Near Tragedy on the Interstate.
We had left Cape Cod a few hours earlier and were driving down the interstate south of New Haven, Conn. at about 69 mph. We were on our way to Dover, Delaware. Traffic was bumper to bumper. We heard a loud clunk from the rear of the car. In the rear view mirror, we saw to our horror the bike rack with both bikes attached careening off into the traffic behind us. My first thought was: the rack will fly up into someone’s windshield, the car will swerve hitting another car, and a horrible bloody chain reaction will smash up cars as well as bodies.
I pulled over to the side and called 911. The dispatcher said a state patrol car would be on the way. I looked behind me, as far as I could see were automobiles. The rack, by the way, was a very expensive Thule contraption, in which the carrier with the bikes on it swung out from the back so you could open the rear door to the car without taking the bikes off. Which is to say, it was heavier and larger than usual. We checked it out every morning.
A patrol car pulled up beside us. The officer leaned over and asked us if we had moved the bikes off the roadway. We shook our head. Someone had, he said. There were no injuries. We followed the officer back to the place were the bikes and the racks were piled on the side of the road. Some courageous soul had stopped his car, gotten out in the traffic and moved the bikes and rack to the side of the road. The cops were cool about it. They didn’t try to figure out who was at fault, nor did they ask for my license or registration. Instead they called a state truck which they said would take the bikes to a Wal Mart up the road for us, where we could try to get things fixed.
When the truck arrived, the driver looked at the tangle of steel and aluminum, grinned, and said to the cops: “Another one, huh? This is the third rack this week.” We untangled the bikes from the rack, and he put everything on his truck. We thanked the cops for their help, God for saving those drivers behind us from injury or death and us from years of trials and tribulation. We followed the truck up the road to the Wal Mart.
In the lot, the driver dissembled the damaged rack and studied it. He diagnosed the problem—the bolt supposedly serving as a back up to stop the rack from sliding out of the carrier had come loose. The rack had slipped out from road vibration. He put it back on and tightened it up. Julya and I went in Wal Mart and bought a roll of duck tape and a strap. We wound it around the bolt to hold it tight.
Now, what were we to do? We were in Milford, Conn., with a broken rack and two damaged bikes. I was tempted to toss everything and go bike-less for the rest of our trip. Julya insisted we go to the closest bike shop.
The bike guy, Chris Chapman, took care of us. He examined the bikes, said he would drop everything and get them back in shape. Then he told us that Thule’s North American headquarters was only eighteen miles away. But no use going there, he said, because the problem wasn’t with the rack but the way it was installed, back in Denver. We would have to go against the dealer who sold it to us, over 2000 miles away.
What the hell, we thought, let’s drive up to the Thule building and tell them the story. The most they can do is blame it on the dealer and refuse to do anything. The representative there listened carefully, examined the rack, and, after hearing that we were on the road for another nine months and consulting his supervisor said that the Company would give us a new rack and install it right then and there. We could submit a claim form for expenses for bike repairs.
We returned to the bike shop, where Chapman had tuned the bikes up beautifully. He checked the rack out and put the bikes on it. Four hours after the accident we headed out of town with a brand new—and updated—rack and bikes a little the worse for wear but still rideable and heads full of thanks to whatever or whoever had put that driver who cleared the rack and bikes behind us.