Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ride of Silence Not Without One F-Bomb

Yesterday was the annual Ride of Silence.

The ride has quickly grown in participation and is held annually in hundreds of cities throughout the United States. It is meant to memorialize and raise awareness for those killed or injured while cycling. Ames had its first official ride last night, and while I was unable to partake because of Little League, I did get out and have my own silent/solo ride yesterday afternoon. At least it was kind of silent. Ironically, or perhaps there is no irony in this at all as it seems more the norm than not: I narrowly missed being hit by a car.


Scott, my riding companero has been out of commission the past few days; protecting our fearsome county from knife wielding murderers, and in the meantime he's ditched me. Needless to say, I've been flying solo, and have subsequently seen brushes with death three times in as many workouts; twice by bike, once running.

Clearly, I've not yet figured out which county roads are the ones less traveled (and when) and I know Scott's guidance in this regard likely helps our riding safety exponentially. However, the past few days have left me wondering if I've just not noticed other near death experiences when we ride since usually I'm staring at his ass or laughing at some joke he cracked? Regardless, the sheer number of near misses is eye opening, alarming, and downright scary.

We call ourselves a bicycling state and yet there are few if any bike lanes. Motorists just don't seem to have a clue about bikes and proper road etiquitte/laws. The population of Whatcom County, WA is 170,000, and Story County, IA is 79,000, covering roughly the same surface area. Sadly, in three years of riding I never had as many close calls in WA as I have on the Story Country roads in the better part of three weeks. All have come at the hands of motorists, most of them either young kids or women driving LARGE SUVS. The one thing they all seem to have in common: cell phones.

Monday I headed south on R38 towards the previously mentioned new/smooth Slater bike lane. Except the first time we headed this direction, we accessed the bike lane differently. This time I headed towards it more directly, on a hilly, nary shouldered and crack filled nightmare. We had done some ridiculous climbing (which is another story) the day before, and my legs were feeling a little worse for wear.

I started down the first ascent and tried not to eat it, legs shaking, dodging cracks everywhere, wind howling sideways. Yikes. Next thing I know I am knocked off the road and into the dirt as a car comes whizzing by at what had to be 90 mph. It was close. Closest I've come to bending over and kissing my hind goodbye. I wouldn't have stood a chance. As they swerved hard to miss me the car began to fishtail and I watched in what felt like some slow motion movie scene as they tailed back and forth and back and forth, finally straightening it out and screechily heading their way.

The culprits: five young kids stuffed into a tiny silver car, windows down, music blaring, shouting and screaming the whole way. They seemed nonplussed at their near roll or my near death experience. In fact they hadn't slowed down a bit when they passed me a short time later headed in the opposite direction. I was so nerved up I had to turn around and head back to town. I went to kickboxing. Seemed less risky and I needed to get all that adrenaline out of me somehow. My partner that day, Russ, asked me during roundhouses if I had an anger problem. ;)

Wind is blowing a hundred miles an hour and I have been threatening to run this half marathon. The dog and I set out. I have this new ipod loaded with the most lovely mix of tunes and soon the dog and I have settled in to a comfortable run. At about mile 6 she about tears off my arm. I was in the zone/completely oblivious, but alas, a German Shepherd was biting her in the ass. Poor baby. There was a scantily clad colleged aged gentleman scurrying down the sidewalk barefooted. I am a dog person and try hard to not profile dogs, but I can say I nearly shit myself. And my poor dog did pee a little right there.

Near death experience one teaches me that perhaps I'll ride north instead of south. I take off on what I hope will be a quick 25 mile loop. I don't have much time so will be moving at a decent clip. I am headed north on North Dakota right before it T's into Cameron School Road and another teenaged culprit comes blasting out of his long driveway/road, blows a stop sign and about t-bones me. I see him too late or I could have either sped up or slowed down as there was no intent to slow or look. This is where the f-bombs come in. His window is open and I'll be the first to say I let him have it. He looked at me, eyes bulging, in complete shock that there could be a bike there?!?? and without one word or look sideways, revved his engine and headed on his way.

Granted, instances two and three were hardly near death...regardless, I have told a few of my people that it'll be some kind of miracle if I make it to the end of this biking season alive with all the crazies on the road around these parts. I mean every word of it.

I find a great deal of solace in the fact that at least if Scott and I keep riding together the chances of my dying happy and laughing (a lifelong goal) are pretty darned good.

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