My time of death would have been 9:26am, June 16th 2013. To be fair it would have been a nice day to die. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and I was doing my second favorite thing in the world: cycling. Another positive aspect: my death would have been sudden and painless.
See, I was out training for Bike Virginia. The fam was staying at Shrine Mont, the Episcopal Church retreat near Bryce Resort and I took the opportunity to get up early and ride some in the mountains. Some cyclists seek flatter ground and, to be sure, the flat places of the world are easier to ride but you get to know yourself when the highway heads up. You fight the Man with the Hammer in the higher places of the world. Maybe it's a mental defect but I love it. Setting a cadence and gear I can push endlessly up that hill.
On this particular morning I was rolling down a hill at about 40mph – a long, flowing, sweepy decent that I had earned. The climb up the previous side of this hill was pretty grueling so I was enjoying the payoff. As I was descending I noticed that the upcoming intersection was oddly shaped. It looked like a "Y" and I was going from bottom to top of that Y. My road bent to the right – it was a continuation of the road I was on but there was a stop sign on the right. I thought, "whatever, I don't have a stop sign and I'm going right". The stop sign, even though it wasn't for me, was important.
At that stop sign I spied a guy in "dualie". With a giant trailer. "Cripes", I thought. I'll be lucky to survive if this yokel decides to turn now and squeezes the turn with that trailer. I pointed to the right to indicate to him that I intended to turn at the intersection. He smiled and nodded his head…..right at the end of that nod his face changed slightly. He made an urgent gesture that looked somewhat like he was trying to "push me away". It took me a split second to understand that he was warning me. I wasn't sure of what, there was no problem or danger I could discern. I was traveling at a high speed but the intersection looked clean – no skratch or debris….at the last second before entering my turn it occurred to me that there was one hazard I hadn't thought of: there was a car somewhere beyond the trailer that wasn't where it should be. I tightened my turn to the point where the bike was right on the razor's edge of a wipe out that would have exposed by pasty white ass to the tarmac in a most unfriendly way….:)
That maneuver, and the truckers warning saved my life this morning. There was a car coming around the truck at the intersection – at speed. He was running the stop sign and there was nowhere for me to go: both lanes were occupied. One with a parked truck and the other with a moving car. I'm writing this so you know how it ended but only because of that drivers warning and my last-ditch move. That idiot missed me by about a foot. He was shocked and scared, he thought I was hitting his car. His wife was screaming. They were both convinced they were about to be part of something terrible. Fortunately they weren't.
Unlike the trash truck incident, there was no question as to what would have happened if that car hit me. It would have been a combined impact speed of above 60mph. Fatal, for me anyway. After pulling over to ensure that everything was still where it should be, I continued. I try to be philosophical about these things. I do not now nor have I ever believed that things happen for any particular reason. As my tour guide in Puerto Rico put it: "people that believe that everything happens for a reason are just along for the ride, don't believe that". I don't. However, it is hard to escape the fact that I skipped church to go on that ride. I don't know if there was a reason involved this morning but I think it reasonable to infer some guidance……and I'll also not pre-judge my dualie driving brethren again….:)