the best laid plans

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
-To a Mouse by Robert Burns

This was supposed to be an easy ride. 60 miles of biking on flat roads, with very little car traffic. An easy scenic ride along the river, one night at a campsite, then a return ride along the same route. We’d done something similar for the past couple of years, last year at Brannan Island near the Sacramento river delta, the year before that at Beal’s point in Folsom. The only difference is that those trips were about 50 miles each way, this one would be 60 miles. But that shouldn’t be a problem. This time I even drove the route ahead of time last week to make sure there wouldn’t be any problems. So as I was driving the route last week, I was thinking, “Dahhhh… This is going to be a boring ride…..”

Jiro and I left from my place at around 9am. We hit up McDonald’s for a short fuel break, then headed out. The plan was for us to meet up with the other guys Dan, Johnny and Robert near Knights Landing. The route was simple, Pole Line turns into Road 102 between Davis and Woodland, which turns into highway 113 between Woodland and Knight’s Landing. From there we would more or less follow the river levee roads to our destination in Colusa. We were supposed to arrive in Colusa around 3 in the afternoon. Jim would meet us there with the car, bringing us fishing equipment and firewood.

We caught up with the rest of the guys about halfway between Woodland and Knights Landing. So far so good. I found that I wasn’t able to ride as fast as I normally would. The panniers weighed down my bike and caught a lot of wind, slowing me down considerably. Everyone was riding slower than normal, except for maybe Jiro, who only had a backpack. Johnny got a flat, which slowed down the group a bit. But that’s okay, I thought. We might not make it to Colusa by 3pm, but by my calculation we would make it before sunset, around 5pm. No problem. I called Jim and told him to meet us at 5 instead.

A little after 5 o’clock Jim called and said he was already in Colusa. I didn’t know exactly how much riding we had left, but I knew that it was at least 10 more miles. At the rate we were riding, it would be at least an hour. I felt bad, Jim would be waiting in town alone for a while, and it was getting dark fast.

After it got dark, things took a turn for the worse. Robert fell while trying to avoid a car, slipping off the road’s soft gravel shoulder. When I set my bike down to look for my first aid kit, my keys fell out of my bike bag. Either the zipper had somehow worked its way open, or I had forgotten to zip it up at some point. I looked around for my wallet and couldn’t find it. Then I realized that I heard a sound a while back, but had ignored it. It was probably my wallet falling onto the road.

Right about that time Dan called me. Johnny had gotten a flat a while back, and it was taking a while to fix, so Robert, Jiro and I continued on. Dan and Johnny would fix the flat and catch up with us later. Now they were back on the road, but they were unsure of where they were. Dan’s GPS and phone were running out of batteries, and he was worried about finding his way in the dark. He described his location, he had missed a turn. Luckily our group had missed that same turn, so I was able to direct him back on course.

At this point I decided to look for my wallet. I knew chances of finding it were slim. I knew I dropped it somewhere on the levee. We had gotten back on the levee maybe 3 or 4 miles ago, so it was somewhere between here and there. I sent Jiro and Robert to meet with Jim in town. I would backtrack and hopefully meet up with Dan and Johnny, and if I’m really lucky, I could find my wallet.

Looking for my wallet was like searching for a black needle in a black haystack. My bike light was pretty dim and its coverage was pretty terrible. I was riding in the middle of the road, swinging my handlebars left and right to try and sweep across the road. For some reason traffic seemed to pick up after dark. If my wallet were run over, it would probably be kicked up by the tires and would probably fly off the side of the road. Since we were on a narrow levee, it would probably roll off the side of the levee’s embankment and my chances of finding it would be near zero.

I reached the end of the levee portion. No luck so far. I decided that I would turn around and try again, but this time I would get off my bike and walk. Maybe I’d have better luck that way. I would be able to see better if I walked and used my bike light as a flashlight. As I turned my bike around, I slipped and fell in the middle of the road. My tent and sleeping pad fell out of the pannier it was in. Apparently I had woken up all the dogs in the area, because now there were dogs barking at me. I sat in the middle of the road for a second, thinking what else could go wrong? I guess the only thing left would be for the dogs’ owner to come after me with a shotgun…

For somebody who truly believes in God, I pray far too infrequently. I find myself really only praying in earnest in dire situations. I leaned my bike against a telephone pole, then walked back to the middle of the road to grab my tent and sleeping pad. Then I sorta laughed and prayed at the same time. I actually laughed out loud for a bit. I thought this was going to be an uneventful ride, now I’m in this weird predicament. It wasn’t a life threatening situation by any stretch, more of a major inconvenience, but I found myself praying in earnest.

The number one rule when facing a crisis is to keep it cool. Don’t panic. After praying and laughing it off, I felt a lot better and was able to keep my head clear. I switched into my walking shoes and started walking back up the levee.

Things started to get better really quickly. After walking for about a mile, I found my wallet. It had been run over, but luckily it was still on the road. All the credit cards had been broken, scattered on the ground in pieces, but miraculously my drivers license and other important cards were all intact, and my new Paypal debit card that I just received a couple of weeks ago had only broken off in the corner, so it looked like it would still be usable. As I looked around the road, picking up the pieces of my credit cards, Dan and Johnny rode up to me. Soon after that I got a call from Jiro, he and Robert had made it into town and met up with Jim.

We decided that instead of camping, like we originally planned, we would just stay in motel rooms in Colusa. So Jim, Robert and Jiro looked around for a motel while Johnny, Dan and I rode towards Colusa.

It was about 8pm when we finally made it to the bridge that crosses the river into Colusa. The rest of the guys had found a couple of motel rooms and were waiting for us. After putting our bikes into the rooms, we all piled into Jim’s car and headed to the buffet at the Colusa Casino. Jim driving, me in the front passenger seat, and four guys who just spent a whole day biking in the back seat. It was kind of like a clown car. A smelly, sweaty clown car. But we were happy that we were all safe.

During dinner Dan, Johnny and Robert decided that they would get a ride back. Dan would drive back to Davis with Jim and pick up Johnny and Robert in the morning. I was pretty set on biking back to Davis, and Jiro decided to join me. After the day’s fiasco, I figured tomorrow would be easy and uneventful. The weather forecast said it would be raining tomorrow, but we had the gear we needed to ride in the rain.

I woke up well rested. After saying bye to Johnny and Robert we rode across the street to a gas station for breakfast, then rode across the bridge out of town. There was a stiff wind, which made riding hard. I ended up just spinning on a low gear, probably riding at a 10 mph or so pace. We weren’t going fast, but our stops were really short, so we were making good progress back to Davis.

I think it was about an hour and a half to two hours in when Jiro got his first flat. After searching for his spare tube, he found that he had forgotten it at home. I had two tubes, but we found that one was cracked from sitting in my bag for a year and a half, so only one was usable. So he put that in and rode on. After maybe another hour, he got a second flat, which he attempted to patch. Upon pumping it, he found that it had flatted again. At that point I decided to call Dan and have him pick us up.When he picked us up, we were about 10-12 miles outside of Knight’s landing, so we had ridden close to 30 miles. With our bikes loaded on Dan’s van, we drove back to Davis, talking about the crazy adventure we had.

Wow. So that was a pretty long story about a bike ride that should have been pretty uneventful. If you are still reading at this point, here are some of my random thoughts.

First let me state that I believe in a God who is omniscient. A lot of times we make a plan for our life, a plan that avoids hardship and gets us to our destination with the least amount of trouble. But often we find that our journey is nothing like we planned. Instead it’s filled with hardship and suffering. If there is an omniscient God, that would mean that he would have had already planned our life that way, in a way that it seems to us to be filled with hardship and suffering. If you think about it that way it sounds pretty harsh.

A pretty famous verse in the bible is Jeremiah 29:11.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

He was saying this to the Jews, who had just gone through tremendous hardship, basically being conquered by the Babylonians, with the best and brightest artisans and skilled workers taken away and exiled in Babylon.

The verse after this one is not well known, and is seldom quoted, but I think it’s even more important.

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

I see this pattern in my life. It is in hardship that I call upon God through prayer. And in my experience I have always come out of the hardship.

I am not trying to convince you that there is a God. That is something for you to discover on your own. What I am saying is that, according to the bible, IF there is a God that is omniscient, then hardship and suffering are what draws us close to Him and that those things are all in His plan. And IF there is a omniscient God, our best laid plans pale in comparison to what He has in store for our life.


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