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TRIA Orthopaedic Center Your Cycling Blog

Captain Kirk and the Knights of Nature Valley

June 21, 2012


Charlie Schlatter, one of our moto marshals, composed this epic tale about the cancelled Cannon Falls Road Race, and we thought it provided a great behind-the-scenes look at another aspect of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. 

They arrived one by one on their various two-wheeled steeds. Clad in their full armor, ready for whatever a bicycle race might require of a guy on a motorcycle. Most of them claimed an affinity for bike racing, but all they really wanted to do was to ride their bikes. Lined up along the road they looked like some odd collection, colors, shapes, ages, and equipment all different, all individual.


Captain Kirk called the band together just as the rain began in earnest. Wearing a yellow raincoat, his imposing, tall, grey countenance was unmistakable. He gave us a lecture on safety and proper moto-marshall technique.


For this reporter, it was the second storm of the day. The first was in St. Paul, where our entrance to the freeway in the pouring rain had been enhanced by hail stones beating on our helmets and bikes. The Captain immediately dispatched me, the scout, to find suitable shelter for the band. Finding the deli full and the pizza parlor too small, we held out under an awning for a time. Then one of the knights discovered a bakery and coffee shop.


The knights assembled there. Made bold by draughts of coffee and sweets, we sat down at the long table. The boasting began. We rode in the cold rain with Sir Jim. We led a bicycle race in the Rockies with Sir Les. We rode through rain and dirt in the far north with Sir Charles. We dodged tornadoes. We envied the spirit of youth, who would try all of the above without armor or gear. Sir Duane displayed his new suit, a bright green shell that looked impenetrable. Sir Les quietly admitted that his raincoat had been blown from the back of his bike on the way and could someone lend him a raincoat? Outside the sky was full of thunder, fork lightning, and gusts. The Knights held forth, swapping yarns and eyeing each other’s gear, until the coffee was gone.


When the rain finally let up enough to see a little, the band left the bakery to return to their duty stations at the start of the race. There, Captain Kirk informed them that the race was officially cancelled, and that their services were no longer needed. The sky began to threaten once again.


The Knights of the long table, having been dismissed, were released to ride their own rides home. Someone said the big storm was yet to come. Captain Kirk and this scout considered the situation. I, the scout, suggested waiting until the pending storm had blown over. Captain Kirk merely started his engine.


Off we went, into the gathering dusk, trying to clear the fog from both the inside and the outside of our soaked helmets as we rode. The rain began in earnest as we swung into the traffic headed north. On we rode, I the scout in the lead. When I could see far enough, I noticed a really black cloud bank looming. I was headed straight into it. I saw the red-eyed devil’s herd stampeding along the top edge of that ragged black cloud as I rode head on into it. The rain increased. I passed a highway overpass, thought about stopping under it, and immediately rejected the idea as foolishness. If we weren’t to be washed away, a truck would surely kill us. On we went, as the flood waters collected. If we crossed deep water, I never saw it. I was blinded by the heavy rain. Visibility was nearing zero. Tail lights in front of me became emergency flashers blurred by sheets of rain and spray. I followed them up the nearest exit ramp, up a hill and onto a side road. There, to the right, a pickup had taken shelter behind a small building. Deep muddy water surrounding it prevented me from following it there. The roadsides were awash as well. I turned my bike into the storm, let it idle, and stopped in the deluge. The wind tried to push me over. Sheets of rain blotted out the headlight. Captain Kirk, following me, had not even made it up the exit ramp. I could barely make out his headlight several hundred yards down the hill, also stopped.


The rain let up a little. Captain Kirk made it to where I was yet stopped, idling. We could not speak. The rain let up a little more. The ditches were filling with water and beginning to wash over the road. I put the bike in gear and rode onto the highway. With tail lights ahead of me, I could stay on the road. We rode into heavier rain, and heavier still, until visibility was gone once again.


At last I noticed a lighted sign and a turn off. I took it. Fording a couple of new rivers, we arrived at a restaurant. We went in. The scout took off his armor and left it in the doorway to drip and leak on the floor. Captain Kirk just tromped to the table, trailing water. The waitress asked what I’d like. I replied, “A double shot of Jack Daniel’s.” But none was offered. We settled for coffee and food.


When we finished, it was still raining hard. We put the gear back on. We strode to our bikes. We forded the new rivers and returned to the highway. Through the mess we continued.

At last, somewhere just south of St. Paul, we rode out of the rain. Slowly I began to be able to see again. We picked up speed. We got home.


There is no word from the rest of the Knights, except for Sir Duane, who has unfortunately reported that his new, impenetrable armor leaks water.


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