Monday, July 2 was a great day. The headwind returned, I couldn’t find the bike trail, and the heat was scorching. And it was a great day. At 11:45 a car pulled up next to me and the window slid down. A mother and son looked at the sweat dripping down my nose. “Sir” she said, “Are you OK to ride your bike in this heat?” I didn’t even have 18 miles in of a planned 80 mile day yet. “Yeah, I’m alright” I replied, “but come back and ask me again at 1:00.” She suggested that I get off the road before then and the window slid back up.

Google maps showed a bike trail between Mondovi and Fairchild, alongside the Buffalo River, which I think is barely a creek. I searched for the trail head in vain, and then headed east figuring I would find it as it veered close to Route 10. It was a dirt path and I would not have used it anyway. I glanced over the guardrail to get a look at the river and something caught my eye on the bank. A young fawn relaxed in the shade waiting for mom to return.

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When I turned around, a cyclist appeared, Kyle Jansson. He was on a feather-weight racing bike and he looked at my cumbersome behemoth with astonishment. Then he offered to give me a draft for the next 20 miles!

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I tucked my right shoulder alongside his left hip to take full advantage of the draft. I must have been lonely because it didn’t take long before I was retelling him the history of my trip. I told him of Mac, and Drew, and Ty, and Tom and how we met. Kyle then pointed out something that I had not fully understood. “So you haven’t gotten used to biking alone yet” he shouted over his left shoulder. I paused, thought, and realized he was right; I was lonely.

Suddenly, we spied a snapping turtle in the middle of Route 10. Kyle slowed immediately to perform a rescue. A pick-up truck pulling a trailer straddled the angry reptile, nearly crushing it. It’s neck stretched out, and with contempt, it tried to bite the tires of the next vehicle that also performed a straddling maneuver. Kyle gave it a good push from behind with his foot. The snapper adroitly turned around and tried to take off Kyle’s big toe. We took turns trying to shove it out of the road and eventually we got it to the shoulder, the turtle trying to dismember us the entire time. Kyle would not be satisfied until he was sure the ungrateful animal was safely ensconced in the culvert. He found two rocks, used them as safety mitts to squeeze the turtle from the sides, and delivered it down to the bottom of the embankment.

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Back on the road, I got to hear Kyle’s story. Born in Minneapolis, high school in Chicago, engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin Madison, he now lived with his wife in Vail. So how did he get to Vail and what was he doing here? His wife’s family has a huge family reunion every four years, and they run it as the Olympics. 72 people are camping on two acres at the family cabin on Lake Eau Clair. They have volleyball, swimming, bowling, obstacle course, golfing, and the list went on and on. Kyle didn’t golf so he was out for a road ride.

He had been working as a hydraulic engineer for a local farm equipment company. One day during a softball game, he tore his ACL and needed surgery (he is fine now). He became friendly with his surgeon who mentioned that he was moving his practice to Vail but his medical engineer would not make the move. Long story short, Kyle took the job. Why does a surgeon need an engineer? Kyle orders cadaver legs and installs and tests repairs on them. I found this amazingly humorous and extremely interesting. I was cycling with Dr. Frankenstein, or at least his engineer assistant. Kyle told me that he had turned green, sick to his stomach, on more than one occasion.

Kyle headed back to the Olympics after he had escorted me more than 20 miles. The draft was greatly appreciated but even after he left I continued to bike stronger. He gave me a much needed mental boost too. He and his wife are expecting a child in five months and I wish them both the best.

I pulled into Marshfield, WI after 6 hours in the saddle. The wind was slowly backing to become a cross-wind and I was trying to coax it to shift a little further, and I eventually benefitted from about two hours of a crossing tail wind. Thunderstorms rolled through at night and are predicted for the next several days, as is record heat.

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