IT IS NOT AN IRONY…SERIOUSLY

I have quite an interesting anecdote to share today. I typically hold these type of stories so I can share while sipping on a beer beside a campfire with friends. I like to bust out with the stories that are least believable so I can keep my friends wondering whether I’m being serious or just busting their tipsy chops, but I do believe this one can be granted a tad bit more seriousness.

I am currently sitting in Red Bay, Alabama, a small city populated by about 3,000 people and not very many attractions around. I’m certainly not here because it is a cycling destination, but it certainly is not the worst place to go for a ride. While exploring a little, I found Country Road 11 and headed northbound of out Red Bay toward Bloody Springs, MS on a ride that consisted mainly of rolling hills. From what I gathered on my first ride, I’d come across some beautiful farming lands and vast landscapes, very few motor vehicles on the road, zero humans, and a few barking dogs that would scare me a little but I could definitely outrun on the bike. The further I rode, the lesser cars I encountered, and I often came across sections of road that turned from pavement to gravel, with intersecting roads with some very somber names. Jokingly, I even named my first ride on Strava “These are the roads that horror movies are inspired by” when I absolutely freaked out because I had an old truck follow me down the road for about 15 minutes without passing me, all while I was averaging only about 15 mph on my MTB. Eventually, the driver did go around me and raised his hand “hello” as he went by, but let’s just say that I was absolutely freaked out. After all, I was riding toward Bloody Springs! If your imagination works like mine, you know exactly where I’m coming from!

On my second and third ride, the mood of my rides did not become more cheerful. There is something about this place that kept me feeling paranoid and I just couldn’t relax. I constantly kept watching over my shoulder, kept an attentive ear for dogs and was so relieved every time I got back to my home base. I truly have been riding here only because I don’t want to lose more fitness on the bike since I’ve been taking it a bit easier after USAC XC MTB Marathon Nationals, and my race season isn’t over yet. I have had to tap into my reserve of “do this because you have to” tank to get these rides done, and feeling like I’m in a horror movie hasn’t helped….but I’m getting it done.

Enjoying The Freedom Hills

The fourth ride out of Red Bay toward Bloody Springs came on a beautifully sunny day. Today truly was a gorgeous day out here, the clouds are abundant so the heat isn’t so brutal and the wind isn’t strong. I had a specific interval workout scheduled for today, so I wasn’t feeling too nervous about heading back out toward the horror movie setting, and rode out in search of the best, most perfectly hand-picked hill I could use for my intervals. I could already pick out which properties I’d have the barking dogs come out of so I could speed up past them if I had to, so I wasn’t too concerned about them anymore. Today, I truly was more relaxed and not so worried. Obviously, that means today would be the day I had to be the most alert, but I wasn’t. Certain things only happen when you’re in LaLa Land A.K.A. Comiendo Caca.

Here I was, cruising through the Freedom Hills and mentally preparing myself for the intervals from hell when all of a sudden I heard a pack of barking dogs, and from the corner of my eye I spotted about 5 or 6 fully grown Labradors running toward me. I reacted as fast as I could, and when I intended to increase my speed, they were all already almost fully surrounding me and I swear they wanted to take me down. I slammed my brakes because two of them ran in front of me, and the sound of my rubbers dragging on the payment may have scared a couple of them. My heart just dropped, and I seriously thought I was going to have to fight these dogs, but as I was contemplating having to dismount the bike to use it as a shield, a vehicle came up on me and used the honk to get the dogs out of the road. I was able to hide behind the vehicle and ride away beside the car, and finally was able to get away, but I think my heart was splattered on the pavement somewhere beside the dogs.

WHEWWWWWW!!!!!

That’s the closest encounter I have ever had with dogs while riding the bike, how scary!!!! I knew I’d have a dog or two come after me on that ride, but certainly not 6 of them! I tried to shake the incident out of my mind and focused on my intervals ahead, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking that I’d have to ride directly past that property again to get back to my starting point, and I nearly started crying when I couldn’t find an alternate route. I’d probably have to wait hours to see another car that I could wave down and ask to help me get across that section of road, but then again, how safe would that be? I am often more scared of humans than I am of dogs or any kind of wildlife.

In between Pre-Race Leg Opener Intervals, I was also doing Prayer Intervals. I was asking God to send an angel my way to protect me from those dogs on the way back, or to give me the legs I’d need to sprint past the property which was on a hill. I had already told myself that I couldn’t go very hard on the interval workout because I’d need that one more push past those dogs. Suddenly, during one of the interval efforts, I looked over my shoulder once to see if there were any cars (or monsters) behind me, I saw two colorful humans beside each other. I looked forward to not go off the road, and had to do a double-take as I surprisingly saw two other cyclists riding in the same direction as me. I thought, am I hallucinating??? Am I seeing things??? Are those really cyclists??? Naaaahhhhh. I haven’t seen any humans in a long time, and I haven’t seen any cyclists ever in this area. BUT, YES, THOSE ARE CYCLISTS. So I aborted my interval effort and backtracked toward them. I must have had the biggest smile on my face because they greeted me right away! Introduced themselves and told me they were headed cross-country toward San Francisco, and were 6 days into their cycling journey. I warned them about the dogs ahead, and all three of us rode together all the way back to town. Thankfully, though we did get chased by two other dogs that we successfully outran, the 6 dogs I feared were sleeping in the front yard. I spotted one of them laying on the yard, so I assume the other ones were doing the same nearby. WHAT A RELIEF! These two gentlemen were my angels, and God had once again answered my prayers.

I survived!!!
Michael Higgins and David Bergman are two of the three cyclists on this special cycling mission. They call themselves The Blaze Brothers and their goal is to ride 3,600 miles across the country in 36 days to raise money for the BlazeSports America, a non-profit organization that helps children and veterans with physical disabilities become more physically active through adaptive sports. When I came across them today, they were just about 40 miles into their day and had about 100 miles to go before their rest stop. Not only were they my angels today, but they are the angels of many people that I’ll never get to meet. I am sure that the third person in their team, who happens to be the designated SAG driver today, is equally as amazing. 

THANK YOU GENTLEMEN, FELLOW ADVENTURISTS!!!! It was a pleasure meeting you, riding with you, having lunch with you and learning about your mission. I wish you the best of luck and will for sure be following the rest of your journey.

Eating Lunch at The Mason Jar with Michael and David.

I invite all of you reading to head over to their Blogging Website and learn more about these great athletes and humans. Also LIKE their Facebook Page Blaze Across America and show your support!

Chapeau!