Roots, Ruts, Rocks, and Ru-roh!

This post is a special installment, relating the strange events of a single day.

Tuesday, October 15. Clarksburg, Maryland.

Ignorance is bliss, they say. Blissfully we decided to ride the bike trails near Little Bennett regional park campground. The bike trails were, inconveniently, half a mile away on the other side of a river valley. To get there, we’d have to take some hiker-only trails. A friendly park employee pooh-poohed the hiker-only designation, saying they’d be a fine way for us to get to the bike trails. So off we went.

At first it was not too bad. A gentle downhill slope, not too many roots, rocks and ruts. But soon the slope became steeper and the trail rougher, and we stood on our pedals with brakes clamped as we continued to lose elevation – every minute incurring more vertical debt: a commitment to climb the same distance to return home. Though it became clear that this BMX-style ride was a poor match for our semi-street ebikes, apparently some odd and unfortunate cognitive bias made turning back seem even worse. Ordinarily Mark is the one to throw caution to the wind, but in this case he offered to abort the mission, but the uncharacteristically intrepid Lori wanted to push on.

Somehow we reached the river bottom intact. We crossed a bridge, and found the “natural surface” bike trails (dirt and gravel) still somewhat of a challenge with very steep sections and lots of unmarked branching this way and that. Still, we enjoyed them well enough, and spent an hour exploring. Eventually it seemed prudent to start back. We located ourselves on the map. Retracing our steps would be dull and take too long, so we chose another not-for-bikes “shortcut” that would lead us to paved road and eliminate several miles of trail. The shortcut turned out to be a steep hill climb, and we needed full power assist just to keep moving up the steep and rutted hiking path.

We emerged to find the road worse than anticipated. We’d have to ride down a steep, no-shoulder road with bursts of traffic roaring down it. Lori was terrified, but we’d given ourselves little alternative. We blasted down the road, hitting 30+ mph, with fortunately few cars passing us. This led us back to the river bottom, bridge, and the long climb out. Again, we relied heavily on the electric assist (these bikes weigh 45 lbs after all!) and made the rough bouncy hill climb out.

Finally, we made our way to a paved campground road. Victory!! We rode in triumph back to the RV for a well earned rest and refreshments.

But…

Just as the bikes were secured back on the rack, Lori frantically felt her back pocket for her phone. She had a look of panic on her face and Mark knew…. the phone was lost!

In a panic, we took the bikes back off the rack to retrace our recent path. We scanned the campground roads with little hope but not knowing what else to do. Suddenly Mark stopped, calling for Lori to follow him back to the RV. He had remembered Apple’s “find my phone” feature.

During our entire 8 mile ride, we’d seen only 2 other people – so the chances that anyone would find the phone seemed vanishingly small, and the clock was ticking. Not only would we lose light in a few hours, but the phone battery would surely die. And rain was on it’s way for the evening and into the night. It was find it now or find it never.

Logging into iCloud revealed a location near a trail we’d been on, but not quite on it. Assuming the location accuracy was within a reasonable margin of error, we hastily loaded up the bikes, readied the RV (unhook water, electric and sewer, put in the slide) and tore off to find the trailhead. 10 minutes later we arrived, lucky to find a parking area there as well.

Mark jumped on his bike and rode to point on the trail we’d been on that was closest to the “find my phone” locator coordinates. He returned 10 minutes later without success. The next attempt was to go to the actual spot identified by the “find my phone”, even though we hadn’t ridden on that particular trail. When Mark reached the spot, he used his own phone to confirm the exact location. Strangely, it was now reporting a different spot, on road we had not been anywhere near! What??

Apple’s “find my phone” shows us where Lori’s lost phone was last “seen” by the cloud.

Mark returned the the RV, feeling defeated, and a little frustrated by the “find my phone” feature. What had seemed so hopeful, was turning out to be a bust.

Lori suggested to Mark that he call her phone. An obvious thing in retrospect, but we really hadn’t consider the possibility of anyone finding it. We were completely alone on the trails we’d ridden. But we called anyway. Why not? And there was an answer!!! Oh joy!

As it turned out, the finder wasn’t able to reach us with the locked phone, so he had headed home. Unfortunately, he lived almost 20 miles away! We got the bike back on the rack, got the RV turned around, and headed for the rendezvous – tired, but overjoyed at the prospect of getting the phone back. We wound up (in the 26′ RV) in the dense historic downtown city of Frederick, MD. Not RV friendly! But finding an alley to turn down, we parked, and Lori waited with the RV while Mark made the connection.

The guy who had found the phone was very nice, happy to have helped us out. He even recommended some places for the celebration that we’d independently decided was a fitting end to the crazy day. The restaurant turned out to be quite good, with a mellow chardonnay and crisp hefeweizen amplifying the pleasure of a satisfactory outcome.

Savoring success with Shrimp Scampi at the Ragin’ Reef.

P.S. Our happy ending nearly reverted back to nightmare! At the restaurant, Mark had parked the RV in a fenced rear section of the parking lot (trying to be “out of the way”). Lori, concerned, mentioned it to the restaurant host, who advised us to move it, as the fenced area is owned by another business who often closes and locks it until the following day! Mark moved the RV immediately, and sure enough, when we returned after dinner – the fenced area was locked. Whew!

This is *not* the kind of adventure we were hoping for on this trip, but of course some tribulation is inevitable, and thank goodness it all worked out in the end. Hope we’re not using up all our good luck!

See ya!

2 thoughts on “Roots, Ruts, Rocks, and Ru-roh!

  1. Whew! Too much excitement! Glad you had a happy ending! I unfortunately also had the opportunity to learn that “find my phone” is not super accurate. Mine seemed to be roaming around the neighborhood so I called Salem police for help. As it turns out, you can have the phone “alarm” which can help find it (or scare someone away). Fortunately I had a happy ending too – it was lost in construction debris in my condo – and I found out Salem police are patient and very nice.

    Maybe you should stay off those “no bike” trails from now on. And make sure the bike trails aren’t just intended for bmx. We don’t want to have to send search parties after *you*!

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