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I’ve been tweaking my bike, getting it ready for our upcoming trip.
A compass is now zip-tied off my front handlebar bag. Getting lost is a recurrent theme on many of our rides, and I thought it might help.
A few years back, for example, while riding in Door County we found ourselves with no clue as to where exactly we were located, much less knowing where we needed to go. We’d already negotiated several turns and were 15 miles into an intended 35-mile day. The route was winding, the sky cloudy and the time nearing noon when we came upon an unexpected stop sign marking an even more unexpected intersection.
We stopped to sort things out in front of the big red octagon and opened a detailed map showing all the paved roads with traffic counts in the area. We’d purposely chosen a route that was low traffic. So low that we had seen only a couple of vehicles to date, one of which was a tractor we passed with a big dog sporting an odd smile while sharing the tractor seat with a driver who might have posed for Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.”
Donning our reading glasses, we studied the color-coded highways while standing in the road. Did I mention how rural Wisconsin can be? Besides no traffic, there were no street signs to be found. Sabra thought she located our position and so did I. Problem was that we both pointed to different places on the map. Furthermore, we couldn’t agree which way was north.
After a lengthy negotiating session – during which the tractor with dog, still smiling, passed – we finally decided on a course of action, mounted our bikes and rolled. We had not gone five feet when we noticed the street signs that had been previously hidden by the stop sign. Getting out the glasses and the map again, we soon figured out we were in an entirely different location than either of us thought.
A compass would have helped in that situation but it’s not always the case.
Just two weeks ago we were in Urbana, a small town between Cedar Rapids and Waterloo. We’d stopped to have lunch and a beer at the O-Zone, but it was closed on Sunday. Looking up and down the small vacant business district it was clear that we were out of luck for dining in the immediate area or even asking for help. However, a car pulled up and parked.
Making the short walk over to the vehicle, I leaned down and asked, “Excuse me, but could you tell if there’s a convenience store in this town?”
Peering into the car I could see it looked like a young family: Dad driving, Mom riding shotgun and two kids in the back. They were all getting ready to eat what looked like a convenience store lunch so I thought I was in luck.
Sort of.
Both the man and the woman said in unison, “Oh, sure, we were just there,” and then pointed out their window in two exactly opposite directions.
In cases like that the compass will be of no help, unless I use it to perform a lobotomy on myself and give up traveling.
After lashing it on, I thought it might be fun to write “MORAL” across the compass. Then I could go around showing people my moral compass.
But as fate would have it, the compass was on my bike for two days when I accidentally tipped it over while removing a wheel.
Now I have a broken moral compass.
Reading the news lately about high profile, traditional-values Republican politicians, I see I’m in good company. Unfortunately, I don’t have any staffers to have an affair with and I don’t even know anyone from Argentina.
Maybe when the O-Zone reopens.