Last week I wrote about my early July trip down the I&M Canal Trail from LaSalle to almost the Buffalo Rock State Park entrance, a trip that involved mud pits, and resulted both a filthy trike and a lost flag and rear light.
The flag that I lost came with the trike when I bought it back in 2017. In my mind it really is a part of the character of the trike. It’s featured in many of the shots of the trike on this site. I was frustrated and tired - and sick of wet, muddy clay - when I gave up looking for it, but when I did that, my intention was to purchase another, identical flag. The following morning I fired up my iPad and began my search for just that.
Things went south quickly.
The flag in question was a Soundwinds design, the owner of which is retiring and selling off his stock; my flag was sold out. This was very discouraging, and the similar designs in stock, tho very nice, just weren’t what I was looking for 1.
My cheapness gene was also starting to kick in, and I was beginning to balk at the prospect of dropping money on a new flag and new rear light when I could have looked longer the day before.
So I set the iPad down and felt bad for a couple of minutes, and then an idea occurred to me. I looked up my route on Cyclemeter in map view, and I’d made it a good portion of the way into and thru Buffalo Rock. With any luck, I thought, if I came in from the other side - from the Buffalo Rock entrance to the trail - I’d only have to contend with one of the clay soup patches (the one I chose not to ride thru the day before).
There’s a big assumption or two in there, I realize. Based on the map, I was probably only a mile or so from the Buffalo Rock trail entrance when I’d stopped, but there was the real possibility that the entire mile was soup. I hoped not, but it was possible. I was also assuming that the flag would be wherever it came off the trike - that no one else would have come along and picked it up. This latter item seemed a fair bet, tho, simply because I had been the only soul on that section of the trail for the entire ride the day before, despite it being a weekend.
I debated whether or not to bring along the trike or simply walk the trail. I hadn’t yet cleaned it up from the day before, and if I could ride the distance it would go much more quickly; but if it was all soup that would be a wash. I decided to bring it along, and figured that, if I found the beginning of the trail at Buffalo Rock to be soup, I could just leave the trike in the vehicle, but then I’d have it if riding were an option.
This turned out to be a good call, as I was relieved to see that the first, visible portion of the trail westward from Buffalo Rock was dry and intact. This meant that, for a half-mile or so at least I could move forward with pretty good progress.
And then I encountered the soup.
This particular batch also had an additional impediment, as there was a tree down across the trail about 25 feet into the clay soup.
Given that I was going to have to portage the trike over the tree, and that the tree wasn’t very far into the soup, I decided just to carry it up to the tree. A Catrike Pocket weighs about 33 lbs unloaded, probably 35 or so with my gear. I was certainly still carrying my kid around when they weighed that much, so it seemed reasonable.
I listened to and rued the repeated "thuk-thuk-thuk" of my footsteps in the muck as I walked up to the downed tree, and stepped over it with my left leg. As I set my foot down, I felt a sharp, stinging sensation in my left calf.
Literally a stinging sensation.
I looked down to see the Yellowjacket stinging me, ended its existence, and quickly stepped away from the tree. As I looked back I could see a couple dozen of them swarming around this side of the tree near the ground. Either they had nested in the tree before it had fallen, or it disturbed a ground nest when it fell. Either way, they were not happy about it (and besides, Yellowjackets are aggressive assholes anyway), and one of them had decided to take it out on me.
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It’s been a long time since I’ve been stung, and I was not nostalgic for the experience. It took nearly a week for the bright red spot on my calf to fade and, in the interim, it provided a sensation I did not recall from prior events - it itched. A lot.
That was for future me to enjoy however. I continued to carry the trike another quarter-mile or so until we got to dry land. I tried to wipe and/or shake off as much of the clay as I could from my sandals, and began to pedal forward.
I was quite surprised when I saw it.
I’d expected to find it - if I found it at all - laying on the ground to one side of the trail or the other. That’s primarily where I’d been casting my eyes both the day before and during the bulk of this particular mission. The reality was something... different.
To be honest, it hanging there like that was initially a little creepy - reminiscent of something you’d come across wandering lost in the woods trying to shoot a documentary. I wondered for a moment if perhaps someone else had come along and found it, and hung it up so that, if the owner came looking, it’d be clearly visible. But that did not appear to be the case.
The closeup here shows it as I found it. The streamer at the top of the flag appears to have gotten wrapped around a hanging vine, and then lifted it up off of the lower half of the pole. The connection where they join isn’t loose, exactly, but it is pretty easy to slip on and off. I may need to add a bit of tape to increase friction at the connection.
Once I got over that initial creepy impression I was simply relieved. Though the trip took me out of my way for the day, it did save me the cost of a flag and a rear light (and I seem to go through lights at a prodigious rate anyway).
I lashed the flag to the rack on back and went back to once again tackle the clay. I rode thru it on the way back, at least up to the Yellowjacket tree. There I stopped a little short and considered strategy before trundling thru.
"Considered strategy", I say, like there were a lot of options. Ultimately it just involved making sure I had a good, firm hold on the trike and then going over the trunk as quickly as possible without slipping and falling in the clay soup. And there I was actually successful (yay) - gotta take the wins where you can get them.
As the day before, I emerged from the trail with both myself and my trike coated in gray.
This particular adventure was different, tho, because I knew what I was getting into. Of course, this did not cause me to gain any newfound fondness for the sticky, slippery, sucking mess that is muddy clay (not that I’m bitter) - I won’t be signing up for a mud-soaked cyclocross event any time soon - but I was in much better spirits upon arriving at the trailhead. So much so, in fact that I decided to ride back the other way, towards Ottawa, for a couple of miles. Besides, I reasoned, I really didn’t have a better way of getting the extra clay off of the tires...
The Soundwinds website says that some of their designs were going to be taken over by Premier Kites "later in 2019", and that a link would be included on the site when that happened. There was no link one the site when I looked at it - there still isn’t - but I decided to go over to look up Premier Kites anyway, just to see what they have to offer and, sure enough, they had my flag design in stock. ↩