About 3 weeks before our trip, some of our friends really wanted to get together with us to know more about our upcoming adventure. They had tons of questions about all kinds of things: What type of bikes are you riding? How long will it take? Where will you sleep? How far will you bike each day? Ect. One of our friends however, most of his questions had to do with personal safety, his questions were more about that: Are you carrying a gun? No? Are you carrying a knife? Etc. We said we were not carrying a gun because we could not carry legally throughout each state. We've also never fired a gun so neither of us would be sure we could actually pull the trigger of needed. So then the conversation turned to knives. After talking about options for a knife, our good friend decided to buy us the ultimate protection piece, a machete.
I knew we could not legally fly with a machete as a carry on, and we didn't want to put that in our luggage as we didn't want to take a chance on ripping our waterproof bags, so he decided to ship it to us to Portland. It would be in our hotel waiting for us. But when we got there and asked for our package, right away it felt a little odd walking up to our room with this blade. When we took it up to our room, it was in a box, so it wasn't a huge issue, but when we left with it the next day, we were unsure of how to discreetly carry it to our rental car that was taking us to Astoria, the start of our cycling. We just wrapped it in between other equipment and hoped it wouldn't fall out in the lobbies, causing a scene.
Once we started cycling, the machete needed to be somewhere out of site, but within an easy way to extract this quasi sword, if needed. We played around with a few options and eventually settled on wrapping the machete in a piece of a thick duffel bag we used to check our panniers when we flew out. (Panniers are the bags we hang on our bikes) And we put the machete tucked in with one of the tents we carry on the rear rack of our bikes. This way, it's out of view, and yet fairly easy to get to. The other day, we actually took out the machete for the first time, but this was surely an over estimation on a percieved danger. However, yesterday, we actually needed to retrieve this multi tool and actually used it on on a quiet bike path spanning much of Illinois.
The Hennepin stretches for about 60 miles from about the Iowa border, and it goes more or less east. The path was very quiet. In fact, I'd say in the entire 60 mile stretch, we probably only saw less than 20 people. Part of the reason I'd say it wasn't heavily used was probably because we were there on a weekday. But the other reason was because the trail is not well maintained, so it really isn't for the occasional bike path user. The trail went form being paved, to broken pavement, to dirt and mud, and at times, it turned to jeep tracks or single track, even. But after 2000 miles of biking, to us this seemed OK as we were off the road and on a very peaceful ride.
However, we did have to always be watching the path. There were holes, rocks, tunnels, mud, critters and occasional people to watch out for. Luckily for us, many of those people were actually on the canal, fishing. So, we could just wave at them and even if they had questionable intentions, it would have almost been impossible for them to get to us. But yesterday, as we were about at mile 15 for the day, up ahead on the trail, I saw a dark obstincle blocking our path. As I was trying to more clearly assess the situation from afar, I truly wasn't sure how we'd get around this so we rolled towards this in a type of limbo.
What was impeding our forward progress you may ask? Well, it was a shadowy figure, blocking the entire path at that point, but is wasn't a person, it was huge fallen tree that stopped us dead in our tracks. As we definitely could not put the bikes over it, even if we unloaded them. But at one side of the trail, I see a bunch of branches and I'm thinking maybe we can unload the bikes and them carry them over the thick, tall, branches. But Anna pipes in and says, "why don't we use the machete? So we did!
I took out the 12 inch machete and did my civic duty and cleared the way, not only for us, but for the five other cyclist that may be going across that path this year. I have to say, it felt good using it. Maybe it's my Mexican roots, every Mexican in the country side would never leave for a day's work without it. One never knows if you'll need it for work or for protection. Maybe I just needdd to get upper body work out, but I did like hacking at the branches. And in a few minutes, we had cleared the way. Sarah rolled up just in time to pass through, and we soon followed.
The rest of the ride yesterday and today, provided a ton of other obstacles, but we did not have to use the machete again to cut back the overgrown path. If only we could have a tool that would have hardened the soft mud that was slowing us down and providing some slippery conditions..but it wouldn't have been as fun to use. So thanks Geoff!