I have experienced two times in my life where I thought death was 50-50 chance within seconds. The first was on Sep 20, 1994 high on Mount Blanca in Colorado trapped in a lightning and snow storm. The second time was on Aug 22, 2015, this past Saturday in Shenandoah National Park. Then today, Clete, at work reminded me of when I got run over by a semi truck on my bike in Sep 2002. That crash was more in slow motion and I am not sure if I ever thought death was near…lol
The Semi truck accident was an act of GOD anyway.
This last Saturday’s incident had two likely outcomes… me sharing these thoughts a few days afterwards or the news of my demise trickling out via the internet at about the same rate. I am sure the readership will be split 50-50 which version they prefer.
I was cycling with two friends, Mike and Graham on the Sperryville loop that climbs into Shenandoah National Park, traverses the parkway for 25 miles into Luray, VA, and returns via a valley to our starting point. It climbs for 5000 feet throughout the ride and has thousands of feet of high-speed descents on silk smooth parkway roads. I rode it last year in Sept because it is so beautiful and such a challenge.
Last Saturday, the ride was going great and the climbs were going steady and the three of us were doling well. Here in this picture taken by Mike of Graham and I are climbing high in the mountains.
As we started our descent I found myself on the front, followed by Mike, then Graham. I entered a left hand curve on the ridge line with a vista parking pull off to our right.
I have no idea how Mike took this picture! I think the speed limit here is 35mph so I am sure we were doing just that…
As I get into the turn, I am on the apex and under control. I see a motorcycle coming at me in his lane to my left. I see a small pick up truck pull across my lane and into the vista parking area to my right. I think at that moment everything is fine for me to complete my turn in my lane with no issues.
Then I see the truck start to pull across my lane as he either does not see us in the full sunlight or he has no idea of our speed and closing velocity. He must have just pulled out into the parking area to let the motorcycle pass.
I decide based on what I see to widen the apex and pass him on the right. He continues to cross my lane and we miss by about 15 feet…but at 40 mph, I figure it was a second until impact.
Luckily he did not second guess his bone headed move and I stayed the course on my decision to go right and not left. A change in midstream by either of us would have been a head on impact with me likely going head first through his windshield to join him in the front seat. I doubt it would have been survivable.
I swoop by on this right, Mike follows, and so does Graham…all I could do was shake my head and start pedaling again. It did not really hit me until later on the odds of that going bad and having a different outcome.
I note as I write this for therapy that all of these incidents happened near the month of Sept… the 101 dangerous days of summer? perhaps…
…another great day, disaster averted, and great friends to ride with on tough but beautiful roads in Virginia. And yes, I think the orange socks are a nice touch for style and safety! 🙂
Full ride data here: