18 May 2010

Skinny Tire Adventures

Independence Pass in 2008No newsworthy mileage or gains in altitude over the weekend to report, thanks to blizzard conditions over Independence Pass and a garden screaming for equal time. Adventures persist, nonetheless.

Typically when we ride uphill, The Lizard pushes ahead at his own speed, and after he summits, he returns to my side and rides up a second time at my speed. I was working my way toward him when I noticed a big, huge, giant, immense hairy spider alongside the road. Tarantula!!!

Now, these furry guys literally are crawling all over the place in southern New Mexico and in Texas where I spent my formative years. But I’d never seen one in the wild in Colorado. I wondered if he’d escaped his owner. I once again had neglected to carry my camera, but The Lizard had his, so I raced ahead, hoping to catch him and reel him back in for a photo.

I don't have any tarantula photosYes, there was a tiny fragment of damsel in distress in there, too. No way would I want to get close that hairy monster without my knight in shining bicycle jersey to protect me.

About a mile and a half later, I caught The Lizard (on his return trip to meet me, of course), and I informed him of the magnificent photo op awaiting. Together we detoured back and around, navigating the busy highway in pursuit of furry arthropods

As we neared the location where I thought I’d seen the Theraphosidae, The Lizard had his hand over his camera, ready for a quick draw, if necessary. He’s becoming rather adept at shooting on the roll. Even though tarantulas are not known to be dangerous to humans or even aggressive, no sense in taking any chances.

We approached slowly, cautiously, on full alert.

Yep, there he is! Posing pretty!

Um, it’s a toy.

Later in the day, we approached a highway crossing near an elementary school. In other words, adequate signage, freshly painted crosswalk and even a little traffic light with a button low enough for small fry to reach.

We normally pause a good distance away before attempting such crossings, allowing traffic to continue without obligating motorists to stop for us. Not because we’re courteous or anything like that. Because we don’t always trust drivers.

Sometimes, cars will stop for us even though we are a good 20 or 30 feet from the crossing. These people deserve the blessings of heaven.

Such was the case last weekend. Four-lane highway, and cars in the far lane stopped for us, even though we were not quite ready to cross. The Lizard hung back, but I proceeded into the intersection, crossing the first two lanes, which were totally clear. I slowed briefly in the median and noticed in the next lane an oncoming vehicle (the monster truck variety sans Big Wheels and shiny horn-like exhaust pipes) barreling at me with no apparent desire to stop or even slow.

fair warningI squeezed my brakes like never before, my front wheel crossing into the lane maybe about an inch before coming to a complete stop. Rubber burned as the truck’s wheels gripped the road and screeched loudly to a halt. The truck stopped just inches from the front of my bike. If I hadn’t stopped, he would not have hit me. (Yes, it was a he. Yes, I looked. And yes, if looks could kill…) He stopped in time.

Nevertheless, my heart was racing and my legs were shaking. Anger was shooting out of my sunglasses-shielded eyes, I’m sure, and fire probably was emanating from my ears. But the rest of me was one big tub of jelly, and the salt water wasted no time trailing down my cheeks.

We made eye contact. It didn’t last long, and I’m certain he couldn’t see my eyes. But I could see his. He was angry. He was angry because I made him stop. He was angry because I was in the way.

The Lizard and I quickly and silently crossed in front of the now string of motionless vehicles in both lanes. Drivers stared at us. I wondered what they were thinking. I wondered if they’d even noticed what had just happened. I wondered what the kind driver thought now; would she ever stop for a cyclist again? I wondered if a small person might ever be hurt at that very intersection because some big person is in a hurry to get somewhere.

As we began climbing the next hill, The Lizard took me to task for proceeding into the intersection, even though the law-abiding citizen had stopped.

“Don’t ever trust automobiles,” The Lizard directed. "You could have been creamed." Not quite in a bark. More like a growl. His emotions were so visible. He had watched helplessly as his wife could have been totally laid flat in an instant. My legs were still quivering, but it was obvious his heart was doing somersaults, and not the romantic kind.

And for that, I love him. I bit my tongue. I did not defend myself. I did not cry for doing what should have been the right thing while someone else nearly did what would have been the very wrong thing.

End of rant.

Sunrise CyclingMonday morning we set out half an hour before sunrise, lights twinkling in the darkness as the horizon line began to take twilight shape. I was hoping to shoot more sunrise cycling shots, like this one. The temperature was darned near comfortable, and the sky was clear.

Riding that time of day (or night) is difficult for me because there isn’t enough light to distinguish things like cracks in the pavement or manhole covers, and the headlights aren’t quite strong enough to vividly paint obstacles on the outer edges of pitch black night.

So I didn’t see the rock I hit so hard, my handlebars ripped right out of my hands. I managed to hold my line and regain control, but I worried I might have messed up my rim. That’s how hard I hit that rock.

Flat Tire FestivalA mile further down the road, right along the busy four-lane highway, of course, I felt a pavement seam as though I’d dragged the palms of my my hands across it. The next one was even worse. Kevlar strips hadn't protected my tires this time.

It would have taken me a good six hours or so more to do what The Lizard did next in about 20 minutes. Instead of the cycling sunrise, I got just a sunrise. But I also didn’t have to change the tire and break nine or so fingernails in the process. If it had been my back tire and I’d been alone, I’d have had to take a couple of days of PTO. I’d probably still be out there trying to figure out how to get the chain back on the bike. If I ever managed to get the tire back on the rim. Or air in the tire.

No extra miles for me Monday morning. No camera full of dazzling cycling photos. But summer is coming. I’m not a pancake. No snow in the forecast this week. And National Ride Your Bike to Work Day is this Friday. How can I complain?

Oh, and Bicycle Tour Lesson Number 16 or so is in the pack. Literally. Never, ever put your Hammer gel in the same compartment with your camera.

6 comments :

  1. Well, I'm glad you're not a pancake! That was a scary, scary story. I won't launch into a rant but it seems that our truck drivers are blind to cyclists. Or, perhaps they secretly want to squish us. Please be careful out there!

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  2. what a story. :)
    You are yoking, right! Sure you know how to change the rear tire. but I agree, it is not fun. :(

    Thanks for that nice comment you gave me for the mist photos. You reacted as I wanted people to do. :)

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  3. That really gets the heart pumping! I had something similar happen to me last summer and I about peed my pants! Love the web!

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  4. What a scary and dramatic story! I'm glad you're ok.

    The photo of your husband against the sunrise is marvelous:)

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  5. OH I'm so glad you are okay. I've learned never to trust vehicles or rather the people in control of them.
    Can't wait to see more photos and stories once the snow is gone.

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  6. I did not know about this post until now. I didn't read it before I e-mailed you. So the being safe part was inspired. hahaha =)

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