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Bike Rides 126
Separation Anxiety on Interstate 90

I was returning from a trip to Sioux Falls in the Nissan one recent morning, travelling eastbound between the South Dakota border and Worthington.  It was a cold, windy and rainy day but this year that doesn’t narrow the field much; they all were.  It was the kind of day where if you were travelling by car and were old enough to remember driving without it, you really appreciated the “delay” option added to the wiper system sometime around 1985.

Just as I made my way innocently eastward, an alarming clunk was audible from the rear of the vehicle, even over the loud, but never blaring, satellite radio.  My eyes shot instantly to the rearview mirror just in time to catch a horrifying glimpse of the Raleigh and its fancy carrying rack fading in the distance, both somehow having suddenly separated themselves from the car. Needless to say it was incredibly fortunate no one was travelling directly behind me at this splitting moment.

Instantly I went into emergency mode, throwing the hazard lights on, pulling over and gunning it backwards toward the wayward cargo.  It seemed nothing short of miraculous to find my mountain bike standing perfectly upright over the centerline and facing directly to the east, between the driving and passing lanes.

The rack I use can best be described as platform style, mounting to the lower rear of the car via the trailer hitch receiver.  The bike(s) wheels are clamped to one of two running bars that are positioned just a foot above ground and a vertical stabilizer bar then holds the bike(s) upright. The whole rig is made of heavy steel and I presume the low center of gravity is what kept the bike from tipping or toppling during the release, even at 75 mph.

Before I could get out and recover the bicycle and its attached assembly, a group of vehicles approached from the west. All I could do was stand by at the side of the interstate frantically pointing out the dangerous obstacle to unwitting drivers. Cool heads prevailed and not a single car made contact with the bicycle as everyone sped past in both lanes.

Once there was a significant break in traffic I immediately scrambled to the center of the Interstate and dragged the package to relative safety at the side of the road.  In the pouring rain wearing dress clothes and a raincoat I carefully accessed and resolved the situation.

 Because the solid bolt that secures the rack to the receiver was locked and intact, and there was absolutely no sign of equipment failure, I could only conclude that operator error was to blame for the entire dangerous fiasco.  

Apparently when I’d slid the rack on for the first time this season, I had not inserted the bar-end far enough into the receiver, thus the securing bolt was positioned ahead of the bar, instead of through it. It was a really stupid mistake and, frankly, I consider myself incredibly lucky to have averted a disaster.  It turned out the only real damage done was some significant scrape scars where rack met concrete at a high rate of speed, sliding and spinning to a stop but never actually crashing.

Once things were back in place I gave the whole system the “muscle test,” rocking it back and forth and up and down with my entire might, until I was completely satisfied things would hold together for the duration of the journey.

I’m certainly grateful for the opportunity to learn a valuable life lesson in this case without dire consequences being involved.  Things haven’t always worked this way for me but I’ll take a break when I can get it.

Traffic Tip:  Seriously nice job on the Austin Trails in preparation for the Darren Dash this year, especially given the inclement weather; way to go City of Austin and Department of Parks and Recreation!

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