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October 2009 Volume 7 Issue 9
The Donau Canal Ride September 27, 2009
Archie L. Tucker
It was Friday and school was out for the weekend. As Nolan and I were pulling out of the school parking lot, I stopped to talk with Margot and Bobby. When I asked them about the weekend, they told me that some folks from the chapel were going for a bike ride Saturday and were meeting at the church at 0830. This ride was to be along the Donau Canal starting at a large abbey in the little town of Plankstetten. As soon as I could, I was on the phone with Brian trying to horn my way into the party. Don't you just love us folks who do this?
From Brian, I got the cell number for Billy, the ride organizer, no answer. Later, in the evening, Billy must have gotten my number from Brian, he returned my call. I told him that Dolores had told me that there was going to be a security exercise on post that Saturday morning and we would likely be hours getting off if we were caught in it. He said the meeting place had been changed to the gravel parking lot just outside the gate. A friend of Nolan's had approached me at school about doing an overnight Saturday. I had agreed to this before knowing of the ride. Well, that would give Nolan some fun with someone his own age. That night we tried to call his friend only to find the phone number we had was now someone else's number. We agreed that if the boy had not called to confirm his visit before time to go on the bike ride, Nolan would go with me.
Friday night, I checked the air and topped off my tires and oiled my chain. I told Nolan he needed to check his bike. Yeah....sure...you know he did; don't you? That night I grew tired of trying to find an online program that would properly print business cards. I wanted to have enough to hand out to riders who might want to visit us here at 'Bent Miles. So, the next morning found me up at 0600 trying to get a few cards printed. If you don't know it, yet, "hama" brand is not well supported online. However, "Avery" is.
It was not long before Dolores was hollering upstairs that I needed to be getting the truck loaded. I made do with the few that I was able to get haphazardly printed and went downstairs. Being the great lady she is, Dolores had made me coffee and put it into my favorite thermos. Friday night, I had made pasta and mixed it with a tossed salad in two different plastic containers. I had placed Italian diet dressing in a ziplock bag and two forks on top of my salad and sealed the top. I placed a fork and French dressing in Nolan's.
As I was loading the bikes, I noticed Nolan's tires were low. I rebuked him and decided I'd take the air compressor and fill them somewhere before the start of the ride. Dolores told me I should stop at the ESSO station just outside the gate and top off. She thought there was only a half a tank. I told her there was more. The meet was set for 0830; as I'm accustomed to doing, we were 30 minutes early. I thought, I'd put the destination into the GPS just to see how far it was. If it was far away, I'd get gas. Otherwise I'd spend the time airing up Nolan's tires. When I saw that the trip was going to be over sixty miles one way, I decided to top off. Don't you just love the way women are always right? Ooooohhh!!!
When we got back to the meeting place, Billy and Sharon were sitting there waiting for folks to arrive. We exchanged pleasantries and I snapped a picture for 'Bent Miles. Then vans, and SUVs started arriving. Two bikes were taken from two other vehicles and one placed in Mark's vehicle and one in Billy's. I had just went to the restroom at the gas station. I knew with all the coffee drinking there were going to be some very uncomfortable bladders. I hoped mine was not going to be one. Since my two operations, I try to answer the call as soon as it comes. I limited my coffee to just a quarter of a thermos cap. Well, it was time. With all the bike transfers, we now had only three vehicles in the convoy. Billy was in the lead, Nolan and I were in the saddle and Mark had the back door.
Nolan told me that I had better keep my eye on the lead vehicle; I told him that in a convoy, one must keep the vehicle behind in site, that way when the lead driver sees the vehicle behind him slow down, he knows to slow down. Next to hitting an ambush, the things a convoy leader dreads are break-downs, and having to turn a convoy around, sometimes with jeep trailers behind jeeps and sometimes behind tracked vehicles or water trailers behind 21/2 ton trucks. As it were, Mark got caught by only one light. We pulled over and was on our way after only a couple of cars passing us.
By 10:00 hours we had pulled into the parking lot of the abbey and all were unloading and prepping bikes for the greatly anticipated ride. Coffee drinkers were asking for the restroom. Billy, gave directions. I found a parking spot that allowed me to have space beside the truck to run my electric cord from the front window to air Nolan's tires. I was really upset that he had not minded me and prepped his bike the night before. But, all was taken care of and now we were ready to ride. Ohh was this going to be great. Wonderful folks to ride with, beautiful sunny--yet crispy--morning, how could it be any better. I needed to pee. I asked where the restroom was and finding out that it was going to delay the others, I decided to wait till I found a bit of woods.
Nolan takes off in the lead. I holler and tell him to fall behind and let Billy in the lead. Do you think he hears, or listens, he is gone and down the hill. I had thought driving up the hill that it was going to be a burger getting back up by bike. However, Billy took care of that. He routed us in a manner that the return trip avoided much of that monster.
As I said at the start, all was good, weather and company. A well oiled machine, gears clicking to the rhythm of the pedals, and a leader who...wrong way? You mean we have to pedal back up that hill? Well, remember what I said about convoys. Allow me to regress and tell you a little story so Billy will not feel all alone. On a huge FTX back in the 80s, my NCO was driving. Now this guy was great and he was also a friend. If you are old enough to remember the old jeep, you know how noisy they were. As we passed a bakery I stated, the way the Germans pronounce it, "bakeri". He said, "what?" I said, "bakeri", and to my abject horror, he swung the jeep to the right. I hollered, "what are you doing?" He said, "You said make a right!" Now, do I need to tell you who else made that hard right? Yep, all those support type vehicles with all their trailers. I had the S-3, S-4, mess hall and all going the wrong way. I could not believe my sight when I saw an actual roundabout at the end of the street. As we were meeting--our tail so to speak--my driver was pointing to me as being the one at fault. Of course the whole entourage laughed at the Signal Captain, convoy leader, who couldn't find his way to the exercise area. So, Billy: we have all been there and will likely do so again. You did a superb job.
Some where around 11:00 hours Nolan started wanting something to eat. He became so insistent that we left the bike trail and went up this hill to scout out a bakery in the local town. Some of the folks had already passed the off ramp and Billy chased them down. Then it was a made dash across fields to the center of town where we found a small open store. I didn't want Nolan eating sweets before lunch. So, I convinced him to eat a piece of bread until lunch break. We road until sometime after 12:00 hours with him constantly expressing his desire for refueling his body's need for nourishment. Somewhere around 12:30 we stopped along the waterway for our noon meal. Nolan wouldn't set with the rest of us and went and laid down on a bench. I thought he was likely feeling put upon because of some kidding that had taken place. When I asked him, he confirmed that he thought he was being picked on. So, as the bible says, we went and spoke to our group. I told them what Nolan had said, and he received hugs and apologies and all was right with the world, once again.
So, this was a most rewarding ride. And, I'd like to say that our ride organizer was not only good logistically, but he demonstrated the qualities of a good leader in that he sowed interest in the wellbeing of each rider and even gave a helping hand by riding beside Nolan and helping push him up some of the hills. The group was a most favored group, and I'm anticipating another great ride.
Until next time: May the wind be at your back, the rain light, and the Son abundant in your life.
PS the only real unpleasant event for me was when I parked my bike to load, it fell into the back of my truck pushing the handlebars down and scratching two large spots in the windshield.
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