Kettle Moraine. The very words conjure up images of dappled roads, dark forests, light breezes on a perfect summer’s day, fish fries, etc. – being that a requisite number of fish fry establishments are required within a certain mile radius in Wisconsin. I believe I did all my camping with the Girl Scouts when I was younger in the Kettle Moraine area. So when Deanna suggested that we head up there to go riding today, for something different, I thought – sure, why not? Some peaceful country roads, communing with nature, getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and even away from the sameness of the roads around Huntley. Off we go.
After parking at the bike store/café at Rt. 12 and H, we start riding. And indeed, it’s lovely. Beyond lovely. There are prairies, woods, few cars, and roads as smooth as butter. A bit hilly, but it’s a nice change of pace.
So we’re rolling into the town of Eagle, WI – eyeing the signs for the “Ice Cream Social” in the park, but alas, it doesn’t start until 1:30, long after we’ll be gone. But it’s that kind of town – quiet, historic, bucolic, serene – as we toodle along on the main road through town to get to our next turnoff. I comment to Deanna on how quiet it is, and she notes that everyone is probably still in church. Well, almost everyone, that is. Because we start to hear yelling, and it’s unclear if this is angry yelling or just people shouting to each other. And there’s a car coming down the road from the opposite direction, and we can see that the passenger’s side door is opening....opening......while the car is still moving, mind you, and oops, looks like the open door might hit that police car parked in the street! Nope, but now......a guy is jumping out of the moving car and starts to cross the street, just a bit in front of us. He knocks on the window of a car that’s going in the same direction we are, and it seems he might know those people and it’s still unclear what’s going on. Are they just goofing around?
Now the guy is walking in front of me across the street to the parking lot of the local fire station, which is right there on the main road. As I slowly go past him, I check out his t-shirt, which has some reference to the Firefighters’ Association on it, and he looks normal enough. Oh, okay. I guess they’re all just being oddly loud and somewhat obnoxious. The guy looks at me, then tosses up his arm in a casual wave to someone behind me.
At which point things really get a bit nutty. Because here there's a slight uphill to a somewhat busy road in front of us, and since I don’t want to lose momentum, I go up the slight hill, check for traffic, and as I’m meandering up the road, I hear Deanna yell “Just get off the road, get out of the way!” Which is the point at which a cop appears, gun drawn, and this guy is rumbling along in a version of Pickup Trucks Gone Wild, as it's headed straight towards me.
To reiterate: there’s the cop, gun drawn, and in his direct line of fire is the renegade truck......and then me and Deanna. And the guy then turns the corner and abandons ship, or truck, as the case may be – a truck that would have plowed me over had I not managed to get out of the way. Meanwhile, I'm watching all this in wide-eyed amazement, while simultaneously realizing that there’s absolutely nowhere to go, to run for cover, since I’m on a gravel shoulder next to a barrier overlooking some kind of ravine. And Deanna isn’t too far away, about 15 feet to my left.
The pickup keeps moving – as I briefly entertain the notion of trying to jump in and stop it, simply because it’s totally unclear what’s going on, and when you see a runaway vehicle, it just seems a bit...unseemly to let it continue on its uncharted course. And the guy is briskly walking – not running, mind you - in the opposite direction of the truck, towards a bar on the corner called (I kid you not) Knuckleheads. Really. I swear. He goes in, and the woman driving the car that he originally jumped out of is bustling up the road yelling “don’t shoot him! Don’t shoot him!” and SHE goes into the bar. As does the cop. At which point we hear a very loud crash – oops, the truck careened down the road, picked up some speed, and smashed into a crossing gate at the railroad tracks, totally taking it out. It suddenly becomes very quiet.
So we stand there. And wait. I’m thinking – maybe they’ll need us as witnesses? But nothing’s happening – no one’s going in or out of the bar, no one else is showing up, except for a few cars now backing up by the railroad tracks. After about 10 minutes, a police car arrives, lights flashing, and that officer goes into the bar. More waiting. Deanna starts to ride off, and as she does, I see 2 guys on their Harleys pull up outside the bar across the street (Knuckleheads, I remind you), so I yell to them and wave them over. “Umm, you probably don’t want to go into that bar just now!” I tell them, and explain what’s happening. My duty to the bikers of the world done, I also leave to join Deanna, since it seems we could be here quite a while, just standing around.
About 25 minutes later, we’re at a 4-way stop sign, a decent distance away from the town of Eagle, when we hear sirens, so we stop and wait. And see first one, then 2 more police cars go flying past, presumably on their way to the town. Later, when we get back to the small parking lot where we started, we chat with another cyclist who was going through that same town after the initial craziness, when everyone was in the bar already, and he said that there were about 8 police cars, while a group of officers wound up dragging the guy out of the bar as he was kicking and screaming – and they wanted to Tazer him, but couldn’t because he kept grabbing onto other people. So at least we know how it ended, kind of, as we were making our way home later and occasionally bursting into incredulous laughter, because the whole thing was just...so....bizarre. But the whole incident does bring to mind the following points:
1. We so could have been killed. Either shot or run over by a renegade truck. In EAGLE, WI, population 1,707. WTH?
2. And my bike crash was in WI. So this begs the question: is Wisconsin trying to kill me? Have I been deficient in my cheese curd purchasing? Is that it?
3. The timing on this is what amazes me. We seriously could not have been more in the thick of things than if we were the ones doing the running. If this were a movie, most people would be scoffing at this – “Oh sure, it’s like in the Wayne’s World movies, how there are always guys carrying a huge glass pane across the street right at the moment the big car chase is going on. Sooooo realistic.” (eye roll)
And of course, the total irony of the situation isn’t lost on me. “Oh, so what got her finally, was it the cancer?” “Well, no, actually. See she went for a bike ride in Wisconsin, and there was a small town shootout, and then a runaway truck.......”
I. Shake. My. Head.