Last Tuesday was a fine day for hitting the road. I decided to go in a new direction- North to Oskaloosa. I figured that the grocery store there would be easier to reach than any store in Lawrence. At 2:30 I biked down to my usual stop at Wellman Road and 27th St., wrote “Oskaloosa” on my whiteboard and in 14 minutes had a ride with a sweet guy named Glen. I did some shopping and an errand, then headed to HWY 59 to catch a ride home. I wrote “Wellman Rd.” on my sign and waited and waited and waited. 20 minutes and 45 cars passed by before I decided to change tactics. The problem, it seems, was that there was too much visual information for approaching drivers. I was standing next to a gas station just a block away from the major traffic light. Drivers already had plenty of decisions to make at that point in the road, and I was asking them to: 1) see me, 2) figure out what I was doing there 3) decide how they felt about that and 4) look for a safe place to pull over. So, I figured it was better to try a spot with less competing information.
My solution was to walk about 1/2 mile down Hwy 59 to a spot with a long line of sight, less traffic and only 2 buildings, both set back from the highway. I was much more visible there and it was apparent that I was looking for a ride. I also changed my rideboard to “McClouth” Sure enough, 6 minutes and 8 cars later I had a ride. Unfortunately, my driver was going all the way to McClouth and our paths diverged at Wellman Road.
This is the part of the story that gets a little uncomfortable for our heroine. I did not scope out the road before I asked to be dropped off, figuring that all of Wellman Rd was like my home spot at 27th. Alas! Southbound traffic was almost nonexistent and there was no clear line of sight. Cars that could have taken me home didn’t even see me until it was too late to stop. There was also no shoulder whatsoever. The clock said 4:30 and a fierce cold wind was blowing from the north and the daylight failing. Fortunately, I had my trusty cell phone. I called Husband to come rescue me (first time ever), but right then a friendly farmer drove by on his way from McClouth and gave me a ride back to my bike. From this uncomfortable situation, I take away some valuable lessons from my researching trips:
- Check out the route ahead of time if possible. Look for good spots and bad patches. Note the traffic flow.
- Always prepare to be out in the weather for extended periods. Check the weather report. Pack a water bottle and a little extra clothing.
- Don’t try a new route without emergency back-up
One other observation I made on this trip is that it seems to be men are more likely to stop for me out in the country, whereas in Lawrence I can get rides from women as well. I will keep observing and see if that trend continues. My guess is that men are less risk averse, but also that women are more likely to have children in the car.
Stay tuned for an update on the new RIDEBOARDS!