Former Whittier couples 2,300-mile cycling trip along the Mississippi River
Part 3: One rider out but the trip goes on
Photos courtesy of Amanda Hale
Tom Hale stands by his newly purchased 1975 Fiat hard top convertible 2-seater. Hale is driving along side his wife, Mandy, to assist in her cycling trip. He had to stop cycling on the trip at the advice of a doctor after he started having heart problems during the trip.
By Mandy Hale
Special to the Turnagain Times
“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley.” So said Scots poet Robert Burns in 1785, and it is as true today as then. Our best-laid schemes have indeed gone agley.
In the last article on our Mississippi River bike journey, Tom and I were in Aitkin, Minn. enjoying an extra day in camp. The heat and humidity had been severe the day before and Tom was just not feeling very well. On the Monday we packed up camp and rode up to breakfast, upon which exercise Tom declared that he needed to go to the hospital to have his vital signs checked. Once there, the doctor promptly clapped him into a room and said “Mr. Hale, you aren’t going anywhere for a bit.”
It turns out that his shortness of breath and lack of energy were not just because he had not trained properly for the journey, but caused by a problem with his heart. Fortunately it is a condition that is not immediately life threatening. However the doctor proclaimed that the bicycling was over for Tom for this trip.
To quote another adage – every cloud has a silver lining. While in the hospital cafeteria Tom opened the local paper to the want ads, and there at the top was a 1975 Fiat hard top convertible 2-seater for sale. I am now cycling the route of the Mississippi with my very own personal Support and Gear vehicle and driver! While this is definitely not what we had planned, it makes the best of a bad situation. I have to admit to some guilt about wanting to continue the ride when my husband cannot, but he’s having a ball in the little car, and swears he is really enjoying himself. So, onward with blessings and good wishes.
I have one strong belief about humanity that has been vindicated again and again throughout my life, and never so much as recently. Humans are wonderfully kind. The staff at the hospital is paid to care for their patients, but offering to pack the bikes and gear out to the motel I was at is beyond a paycheck. The total stranger who offered his home to us as a place to recuperate, the librarian and fellow cyclist in Aitkin who welcomed us into her home for a fabulous dinner, the owners of the motel who were so kind to me all reinforced my positive take on my fellow human beings. Bless them all.
The day we left Aitkin, I turned over 300 miles on my odometer, and now that we are as far as Minneapolis it’s passed 400. The weather has been much cooler since Tom’s bad day; in fact, the two nights he spent in the hospital it was well below freezing in that area. I guess on one level I’m glad we were not camping. The temperatures have been much more pleasant in the five days we’ve been travelling. Since Tom was discharged, it being about 65-70 degrees in the day and in the 50s at night. Well within the comfort range of my sleeping bag! A little rain, a few clouds, a little sun and tailwinds have made for a great journey.
Our cue sheets have taken us down through small towns and farms as close to the Mississippi as possible while staying on paved roads. However, we have reached that point in the route where we are passing through the much more urban landscapes of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Still the guide does an admirable job of sending us directly along the river, into rather upscale but older neighborhoods, along bike paths and parks within spitting distance of the Mightier Mississippi and cleverly avoiding the industrial zones where things would be bleak and much dirtier.
Both of the Twin Cities have made a concerted effort to humanize their landscapes and create greenways and parks in the most scenic parts along the river. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the land along the river was given over to grain mills, lumber operations and railroad yards. Much of that has either moved or failed, and local government has strived to restore prairie and wetland landscapes in order to improve water quality and wildlife habitat.
That suits the human spirit’s need for quiet green spaces as well, and the entire web of life benefits. We are grateful.