This story starts many years ago in Spokane Washington where my family settled after my dad retired from the USAF. In Junior high I befriended a boy named Michael. He not only went to school with me but also the same church and his dad also was a retiree from the USAF which is actually pretty common for Spokane, it being a reasonable place to live and the nearness of Fairchild AFB giving easy access for retirees to benefits such as on base shopping. Mike ( and I confirmed this weekend that I am about the only person in the world allowed to call him Mike) and I became the best of friends. While in HS his family moved outside of town, he was a city boy living in the country and I was a country boy living in the city. We both liked Jack Daniel's green when we could find someone to buy it for us. That is probably tmi so onward with my tale.
Mike was inspired by my cycling and last spring he came back to the sport. We both ran CC and track in school so at one time we both were athletes. He spent 17 years serving our country in all corners of the world, jumping out of airplanes, being an expert in chemical and biological warfare and a few other skills. At some point he landed wrong and severely damaged on of his knees. After leaving the service he gained a bit of weight. Through cycling he has lost much of his surplus. Finally we had a chance to ride together over Labor day weekend. He told me about this ride the first Couer d' Fondo a grand fondo ride around lake Coeur d' Alene, Idaho, just a half hour east of Spokane. He registered and then badgered me into also. Up to this point he had only gone as far as 50 miles. I was fairly sure that he could embrace enough Rule #5 to make the distance.
Saturday morning we were up early. Friday I drove over to Spokane so as to be able to get a good night's sleep before the ride. We needed to drop off our "care bags" before 7:30 am with the ride starting at 8 am. Anyway him being former military he believed in being early so needless to say we were not rushed. We found a place to park and started towards the starting area. Stopped at a coffee shop that was training a new employee. I ordered a large coffee for him and a double espresso for me; guess the new guy did not hear me because I only got one shot, grrr. With still plenty of time we then made our way to drop off our bags. First I've ever had this service; they transported a bag of whatever a rider wanted to send to the rest stop at about 37 miles into the ride. It was nice, I put some snacks and fingerless gloves in mine. The other good part is they then took the bags to the bike corral at the finish line. We then made our way to about 3/4 away from the front to the next group. The ride had 4 different distances with the start staged in order longest to shortest, a real workable plan for a medium/ small ride a bit more than 800 participants. For some reason when I looked at the map of the ride I assumed that we would go counter clockwise, but we didn't, not that it really mattered.
At real close to on-time the ride was started. We headed east with a few turns leaving the city. Riding next to lake Couer d' Alene which is one of the most beautiful lakes I've ever seen. Crystal clear water, surrounded by forested hills and mountains, with plenty of vacation properties as well. After a few miles we had to form single file and merge onto the shoulder of Interstate 90 for a few miles then exit onto Idaho 97. At about 11.5 miles in we hit the first serious climb of the day. As I expected we passed a few riders on this climb and of course were also passed. At the top I stopped and removed my wind breaker. The route then had a good descent and I promptly dropped Mike for a ways. At the bottom I slowed and let him catch up. From there to the first rest stop the terrain was rolling. We briefly stopped to fill water bottles and grab a quick snack, getting back on the road quickly. Soon after starting another descent that from the top seemed about like the rest had been. Once again I was a bit in front, coming upon a rather technical turn slowing so that I could safely go through it. At this point Mike was about 30 yards behind me.
Then i hear the crash and at the same time the moan, knowing that it was my friend Mike. I quickly unclipped and turned around, going the short distance back to the scene. Mike was on the ground and there was another rider already with him. The rider turned out to be a Dr. which was good. Another was calling for help on 911. I think I was in about as much shock as Mike was. Less than a minute late another rider stopped that was a EMT. Between he and the Dr. they determined that it was safe to move Mike off the road. Upon standing Mike up it was quickly determined that Mike was not able to continue in the fall his helmet broke in two places. While Mike was on the ground a woman showed up that he knew by name and he said "Hi Kathy." I did not recognize her right off the bat but she was one of my girlfriends from high school; small world! Soon the local volunteer emt's showed up followed by an ambulance. Mike insisted that I finish the ride. Kathy agreed that I should. Gladly Mike was alert enough to tell me to grab his keys out of his seat bag. He also asked me to give his mom a call. After they loaded him up in the ambulance, me sending his helmet with him, I loaded his bike into a pick-up that would drop it off at their fire station just down the road. I continued on.
From there to the next rest stop was not too lonely as there were still plenty of the shorter distance riders on the route. I was able to steadily pass rider after rider. Then I saw the sign directing the short riders right and me straight ahead with a volunteer telling me as I passed that my aid station/ rest stop was about a mile up the road. I get there and locate my care bag. Filled water, made sure the ride officials had been notified of Mike's accident, grabbed a quick snack and then proceeded onward. Now might be as good a time as any to mention that there was a time limit on this ride with the course closing at 5:30 PM; I had already lost almost an hour due to the accident so had to hustle. Sadly also by this time I had been dropped by nearly every other rider going the whole 108 mile distance. Upon leaving the second stop I was by myself until just past half way and the town of St. Maries ID. Going into town I caught back up to Kathy and her husband. Then I stopped to call Mike's mom, I had tried earlier but she was in a bad cell reception spot. By then Mike had already talked to her. Just on the way out of town was another rest stop. I stopped again and watered up and chatted with Kathy yet again. Mike had sent me a few texts telling me his GF had picked up his bike and that he was waiting for xray. I left the rest stop ahead of a few other riders, Kathy and her husband as well as two women and their man friend from Boise that Mike and I started next to and chatted with before the start. The road became narrow, windy and moderately hilly. The three from Boise caught me right over the crest of good climb as I stopped to eat a shok block, first time I'd tried them and i tried to open the wrong end, figuring it was better to pull over rather than risk a crash. No worries because I passed them before the bottom of the descent.
Years ago I had been on this road in a semi delivering motorcycles of all things. it was very scenic but as you should be able to imagine I was mostly preoccupied and somewhat regretting not going with my buddy. Finally came to another rest stop where I once again re-watered and snacked when I read the text from Mike that he had a broken pelvis and was going to be transported from Coeur d' Alene to a bigger hospital in Spokane. The Boise folks as well as Kathy and her spouse caught back up. While there a ride official, guy on a motorbike riding SAG support told the rest stop volunteers that there were only a few riders behind all of us. Once again I left before them. Next up was the worst climb of the ride 6-7 % for about two miles. Did I mention that I had been mostly by myself since about mile 37 save for a few short visits at rest stops. I was now past 70 miles. Keeping an eye on the time I knew I had enough time to finish. After the top of the rise I came out onto a rolling plain, I was no longer riding strong but I kept going. Stopping again at the last rest stop to re-water.
I passed several other riders beyond 70 miles. Paused to pick up a flashlight laying alongside the road and was passed by one rider, never to see him again. I was pedaling on will power by then. There were a couple more climbs before finally descending back into Couer d' Alene. Once into the city they had one lane coned off from traffic for cyclists. I enjoyed the final mile into the finish where there were a few people cheering and two wonderful women, one of which that said "smile you are done!" At the 100 mile point I noted that my time was 7 hours 23 minutes, not too bad considering 5800' climbing and not having a drafting partner for most of it. The ride ended into an Oktoberfest which was included in the price of the ride. I didn't feel like partying and only had one beer. Kathy and her husband must have finished right behind me because after collecting both my and Mike's care bags I went over to get a beer and ran into Kathy. I had a real good visit, briefly calling my wife to let here know I was done and would call later. It was so good to reconnect with Kathy, really other than the first 27 miles the only good thing about the ride considering the circumstances.
As I sit here a day later thinking back at my ride Mike is still laying in a hospital in Spokane and as of earlier this evening had still not spoken to the Dr. Last night while I was visiting him they gave him a CT scan. He is in great spirits and is being spoiled by a very loving GF. He is very optimistic about getting right back on the bike. Other than some rash on the skewers, pedals and brake/shifter levers his bike seems fine. He says he wants to do the ride next year. We had registered for a ride this coming weekend here in Ellensburg but due to smoke from the area forest fires it has been cancelled. Either late July or early August he bought a new bike, about three weeks ago after a ride while he was getting a beverage some skuzball cut his cable lock and stole it. He just picked up his new replacement bike on Tuesday. Hindsight he spends most of his cycling miles on MUP's and flat straight and wide county roads. He does not have near the seat time as I have. I think his relative lack of experience on off camber roads and a new bike as well as maybe lower confidence all contributed to his crash. he also in hindsight should have been riding his own ride while descending rather than pushing it to keep up with me. I gotta tell you I feel like crap because of this. My main purpose was to help my friend complete his first century plus; I'll have to save that for a future ride. I only captured one pic with my cell phone and frankly have not even looked at it yet so no pics on this ride report. The scenery was just beautiful. Honestly this ride and event would be well worth your consideration. 108 miles of stellar views. The ride organizers are all cyclists and for their first effort really knocked it out of the park. The speed and professionalism of the emergency personal was remarkable considering how rural the location of the accident.
Ride each mile like it may be your last and be sure to wear your helmet!