“May the angels be at your back,” said a sweet old man at a peach stand outside of West Memphis, AR.
It was a Thursday and he invited me to church that Sunday. Sadly, I had to decline the offer since I would already be out of town. So as a parting gift, he sent me angels.
They arrived 30 minutes later.
I saw my break in traffic and started pedaling as fast as I could powered by 100% motor support and all the strength available in my quads. I was taking over one of the two lanes on the I-55 bridge headed into Memphis. I was like a bullet train trying to have my 25-mph clip keep me ahead of the 55-mph cars that were quickly closing in.
And then BAM. The moment of speed changed. I felt a loss of balance, my trailer started squirreling out of control, and I went crashing into the side railing.
No time to assess scratches on my body since cars were whizzing around me. I popped up expecting to find a trailer flat.
Nope. Worse. My trailer had detached. The axle had sheered off, which holds the hitch of the trailer to the bike. The solar cables remained connected giving me that out of control feeling.
It was go time.
I was running on adrenaline and a surge of herculean strength.
I detached the solar cables, and without a thought hoisted my 50-lb bike up and over the 3.5 foot barrier. No problem.
The trailer and solar panel, now that was a problem. I needed to lighten the load to be able to raise this 5-ft long, 3-ft wide and 2.5-ft tall trailer and solar panel over the barrier. It’s tough for me to pull it up one step; I now had to surmount the equivalent height of 4 steps, vertical.
Protecting myself, I stayed off the highway, reaching around and into my trailer, offloading my spare battery, toolkit, and other bags that were heavy. Right before jumping back onto the highway I saw a flat bed truck hauling right at me. There was a car to it’s left, so it needed the lane I was blocking. All I could do was duck behind the barrier. I was envisioning my solar panel shattering into pieces but my immediate thought after– no problem, we can build another solar panel. In that moment I realized how committed I was to this tour.
My whole body clenched. The moment passed…quietly. The truck maneuvered around.
I jumped back onto the highway, turned the panel perpendicular, grabbed the trailer handle and started pulling and lifting. I don’t know how I did it, but I resurrected this 60-lb, awkwardly shaped, trailer into an area of safety. I owe it to my angels.
And they kept giving me gifts. There was a maintenance walkway on the bridge, allowing me to safely walk the pieces across the bridge and soak up the beautiful view of the Mississippi. I first took the trailer and walked the mile across to the other side. I then walked back to grab my bike, and I biked across.
And then if the angels were not already good enough to me, there was a huge park, Crump Park, below the bridge and a Super 8 motel on the other side. I walked across the grassy field to the Super 8 and told them of my saga.
Mike, the owner of Super 8 Memphis/Downtown could not have been more helpful and generous.
I spent a few hours in their air-conditioned lobby on the phone getting a new axle from The Robert Axle Project. Chris blew me away with how responsive and helpful he was. Within 30 minutes of my call we had a new axle being overnighted by FedEx to my airbnb. It was a great teaser before my FedEx visit.
So I thank the peach season, a sweet man, and the angels that kept me safe. And I get the sense that they are still riding along with me. I'll give an "Amen" to that.