Run Off

These days I’m a cyclist, I suppose. I dropped a couple grand on a sweet, used Orbea Orca when I started dating Katie back in 2010, thinking that maybe I’d go riding with her. Five years later I can count on two hands the number of rides we’ve done together. Fact is, I don’t really enjoy it. You see, I’m a runner. A runner who spent many years laughing at guys in tights and tap shoes who’d stop mid-ride for iced vanilla lattes and croissants, pedal home and call it a workout. Give me a break.

But now I’m a runner whose legs are begging for mercy. I can barely do five miles without needing two days to recover. It sucks. So once and a while, when I need my heart to beat wicked fast like it used to during track workouts, I put on my own embarrassing kit (a new word in my vocabulary), pump up my skinny tires and roll out. It’s a great workout, and truly that’s all I care about. A solid 90 minutes of open-mouth gasping and muscle burn, averaging 20+ mph, maxing out around 50 on a long downhill and I’m done. What about the scenery, you ask? Whatever. I just want to get it over with.

Road biking is Katie’s passion. It’s not uncommon for her to log 700 fast miles per month during the season. It’s also probably the only thing I consistently see her excited about. And every time she goes out, I’m like a broken record, “Be careful out there—crazy motherfuckers on the road.” She’s probably sick of me saying this, but God knows I mean it. I freak out every time I hear a story of cyclists having an altercation with a motorist. The country roads around here can be lawless. No doubt lots of folks do things out there that they’d never, ever do if anyone was watching.

So ten miles into my ride yesterday morning, I’m on Borland and nearing the intersection at Dodson’s Crossroads. This is my left. I slow as I approach the stop, but stay to the right because the vehicle behind me is gaining fast and seems like it wants to pass. We reach the stop sign together. It’s a mid-90s Chevy truck, forest green with a faded roof, black door guard zipped along its length. It’s got a dinged up right side rear panel and a wooden bed gate in place of the stock hatch. Its engine hums like it’s well-taken care of. Why do I take note of all this? Because I see every car as a threat to my life.

The driver peers at me through the closed passenger window, throws his head back and laughs, then points to his own head and moves his index finger in circles. My guess—he’s calling me crazy. His truck blocks me from turning left so I come to a complete stop and unclip a cleat. He’s a white male, mid-50s, full head of grey, shoulder-length hair, salt and pepper caterpillar mustache, white tank, muscles, good tan. He’s still doing his laughing thing. I mouth, “What?” He stops and stares at me a moment, then slides open that little rear window some trucks have. I watch to see if he unclips his seatbelt. He doesn’t.

“Looks like the sun’s gettin’ to ya.” Sarcasm. Anger.
“I’m good. How do you mean?”
“All you guys come out here and hog the road like you own the place!”
“Actually, I saw you coming up behind me and moved over. Wasn’t about to play chicken with a vehicle.”
“Yeah, well, some of you guys don’t pay no attention and if you get run down you’ll probably deserve it.”
“Deserve it? No way man, nobody deserves to be run off the road.”
“I’m not saying I’d do it, but trust me man, I know guys who would.” He tells me I’d better be careful, then slams the little window closed and peels away, taking my left at Dodson’s.

If I was wearing my glasses I might have noticed his license plate. I know it was a North Carolina tag, but it was fuzzy at best. No doubt, I was tripping on this guy. His anger, his faulty reasoning, his obvious wish that I’d give him a reason to hate cyclists more than he does already.

Seems I met exactly one of the motherfuckers I’ve been warning Katie about.

Be careful out there. Everyone.

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