Cycling Along The Way...

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Silver City, NM, United States
Riders of the wheel. Racers, Roadies, Mountain bikers, Touring cyclists, Commuters, and others. Diamond frames, recumbents, trikes, and more. Sharing a web of connections often misunderstood or unappreciated by those who don't ride. Herewith, my attempt to share some of the more rational thoughts that flit around inside my head while bicycling, knocking back a brew or three, or just thinking about life. Reviews of bicycles, gear, touring, and more, plus some unsolicited posts about people, politics, and philosophy. Other things, too. Me: retired, gave up my TV in 1988, avid cyclist, several cross country tours completed with more to come. Your thoughts?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Realizing Just How Vulnerable I Am On A Bicycle...A Close Encounter

"The rules of Trauma:
  1. "Any day above ground is a good day."
  2. "You're dead a long time."
  3. "Don't bring a knife to a gun fight."
  4. "Never fight with a woman."
~ Anonymous

"I'm always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize that I'm listening to it." 
~ George Carlin

In my life, I've had many close calls while driving and one near death experience.  At age 19, a friend was giving me a ride on his motorcycle after probably the only Friday night in my entire college career where no alcohol had been consumed, so we were both stone, cold sober.  We'd been studying...yes, studying...with a few other friends for a final exam that was coming up on Monday.  For various reasons, I ended up going with my friend to spend the night at his house.  As we were en route to his place, somewhere else, behind us, the police in a small town near where I lived decided to chase a drunk driver who had run a red light.  The police were doing almost 100 mph and the drunk driver was pulling away from them.  That's when the drunk driver hit us.  We were on a Honda 160 motorcycle.  The area of the motorcycle I was on was demolished.  Spent 5 weeks in the hospital and a year before I could walk without a limp.  Still have a major chunk missing from the back of my right leg.  Somebody was watching over me.

Today, I headed out for a short 10 mile ride, going up and returning via Market Street a.k.a. "Snake Hill". The weather was fabulous.  A bit cloudy that offered some cover and cool, humid air.  It was a good ride. Thinking about tomorrow, I began planning where I was going to ride.  I had no idea that I was headed for another near death experience.  As I approached Snake Hill/Market Street, I looked over the town of Silver City and began my descent.  This is the part of the ride that I enjoy because I can pick up some speed, still within the speed limit, and enjoy the last of the ride.  Approaching the bottom of Snake Hill, I observed an ambulance from Gila Regional Medical Center coming up the hill.  No turn signal on, so my guess is that the driver is heading straight up the hill.  As I am within less than 50 feet of the ambulance, the driver starts to make a left turn directly in my path.  Using my brakes, I slowed a bit but realized that I was not going to be able to stop, so I let go of the brake handles continuing forward because I had no place else to go.  My hope was to be able to squeeze by the ambulance before it hit me, which I managed to do. Barely.  I could see the front end of the ambulance to my left, no farther away than 6 inches.  INCHES! Once I knew I was past the ambulance, hadn't been hit, AND was still upright, I braked to a stop.  Getting off my bike, I pushed it back up the road as the ambulance driver backed out into the roadway and headed towards me.  I was not going to let this guy get by me.

He pulled up and, believe it or not, I think I only used the "F-bomb" in a sentence once with him.  I was very shaken up and he was very apologetic.  It took me sometime to calm down enough to realize there was another person in the cab of the ambulance with him.  He did not see me.  What do I think happened?  He was looking at where  he was turning and not at the road...and that's why he didn't see me.  Whatever the reason, he came within inches of killing me.  Or, at the very least, seriously injuring me.  While talking to this guy, I didn't take my eyes off of him for a second.  Hard to explain my state of mind when I first saw him making a turn in front of me, squeezing by him, and then confronting him.

Unfortunately, an older woman...older, ha, probably my age...came up behind the ambulance while I was "talking" to the ambulance driver.  After a short while, she honked her horn several times to which I responded with my middle finger.  The ambulance driver pulled over and the woman pulled up next to me and said, "Don't you flip me off!" which I promptly responded with a loud and aggressive F-Bomb.  Her passenger looked shocked and the woman drove off.  I am sorry that I responded like that and I know I didn't score points for me or other cyclists with that move.  My state of mind was still racing from almost being killed and, to be honest, I wasn't overly concerned if she was upset because I'd flipped her off.

The ambulance driver apologized once again and his partner asked me if I was ok.  I said that I was scared to death but alive.  He headed off and I headed home...heart still racing.  This was the first time I'd had such a close call on a bicycle.  It won't keep me off the bike, but it most definitely will keep me alert for quite some time.  Thankfully, between being an experienced bicyclist and the fact that the ambulance driver was going slow, I managed to keep my bike upright, straight ahead, and shot past the ambulance...and I am thankful to still be alive to ride another day.  Today, Eileen almost had the chance to be a millionaire, but, instead, she gets to continue putting up with me for a while longer, I guess.

Well, what tune/song do I pick for exiting this post?  Iris Dement, one of my all time favorite singer/songwriters doing her song, "Let The Mystery Be".