What I Learned in Summer Camp


The events of the past 96 hours have been so “rich’ they take time to sort out.

I awoke in my tent after a 24 hour ride full of pouts and self pity that I had been removed as a route leader on the ride. Sitting on my big lower lip Angel and Flossie laughed at their perch and reminded me the trip was Chief to Indian heavy and my role had been reversed. And then with great wisdom they both remind me that being a “leader” had nothing to do with a title but rather with ones actions. 

I cleaned up my gear and approached the rider I had been helping and told her I would hold back and ride with her to get her through the day. Her relief was palpable. The ride included 3 climbs, the 3rd the steepest and most difficult of the first ten days pf the ride. At 45 miles I congratulated her on making it through with a still slightly injured knee and told her to stop for the day and I would go on alone. She readily agreed and thank me for the help in the first part of the ride.

Off I went to climb to Hayder’s  Gap. I had done this before and knew it would be  slow and difficult . In the past I had stopped at a library at the bottom of the mountain to get water but this time found it closed. Instead I met Ms. Davenport, a 90 year old wonder sitting on her front porch. She welcomed me for a rest, gave me fresh water to drink and filled my bottles to the brim . Stories of her youth and family entertained me as I rested on her porch.

With a heart felt “thank you” I left and headed up the sunlit side. 4/5 the the way up my phone rang and a panicked route leader told me there had been crash on just the other side of the top. My medical help was urgently needed. 

One of our riders had hit a gravel patch on the way down and crashed into the embankment wall. I gave instructions to a nurse riding with us to immobilize his neck and quickly called 911 to get an ambulance to the site. !0 minutes later I was at his side…a mld concussion but saved by a broken helmet from more serious head injury. It was obvious his clavicle and shoulder were broken and a swollen left chest suggested broken ribs. At least he made sense as I talked to him. When the rescue squad arrived I was able to listen for breath sounds with a borrowed stethoscope  and assured myself his lung had not been punctured. With the help of other riders, a rattled policeman ,and two young female rescue squad drivers we loaded him into the van and they sped away to the mountain bottom where a helicopter was waiting to take him to a Johnson City Trauma Center in Tennessee.

He was admitted and has since been discharged and is home doing well. 

That night any thoughts of pout had dissolved and I was just glad I was there to help.

The next morning we arose early for a ride to Breaks Interstate Park for a night of rain but calm.

The next morning before we left we had a team meeting about entering Kentucky.

The theme was sobering:

  1. Beware of the Coal trucks, they don’t care for riders and travel in pairs so if a cyclist is hit the second truck can testify it was the rider’s fault
  2. Beware of dogs, they are loose and viscous. A quick lesson on how to kill a dog that is on top of you going for your throat
  3. The local people are not happy about riders watch yourself on the narrow roads
  4. There will be no phone service

So off we set. 

As I approached the border, a cloud covered bridge, I felt like I was entering the tight zone.

Beautiful mountains with cut segments revealing million year layers rocks spoke of a tranquility that was not to be. 

As coal trucks approached I was careful to get off the road time and time again.

30 miles in on a flat I encountered my first dog hidden in the grass like a lion on the Savana. I warned him off with stern words  but at 20 feet he lunged for my bike and nearly knocked me off. I screamed and yelled and he backed off and I sped on. 40 yards later the second dog attacked but my loud “no!” stopped him long enough for me to speed past. 40 yards the third attacked but also backed off. A climb lay ahead of me and I slowed to 5mph. 30 yards in a pack of 5 dogs rushed at me from the left. I kicked and yelled but at such a slow pace I was an easy target. Three times I got them to back off but the fourth they lunged at my left foot and latched on. I felt a tooth enter my skin and I knew I had been bit. I jumped off the bike and kept it between me and the still attacking dogs and yelled to the rider behind me to stop. Finding grapefruit sized rocks I started bombing the beasts…I missed every time, but at least they backed off. Walking up 30 more yards I stoped to examine my foot now bleeding through my sock. I knew then my ride was over.

With much frustration and anger I rode to the top and down the mountainside to the first rest stop where I borrowed a land line to call home to share the grim news.

I knew I needed to get rabies immunoglobulins as soon as possible so the route leaders agreed to take me to the nearest hospital 15 miles farther down. Arriving there I entered the ER to find it full of sick patients all suspected to have Covid 19. The clerk informed me that I might get seen by midnight…it was 10 AM…

With no cell service I asked to use a phone to try to find a way home for quicker care. The hall phone was out of order, my cell phone had no service and after an attempt at the clerks phone I found I could not call out

“Yep its like that here, we are kinda curt off” ….Twilight Zone…

Looking at a waiting room full of Covid patients, a bleeding ankle and cut off from the world I walked out of the ER and decided to start over. Atop a mountain just out of town I finally got service and called home asking to be picked up ASAP for care in my local ER.

14 hours later I was greeted by people I knew, rushed into an ER room and loaded with immunoglobulins, my first rabies vaccine and started on antibiotics. I was treated to a McDonalds breakfast while sitting on two apple sized lumps deep in my buns.

20 hours later I awoke sore in both arms, both lower cheeks, and my left ankle a little swollen and red from the bite and local injections.

Angle and Flossie were sitting there on the beds as my eyes focused…with a grin on their faces

” Going to test your fate again ?”

I moaned “Go away” and they did… until next time.

5 thoughts on “What I Learned in Summer Camp

  1. You are courageous and generous. So glad you got help and will be OK. You are a constant inspiration to me! 💕


    Rodney — “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” — Mary Oliver (1935-2019)

    “People only see what they are prepared to see”.— Ralph Waldo Emerson



  2. What a story. Not like the bike paths in Minnesota or the safe, wide open roads of North Dakota. Don’t go back to Kentucky any time soon. Will call soon.


  3. I am so sorry to hear of the dog bite and having to end your trip, Nick. Such a bummer. I hope you are healing and are in good spirits. Any chance you could rejoin the group ain Missouri or Kansas?

    Your dedication to raising money for MS research is truly admirable. You’re a wonderful person for all that you have done for BTUSFMS.


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