While driving home one afternoon many, many years ago, in what seems like another life, I turned in front of an oncoming cyclist.
I knew better. I had just finished a mountain bike ride. My bike was mounted on a carrier on the back of my car. I had been trying for more than a year to work up the courage to ride on the street again after being hit by a motorist who did not see me while I was riding home from work. Just two days earlier, I had been sideswiped on the bike path, of all places, by a cyclist who just kept going after sending me flying into a tunnel wall.
And, I had been hit by a car driven by a motorist who had not seen me. I knew better. I knew to be careful. I knew to never take my attention from the road for even a split second while operating a motor vehicle.
But I had just been kissed for the first time in about 12 years. I think it was worse than drugs or alcohol. Even the loud and articulate telling-off by the cyclist I'd turned in front of didn't initially faze me for too long a time. My head was in the clouds. I should not have been driving.
Seriously, I should not have been driving. I should have waited to start the car until the stars twinkling in my eyes faded and until my heart finished the race of a lifetime in which it was engaged.
I didn't hit the cyclist, and he fared well enough to clearly enunciate exactly how I made him feel in such a manner that more than a decade later, his words still haunt me.
I hope his anger at a careless would-be cyclist will always be with me. I hope I will always take driving seriously and that I will always pay attention to what I'm doing when I take other lives in my hands by getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.
That experience and the entire chain of events leading to that near miss have been heavy on my mind since Saturday, when a motorist turned in front of me, seemingly without a care in the world.
The Lizard and I were descending Deer Creek Canyon at a high rate of speed. 27 miles per hour the last time I'd glanced at my cyclocomputer. (That's about as fast as I feel comfortable on the bike; I go through brakes quite frequently because I'm no downhiller.) Three more cyclists were in the act of passing us at what The Lizard later estimated to be about 35 mph, which was the legal speed limit at that point. Typically, The Lizard is moving at the speed limit on descents, but this time, he was riding behind me, taking more of a leisure ride because he'd been having stomach trouble for a couple of days.
The van pulled into the roadway just a few feet in front of me, nearly taking out a handful of cyclists in the opposite lane slowly making their way up the canyon. The driver motored up the canyon, seemingly entirely unaware of the havoc just wreaked on five cyclists who slammed on their brakes to keep from slamming into the vehicle head on at a high rate of speed.
The smell of burnt rubber was overwhelming to me.
I think "Holy crap" audibly escaped my own tongue as I felt my back wheel slightly come off the ground. The three passing cyclists, now even with me, used a different word for stinky stuff and proceeded to inform the driver, whose window was open, exactly what they thought of such a careless act.
All I could see or hear at that point was the flashbacks from last year's bike path wreck, in which I was thrown over the handlebars, my back suffering irreparable damage I didn't discover until a couple of months later.
I was certain I was going over the handlebars again, only this time, with worse results. My life didn't flash in front of me. But for a brief instant, I thought my cycling season was over. Perhaps my cycling life. I wondered if I'd walk again. I wondered if my back would survive this impact.
I thought my decade-old bike The Lizard has been nursing along for two years was a goner. I fully expected to somersault into the moving vehicle at 27 mph, then be hit by my bike and possibly by The Lizard. I hoped the other cyclists, whom I was consciously aware of but had not seen, were far enough back they wouldn't hit me too. I hoped my body wouldn't be dragged beneath the back tire of the van. And I hoped and prayed The Lizard would not be hurt.
Yes, all that went through my head in a split second. Perhaps less than that.
No physical contact was made. Something kept my back wheel down, and the inches between my front wheel and the moving vehicle were not violated. The three cyclists to my left continued on down the mountain road, still verbally spewing anger. The cyclists on the other side of the road kept pedaling upward but their displeasure was not as audible, perhaps because they were out of breath from the climb. My bike continued rolling forward, although at a greatly reduced speed, and I felt The Lizard's hand on my back.
"You did great!" he called out.
I rolled forward just a bit further, then pulled off to the side of the road and outright wept. The Lizard massaged my back and my neck and kept telling me how well I'd done.
When I finally could think clearly again, my first thought was how grateful I was I had been paying attention. Spring wildflowers this year are about a month behind, and on the way up the canyon, their spectacular bursts of color actively stole my slow-moving attention. Something to mentally chew instead of how difficult the climb was.
My second thought was gratitude my dear husband keeps my bike in such good shape. I was so thankful the brakes worked.
And then came more flashbacks. Somersaulting over the handlebars of the mountain bike, hitting the pavement hard enough to crack the telephoto lens in my Camelbak.
I repeatedly envisioned hitting that van hard enough to make a dent or two in metal.
I cried some more.
I was angry with the motorist for a few moments.
Then I remembered when I had turned in front of an oncoming cyclist.
My anger evaporated.
I don't condone reckless or careless driving. But I also can't excuse harboring negative and hurtful emotions that ultimately would damage me. Anger won't solve anything. It won't resolve what happened Saturday any more than it will resolve my near miss so many years ago.
I learned from my mistake. I can only pray now the van's driver will follow suit.