ riders = road rash epidemic. If you’ve had it you know how nasty it can be. If you want some great tips to help you treat road rash read the blog Cycling Road Rash, from Natalie Collins, PT, of Pedalfit. You can also learn about other common cycling injuries on my blog Common Cycling Injuries, from November 2016.
Finally, after treating everyone we could, it was just a great ride in New England. The fog broke, blue skies, cool weather, a great ride to Provincetown (P-Town). We did about 40+ miles.
I had a couple of hours to kill before we were bused back to the cars so, I met up with Elizabeth and Ashley and we did some coffee and lunch in P-town. Nice town, and we walked back to the buses and then a two hour drive back to our cars, finding bags, packing cars, loading bicycles in and on cars with lots of goodbyes – AND IT WAS OVER. Back to Colorado, into the land where the sun shines!
Cycling souvenirs were appropriately in the form of helmeted rubber duckies in honor of the tropical storm?