Mile High Mishap (Denver, CO)
Monday, May 17, 1999
Annette flew back to the Midwest to work a few days with teachers in Illinois and Indiana. Meantime after dropping her off at the airport, Larry spent the time working at the RV. One of Annette's last concerns was to remove the bicycles that were mounted onto the roof rack of our toad (Explorer). She was worried that we might forget and drive underneath a low overhang like an airport parking lot.
So anyway, Larry was working, writing, and catching up on business. Each day, one of his 'breakout' activities was to spend a few hours cleaning up the RV's exterior. Road construction through Missouri and Kansas had given 'Harvey' and the 'toad" a spattered coating of road oil and asphalt tar. A helpful campground neighbor suggested that he purchase 'Goo Gone' for removing the oil and tar.
A visit to a nearby WalMart had him stocked up with both 'Goo Gone' and a competitive product called 'De-Solv-It.' Both products worked, the latter may have been even faster and both have a pleasant citrus smell. Thanks were due the helpful camper. By spending a few hours each day, the large job was completed. On one of those days a passing female camper quipped, "I believe I like this RV lifestyle, the men finally get to do some housecleaning. 'Bout time!" Grins. The vehicles are looking better; even the tires and wheels are shining.
Annette called from her hotel, another small reminder, "Are those bicycles still on the roof?" No problem, he'll take care of it.
Wednesday, May 19th
Another small chore was to connect two printers (laser and inkjet) to Larry's computer. We had been using a wireless printing peripheral (had used it for about a year in the Evansville home), but combining this with a power supply and interrupted electrical connections was not working. All the variables were just too much for the AC adapters units, so a decision was made to switch to direct printing and put in cables and a transfer switch. So late afternoon Wednesday found Larry making another trip to the nearest Best Buy, located close to WalMart, via the busy I-25, still with the bicycles fastened to the roof. And after a brief stop and purchases, Larry was heading home, back up I-25, just at twilight. Being a recently displaced Midwest flatlander, he was still just getting used to traffic whizzing by at 75 mph.
Just a few miles from the campground, a glance into the rear-view mirror caught sight of a bicycle spinning through the air. Thoughts rushed through the mind, traffic is heavy, egads (or something like that) those bikes were expensive, somebody could be hurt! Slamming on the brakes, pulling onto the shoulder, snapping into reverse, remembering to push on the emergency flashers, backing up as fast as possible, while searching the lanes (at least four-wide northbound here) for what's left . . . he's thinking at least its my Gary Fisher, instead of Annette's bike, what the hey! Glimpsing something, stopping quickly, leave the lights on and the engine running, check the lane, yes it's the bike or part of it, it's clear - - rush out and scoop up the bike, check the lane again, on-coming traffic is merging over, still whizzing by. Finally off to the shoulder, trying to see if there is anything worth salvaging, the rear-tire is bent in every direction, a few scratches but it's really too dark to see the full extent of damages. Is the frame ruined, what about the gears, has it been run over, will it ride again? Then a state police cruiser pulls up, lights blinding, flashing, and asking if he can help. Larry gave a hurried explanation that the bike was just swept off the roof. The jumbled response is followed by the officer's rational concern that "your vehicle is too close to traffic, you need to move it over onto the shoulder." Larry gives a dazed "thanks, I'll do that" and pulls over as far as possible.
Okay, back to trying to determine the damages. Can it be that the bicycle was not run over, that it hit no one? Did the rear wheel absorb most of the drop? Larry crammed the mangled bike into the back of the toad, checked that Annette's bike was secure - - really secure. Adrenaline was still pumping when Larry returned to the campground, concern. It's time to take Annette's bike off the rack! Better late than never, right?
Too restless to sleep, Larry finished connecting the computer to printers. When sleep finally came, he dreamed of cartwheeling bikes in the air.
May 20th
The next morning, Larry loaded up the damaged bike and headed out in search of a repair shop. The "bike section" of the phone book had been ripped out at the campground pay phones. Don't problems run in threes? Of course, there were no other phone books in sight. A stop at a local gas station produced a Denver phone book. After a short drive to the city, Larry arrived at a bike shop. The young clerk exclaimed as he saw the mangled bike, "Wow what did you do, wipe out on a 360?" LJ grinned sheepishly, thinking this kid believes he would even attempt some maneuver like that? Reality sinks in as he realized that the fellow was just astonished at the pretzeled rear wheel. Amazement came when up on the repair rack the test for frame alignment and checks of the derailleur and handle bars turned out fine; could it be that other than a few battle-scars the bike is OK? Okay, so the wheel is destroyed, but astonished, relieved, grateful . . . that's all!
Then back home (the campground), Larry remembers that one of the bike repairmen commented that he had never heard of a bike coming off the rack like that. They did share some other disaster tales, but none with the famous Yakima brand. As he is preparing the rig for departure (the next day, we are heading to Estes Park), Larry finds two pair of wheel straps that he put safely in the console when he assembled the rack (over a month ago, back in Evansville). They have been sitting there forgotten for over a thousand miles, oops! So the Yakima reputation is not tarnished. That leaves "pilot" error.
That afternoon, it's off to the airport to pick up Annette. Her flight is sandwiched between the President's Littleton arrival and departure. Air Force One is parked at a hanger. Oh yeah, Annette, about the bikes! Was it premonition? Live and learn, the hard way, but really . . . we're thankful, it could have been much worse. Let's take a break; let's go to Star Wars tonight. Wow, pod racers! Can we get a pod racer rack for the car?

Created by
Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 1/99.
Updated, 6/99.
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