~~I wanted to tell this story while it was still fresh in my mind, before time got in the way. ~~
Today (Saturday) was my long bike ride day. I mapped a 47 mile route (76 km) with a goal to finish in three hours. Spoiler: I did not. Ironman Maryland is a very flat course with a good chance of wind coming from any and all directions. Hills are my nemesis ( a key detail, so remember this), which is why I chose a flat Ironman course. I hadn’t counted on the possibility of headwind. Being so close to the ocean the wind can change directions many times during the day — or so I’ve read via the race Facebook group’s comments. To prep for this I have decided to ride and train on hills to force my legs to keep moving under heavy stress.
Today’s ride took me through six townships, two villages, a small city, and two counties. Some of the route was new to me, though the area was not. The last 15 miles I have ridden many times. It made the miles feel like they passed quickly in spite of the few big hills.
I ride self-supported. That means I carry all of my own water in a hydration pack, sport drink in a bottle, more mix for a refill, electrolytes and fuel with me without someone in a car following behind or leapfrogging ahead. Today the trunk on my bike was heavy with supplies. I made one planned stop to get more water. One unplanned stop was to adjust my saddle height. I did some researching about causes for knee pain (mentioned in my previous post) while biking and a too-low saddle can do that. I lifted it about 2mm and my knees felt so much better almost immediately. There were a couple of other brief stops as well to take in some calories or rest and catch my breath. It was a hot day.
I carry on with my ride. The first big hill was 1.8 miles (2.9 km) long and climbed about 220 feet (67 m). It just kept going up and up and up, and so did I. It was painful, and painfully slow. The next 15 miles (25 km) went through farmland dotted with century-old houses and modern silos. Except for the cars that passed it was very quiet. Then came the second hill. And then it happened. This was a first for me.
A black four-door pickup truck was behind another car and me. They could not pass because of a vehicle coming from the other direction. This road is a two-lane thing with a double yellow line and no shoulder for me to move over to. My tires are inches away from the painted white line on the edge of the pavement. Next to that, gravel, weeds and a shallow ditch. Remember, hills = nemesis, loaded trunk; I’m moving slowly. The car passed me with more than the required 3 feet. The truck though, decided to do a little brush by. I felt the wind disturbance from the side mirror as it passed me. Now, this has happened before — many times. Getting an annoyed driver who doesn’t like having to share the road with bicycles is a regular occurance. Some of you are maybe starting to get your feathers in a ruff. “But, but, but…” you say about jerk bicyclists. We’ve all seen them, driven past them, muttered bad things under our breath about them. I get it. I don’t ride like that. I try really hard to not be a jerkette on the road. I must make this clear: I ride with a flashing tail light on the back of my bike and one on the back of my helmet. It is vitally important to be seen while riding.
Anyway, back to climbing this mile-long hill. Traffic has passed and I think nothing more of it. Then I get to the top of the hill. There’s the big black truck. It turned around in a driveway. It was now headed STRAIGHT FOR ME! Yeah, this asshat has crossed the center line and is half-way into my lane when I realize it. Asshat was also speeding up. Asshat swerved back into his own lane about 30 feet from me. It may have been farther away, but it sure felt like a near miss. I’m not sure what kind of reaction Asshat was hoping to get from me. Swerve left and have him hit me? Go to the right and go off the road into the ditch? Slam on the brakes and go over my handlebars? Actually, I didn’t consciously react. I may have scowled and glared.
So there you have it. Someone INTENTIONALLY put my life at risk because he didn’t like having to wait (less than) a minute longer to get up a hill, only to waste time at the top.
This was the first time I had encountered intentional driver aggression with the intent to scare me. I’ve had brush offs, people yelling and swearing, flashing one-finger salutes, cars creep right on my tail and honk (as if the gutter was so much farther over than the space I already occupied). I have never had a driver do what happened today.
I told my Hunney about what happened after I told him about the good parts of my ride. He quickly asked if I had gotten a license plate. I did not. Brush offs happen and you kind of get used to it so I didn’t give the truck another thought. Until… Michigan does not require front bumper license plates either. So again, no plate information. I don’t have a GoPro. Today one would have come in handy.
The devil’s advocate arguers might be saying this was an accident, that he didn’t intend to cross the center line and come straight for me; that he was distracted; that he swung too wide turning around and corrected himself just in time; that it was an entirely different truck. I grant that any other those might be possible. Except it didn’t feel like it to me. You didn’t feel the wind from a side mirror.
For the next 45 minutes I would tense up at the sound of a large engine approaching from behind. I was afraid. I was afraid I could be targeted again. I didn’t relax until I got off that particular road and was sure I wasn’t being followed.
I will keep riding on open roads. No, sidewalks and many paved side trails are not safer. That’s another post for another day.
I don’t care how many jerk bicyclists you have come across, past, present or future. Readers, don’t be like this guy. The real live human being on the bicycle is someone else’s family, loved one, best friend.
DO NOT BE LIKE ASSHAT.