Who Dat?

Back in the 80s, long before the X-Games existed, Tom Haig traveled the world as an extreme athlete. He visited more than 50 countries as an international high diver, doing multiple somersault tricks from over 90 feet.

That life came crashing down one Sunday morning in 1996. While training on his mountain bike, he smashed into the grill of a truck and became paralyzed from the waist down. But less than a year later he completed a 100-mile ride on a hand-cycle and traveled by himself to Europe and the Middle East.

Since then he has continued to travel the world as a consultant, writer and video producer. He spent six months launching a Tibetan radio station in the Himalayas and shot documentary shorts on disability in Bangladesh, France, Albania, Ghana and most recently Nepal.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Black River Falls Flashback

With the van back on the road albeit much worse off for the ware (wrinkled hood, busted cooling system, deer stuff EVERYWHERE) I drove east and might as well have just fallen asleep until Minneapolis. Around Midnight just short of the Wisconsin border I was debating hauling through the night to Milwaukee when for the second time on the trip I heard:

“pffffffffffffffffftftftftftftftftft..ka bum ka bum ka bum ka bum ka bum”

When it happened on my hand cycle in Portland the streets were lined with people and I was rolling at about 19 mph. This time I was on a near empty highway going 60. My left rear had blown no doubt due to some abuse Bambi had given it the night before. By the time I exited the freeway the thing was shredded like one of Rush Limbaugh's pharmacy bills.

I pulled over a hundred yards on to the state highway and hopped out of the van to check the damage. I opened up the back hatch and started unscrewing the tire gear. The very first car to pass me up, circled back around and two Minnesota high school students whipped out their ‘Minnesota Nice’ and changed the tire in about ten minutes. In the past I’ve tried to change tires, but it’s just something I can’t do. I can’t get under the van to see where to stick the jack, and even if I make a good guess, I still can’t get the flat back in the car at the end of the job. If I try to lift that much weight my chair tips up on it’s castor wheels and I go shooting forward. Had they not bailed me out I probably would have had to call for my second tow truck rescue of the trip.

Sunday flat in the middle of the Portland Marathon.
Tuesday, Bambi takes me out of action with a belly flop.
Thursday, flat before I hit the Mississippi River bridge.

That’s three strikes right? I’m done right…


I drove another blurry hour into Wisconsin and pulled over in the town of Black River Falls. The last time I pulled over in BRF was by a cop for speeding in 1981. I was driving up to Eau Claire, Wisconsin with my parents for my sister Barb's college graduation. I got pulled over by a chubby bald state trooper for what I later found out was a routine speed trap. I was only doing 70 in a 60 which back then didn’t mean squat - probably just a slap on the wrist. Unless, of course, you’ve got an outstanding warrant out. Which I did.

Just about eight months earlier I attended my high school baseball banquet. The Nicolet Knights were a damn good team that just missed the semis of the state tourney. Most of us had been together since we were 10-years-old so this was our final bash as a team. The banquet was at a bar and since most of us had already turned 18 we were of legal Wisconsin drinking age circa 1981. So we drank. Most of the parents did the same thing at that age so they thought nothing strange of it – in fact our two Little League coaches whose sons were two of our All-Conference players bought us beers.

After the banquet we headed onto the town and stopped at a Mexican restaurant (one block from our Little League fields) known for strong margaritas. Five of us downed a pitcher, then another and then, of course we got loud and were asked to leave as it was actually kind of a family place. We left, but not before hijacking a couple of the wide-rimmed margarita glasses.

As we were on our way to Milwaukee’s hip East Side, we got pulled over by two local cops who said one of the cars in our caravan had rolled a stop. Our shortstop who was a damn good ball player, but lacking in the social graces after two pitchers of margaritas started arguing with the cops which lead us to a quick sojourn to the Glendale, Wisconsin police station. They printed us and took mug shots and arrested us for shoplifting the margarita glasses - which they knew came from the Mexican Restaurant which was also kind of a cop hangout. I think with all the lawyers living in that town the DUI paperwork on the shortstop would have just been a hassle. One of the Little League dads came by, picked us up and drove us home telling us we better watch out when we get to college or they might kick us off the team for crap like that.

And so I never went to court on the summons and actually forgot all about it until nine months later when I was sitting on a bench in the Black River Falls police station watching my Dad haul out his credit card to bail me out of jail so I could go up to my sister’s graduation party that night.

I told my Dad I had nothing to do with the glasses and it was all a misunderstanding. He was trying to buy it but he was justifiably suspicious. Three weeks later I went to court, the cops had no margarita glasses to show the judge (whose son was also a Little Leaguer a few years younger than us) and the whole thing was dismissed. My Dad even got his bail money back.

BUT, I never stepped foot in Black River Falls again, until 2009 when I was just too damn tired to go on. I pulled into a neighborhood, unrolled my sleeping bag, tossed the drivers seat back and slept soundly until 8:00 a.m. I wondered what would happen if I got hit up on some vagrancy rap? Two strikes in BRF! Three strikes and they hire you to teach at the high school.

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