traciwentling

Inspiration Day

Day 3 – Part 2

My front tire hit the second culvert and I flew over the handlebars landing first on my left shoulder and with my head banging into the ground with whiplash effect. I never lost consciousness and sat up immediately to yell a warning to Sue to slow down. It wasn’t until I sat up that I felt my clavicle separate. Sue came running up to me to ask if I was all right and I heard myself tell her “my collar bone is broken”. Sue went into “best friend/mother-like mode” and dug out four ibuprofen for me to swallow to get on top of the pain. Within a few minutes, the other girls came back and they all worked together to get my emergency SOS button pushed on my spot tracker. Mayumi texted back and forth with the emergency responders to tell them the details of my predicament. Meanwhile, Sue made the decision to move us to the edge of the forest and away from the massive power line poles we were sitting under as the thunder and lightening was rolling in (just to give the situation a little more added drama).  The rain started to fall and the girls found my rain gear to put on me and Carrie set up my tent for shelter. I was snug as a bug in a rug while they were all out in the elements fighting off the massive mosquito swarm.

Sue sat outside my tent contemplating what she was going to do. Her first instinct was to stay with me, but we both knew that was not going to be practical even if it was what we both wanted. It took about an hour and a half and a conservation ranger arrived in a pickup. She (Donna) leaned into the tent and wrapped my arm to me with gauze. The mummification stabilized my broken bone. She told us a helicopter was on its way but she was not sure it would be able to land because of the marshy terrain and proximity to the high-line poles and forest. She warned me that if I had to ride in the pickup, it was going to be a painful and the worst ride possible for someone with a broken bone. I could hear the helicopter was overhead and circling and finally found a place they would try to land about 150 feet away. They got it accomplished and I felt like such a heel with five professional men and women on a mission to get me out of the wilderness and to a hospital. They were all extremely nice and I told them I could walk myself to the helicopter so they would not have to carry me on a stretcher. I assured them that I had no injuries to my legs but they were worried about other fractures as well as possible head injury.

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Justice loaded for the bumpy ride to the ranger station

My newest friends and my best friend loaded my bike and gear into the pickup to be held indefinitely. Not enough hugs and not enough thank you’s could be given in the next few seconds as I was eased out of the tent and walked to helicopter. Someone snapped these shots for posterity.

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The helicopter ride was only about 10 minutes long as I was delivered in a clearing to a waiting ambulance where I met CJ and Ronya who meticulously cared for me during the 1.5 hour ride to the hospital. As CJ took my pulse and Ronya took my blood pressure I had to reassure them that the rates were normal for me and I wouldn’t be needing the defibrillator. Safely delivered to the hospital where I had to pay in advance before being Xrayed and looked at by a doctor. I was thankful that I had asked the girls to retrieve my trunk bag that carried my electronics and wallet with credit cards. A super nice ER staff then took care of me for a few hours. It was the questions they asked that brought me to tears for the second time that day. Who in town did I know that could come pick me up? Who was I going to stay with after I got dismissed? What was my backup plan? BACKUP PLAN!?!  I did not have a backup plan. I had no one to pick me up. I didn’t even have any clothes to wear (they had cut mine off). At this point, I did not even know if John knew what had happened.

Two hospital social workers appeared from behind the emergency room curtain. I was told that the Delorme SOS folks had notified John and Angie as my emergency contacts. They brought with them some donated leggings and a shirt for me to wear. They found me a hotel to stay at for the low low price of $200 per night. They called a taxi to come pick me up, take me to the pharmacy to fill my prescriptions for pain meds, and then delivery me to said motel. Not one person all day had said a cross word to me or chastised me for being so careless, that is until the taxi driver mentioned that he had never had to pick up a crazy woman mountain biker before.

Before I left the hospital they let me use their phone to call John who was already on his way to Canada to bring me and my bike home. I could barely breathe from the heaving of my heart to hear his reassuring and always loving voice say he was on his way. He always has the words to soothe my soul as he said to just get to the motel and try to sleep as much as possible because it would make the time pass faster. On a regimen of codeine and prescription Tylenol, I fell into bed with my still filthy body which had not seen a shower for now going on three days. I woke up every once in awhile to eat a bit of my Payday anniversary gift before swallowing some more meds. I called the front desk to ask them to bring me a toothbrush but even after it was delivered, I did not find the gumption to awkwardly brush my teeth with my right hand until thirty minutes before John arrived 27 hours later.

The instant John stepped onto the room, the healing process began for my broken bone, my wounded pride, and my emotions surrounding the disappointment of abandoning my adventure and even more importantly abandoning my sister-friends. The three month life of a wanderer and adventure thrill seeker was replaced by the warm familiar comfort of a husband so devoted to me that he allows me to leave him temporarily, but welcomes me back to his arms with the understanding of a saint.

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Justice’s wounds

The next day it took several hours to track down the location of my bike and to load its wounded body with heavy gear into the back of the Yukon. More tears all the way home partially due to the pain associated with the bumps of travel, but also of general depression. My ever loving man begins to talk to me about what we will do differently to help me prepare to begin again next summer. Then he also gives me some fun ideas of what we might do this summer since I’m going to be home. I am blessed beyond measure for this man who has loved me all these many years.

As we cross the border from Canada to Montana, my Verizon cell coverage begins to work on my iPad and I read the sweet words of our daughter asking for prayers and for generally just keeping you apprised of my condition. I read all the awesome words of encouragement from you, my friends and church family and even words from the APES who continue on the amazing journey without me. I will end this post with the words of Mike Lowden who posted on Facebook, “if you wanted John to come visit you on your anniversary, you probably could have just asked him.”  Made me smile.

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Day 3 – Part 1

Today is our 40th wedding anniversary.  John and I were married during wheat harvest on a hot July afternoon 40 years ago. The last 10 years or so, we have only spent the day together every other year because of my adventures. This one is tougher being away from him mostly because it is a truly notable momentous number. I wonder where I’ll be on our 50th 😎

This picture is for John. Daisies are his favorite flower because he believes them to be “happy”. I agree.

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Meadow of happiness!

While breaking camp, I teased two of the women that from now on they were required to “sleep in” an extra 30 minutes every morning because they are so darn efficient in getting ready to ride. They have to stand around and twiddle their fingers while the rest of us are still strapping on our panniers. They take the round-about compliment well and patiently continue to wait.

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Bikes wait while we shop at the Boulton Trading Post

Our first stop of the day was a great one. We took a paved bike path to the Boulton Trading Post. I didn’t really need any supplies, but I thought I might buy a Payday or two for snacks. I started eating Payday’s on bike rides years ago when one of our very best friends and mentor, Orland Crooks turned us onto them calling them “energy bars”. Never referred to again as a candy bar, but as a nourishing totally legit alternative to less tasty alternatives.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. ANYWAY, the Boulton Trading Post in Canada did not carry them. Coming to terms with knowing that perhaps they are not sold in Canada at all, I was back to my bike checking my many straps when Mayumi and Erika came up to me and handed me their last Payday and wished me a Happy Anniversary. Tears came easily, not because I was being given the bar, but because of the gesture of these wonderful ladies to recognize my anniversary. Friendship cemented! In retrospect, I am super glad I snapped this photo to help me remember SOMETHING that day that brought on happy tears.

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Another mile of pavement and we were back to the reality of steep rocky sections that I absolutely did not have the power to get me and my bike to the top.

If it came to it, I could always I remove my gear, push Justice to the top. Walk back down however many times it required to retrieve said gear, haul it up, strap it all back on…all the while the other ladies would most likely patiently wait.

For these two and a half days, I have been plotting in my head where and when and what it was going to take to make this adventure more than a sufferfest. First, I knew I would eventually get acclimated to the altitude and that would take care of the constant low grade headaches as well as give me back my power. Secondly, I’m mentally going through my panniers to eliminate all but essentials in order to lighten my load. I was carrying way more food than I needed and once I ate it down, that would be simple and effective. I was carrying my camp chair. It’s not heavy, but it takes up space that could be used to transfer items from my orange bags to my regular panniers. I go back and forth with this tough elimination decision because this is one item that I actually use every single night. What else? My mallet. I can use a rock like everybody else. Less electronics perhaps? Garmin 1000, iPad, solar charger, telephone, and Delorme SE spot tracker. A couple of small stand alone chargers. Which can I eliminate for weight and volume?

I’m carrying three pair of riding socks, my bug socks and a pair of warm ones to wear to bed. Surely I don’t need five pairs of socks. Shoes? I’m wearing my riding shoes, plus I brought my light-weight Brooks running tennis shoes and a pair of water sandals. Either the tennis shoes or the water sandals have got to go home. Neither weigh much, but the volume they take is substantial. Got to do it. Got to shrink my gear weight and volume to make climbing easier. I’ve also discovered that I’m the only member of this team using the original gears that came on the bike. Two of the gals are on mountain bikes and four are on Salsa Fargo’s with modified gearing for easier climbing. Is it enough of a difference for the expense, time and trouble? These are the things running through my head at any given time.  You may laugh at the absurdly sounding conflict of too many socks vs comfortable toes at anytime of the day or night, but I’m here to tell you that when you are depending on others to get you up the first three days of mountains and with a three month journey ahead of us, tough decisions have to be made.

MEANWHILE..the strong girls come to my rescue (I refer to them as the National Guard) as they come walking down the rocky slope to push from behind to get me to the top. Finally, we were at a place to descend for while. It wasn’t a particularly steep descent, but I got my speed up and was enjoying the ease for awhile and perhaps letting my mind wander about the things discussed above, when I come up on two large culverts spaced about two feet between them. My front tire rolled over the first one but I didn’t notice the second one until it was too late to pull up.

To be continued…

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Day 2 – APES

We have decided to name our group the Alpha Pack Explorers or APES for short.  Ha! Sue says this not an Adventure, this is an Exploration!

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The APES.

As horrid as instant coffee tastes at home, it tastes pretty good in camp. It’s all about location, location, location we have decided.

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Sue and I waiting for water to boil for coffee

We got word this morning through the Delorme spot tracker that Betty is riding with a man pulling a bob trailer and they are trying to catch us. I hope they can do it, but given the terrain, I can’t imagine riding the extra miles to make that happen.

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Posing on one of many bridge crossings the past two days. We entered into Peter Loughheed Provincial Park today and met up with lots of day hikers on the trail. We had some challenges with a rocky trail and incredible climbs that I had to hike a bike. My right ankle that I sprained in 2013 does not like the angle that is required to push on the big grades but as soon as I’m up, the pain is over.

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Working together to lift bikes over downed tree

Lunch break. Day two of pbj sandwich for lunch. I am carrying a jar of orange marmalade so I’m still liking them 😎

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Girls gotta eat!

After lunch, we turned onto a real road that had mucho traffic on it. The next 20 miles or so were, let me just say…dusty. This day was another repeat of the fast girls pulling ahead immediately and then waiting for Sue and I at significant places along the trail. I can imagine the frustration they must feel about that, but they are very gracious women and would never tell us so. In fact, each and everyone of them are pretty laid back and seem happy to be a part of this experience.

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A little fun easy single track

We pulled into Canyon Campsite and found a spot pretty much immediately, but as we were walking around picking out the best places for our tents, the camp host drove up and told us that only two tents were allowed per site. Sue and I, with our best negotiating skills talked him into letting us all stay here. I may have had to use my weepy eyes, exhausted expression to seal the deal. It didn’t take much for me to conjure the look. It all worked out and we have access to bear proof boxes so we don’t have to hang our food tonight. Potable water so we don’t have to filter. And…an outhouse so we don’t have to (well you know). No showers again tonight, no electricity to charge electronics.

Suppertime consisted of another MRE. You just can’t beat them for convenience. It takes about 1.5 minutes to boil two cups of water, add the water to the package and then wait approximately 10 minutes to let it hydrate. There is always something to do while I wait.

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Some like to actually cook

Everyone is in their tents early tonight. Time for me to join the ranks of the sleepers. Tomorrow is a big big BIG day! Can you guess why?

Resting comfortably in my two man tent surrounded by my gear. Good decision!

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Day 1 – And….we’re off!

 

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Night before we set off

Front row:  Mayumi from California, Erika from California

Back row:  Carrie from New Mexico, Suzanne from New Jersey, Traci from Kansas, Sue from Washington, Jane from Colorado

We are suppose to be a group of eight. Betty from Texas got in about midnight but her bike didn’t make it (the airline claims they don’t even know where it is) so we had to leave her behind this morning. She is hoping that it might arrive later today or early tomorrow and if it does, she will try to catch us.

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Taken in front of the historic Fairmont Hotel in Banff

Sue and I are struggling with lack of oxygen, technical mountain biking, and heavy bikes. The other women are already acclimated to the altitude and are great riders anyway so they ride ahead and then wait on us at various intervals. At one point today, as I tried to pedal through a pretty deep puddle, my front tire slipped and splash! Thankfully, all my bags are water proof, and other than having to endure some laughing at my expense, there was no harm nor foul. Sue suffered from mechanical issues with her bike but she never fell. Nope, Traci is the weak link for now.

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Sue riding beside Spray Lake

Within 10 miles of Banff there were a lot of riders on the trail. They were locals or visitors in the area for Canada Day so they were not carrying any gear. At one point two men came towards us and saw that we were all women and asked how far we were going. After we told them, one guy got off his bike and gave each one of us an individual hug and wished us good luck. I have to say I’ve never had THAT happen before!

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A meadow of Indian Paint Brush near camp

We got a late start and only rode about 25 miles today getting to camp about 4:00. We are gorilla camping on the edge of Spray Lake Reservoir in a beautiful spot that we just stumbled upon. Sue worked on her bike issues. We filtered a gallon of water. Ate MRE’s for supper and then hung our bear bags.

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Bear bag properly hung with Sue’s Rock throwing and knot tying skills

We’re going to get an earlier start tomorrow and try to go a little further. For now, I sit in my tent and it’s quite chilly outside. Carrie spotted a black bear walking along the beach on the other side of the lake and we all came out to see him lumbering along and grateful he’s so far away that we could barely even tell he was a bear.

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Now you know…what keeps me going 😎

 

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