Thursday, July 16, 2009

At least there wasn't poison ivy.

Coming off the high of the recital, Alyssa and I set out to to do a long ride the C&O Canal Towpath. The C&O is a completely flat ride, so I knew we'd be able to log some miles on it with relative ease. We started in Brunswick, MD and rode in the direction of DC, figuring we'd turn around when we reached 25 miles so we could get in 50 miles.

The ride started out fine. It was bumpier than a regular road ride and I had some concerns about the path being muddy with all the rain we've had this summer, but it turned out to be fairly dry. Because of where we started and the direction we were heading, there weren't a ton of people out. We passed several people in the opposite direction, but it took us a while to encounter anyone heading in the same direction we were. We came up behind a trail master at one point and ended up passing him and his riding companion. We kept a nice pace, but at no time were we flying.

Around the fifth or sixth mile, we came up behind a couple who were riding next to each other. This would be fine if there weren't any other cyclists around, but there we were behind them. They knew we were behind them, too, but the man made no move to get over. In short, he was kind of a jerk. But, not wanting to seem impatient or rude, Alyssa and I slowed down and stayed behind them for a bit before we finally couldn't take it anymore and called out, "On your left!" and rang our bells. Well, Alyssa rang her bell. I honked my horn. Safely around them, we picked up the pace to about 12MPH and were really making time. However, I found myself getting ridiculously hungry so we pulled off to the side of the path and enjoyed some peanuts and cookies. While we snacked, the couple passed us. Alyssa and I lamented that we'd probably have to pass this clueless couple again and finished up our snacks. With little exertion, we caught up to the couple. Yet again, the man was riding next to the woman and giving no indication that he intended to get over. It was very, very annoying.

I have this thing about inconveniencing other people. I hate it. I go out of my way to make things easier for everyone. It's just my nature. And, honestly, I'm a novice rider, but I would never ride so cluelessly. There are cycling rules, but there are also just common-sense, human kindness rules. This guy clearly did not care about either type of rule. Had I been the woman, I would have called out to my companion that he needed to get his tail over so people could go by, but she clearly didn't see the need.

Alyssa and I - again not wanting to look like impatient jerks - pedaled slowly behind them. Alyssa rode a good 50-60 feet back and I was another 15-20 feet behind her, so there was plenty of space between all of us. As I looked to my left, I noticed a pair of sunglasses on the trail. I had just enough time to think "Oh, someone lost their glasses" before I computed that Alyssa had slammed on her brakes and had come to a very quick stop. I realized that I was going to slam into her. Hard. As I slammed into her, of course I knew I was going to fall off my bike. Again.

We've been watching the Tour de France and I had just asked Alyssa how the riders manage to unclip from their pedals so quickly when they get into accidents. Alyssa explained that the cycling shoes were meant to come undone upon impact, sort of the way ski boots work, so it just happened without them having to think about it. Having never gone skiing in my life, I had to take her word for it, but knowing how hard it was to get unclipped during my previous falls, I was dubious.

I shouldn't have been. Alyssa knows her stuff. I hit her so hard that my feet snapped right out of my pedals! I didn't even have to think about it. I was a little bit relieved, actually, as I hit the ground like a sack of flour, that at least I wouldn't be falling while attached to my bike. It definitely fell on me, but falling without the bike feels much better than falling with it. I lay on the ground for a few seconds, moaning and cussing like a sailor, trying to figure out what the hell had just happened.

As I stood up, I realized that the clueless woman in front of us had gone back behind me to pick up her sunglasses. She said not one word to either of us as she retrieved them from the path. She just calmly picked them up, walked back toward her bike, and started her ride back up. She had just caused a bike accident over her $5 pair of sunglasses and she acted like she had nothing to do with it. Nope, just gonna pick up her glasses and get back to riding. See ya, suckers!

Alyssa and I were both stunned by her behavior. Had the situation been reversed, I would have been falling all over myself to make sure that the person was ok - even if I didn't think it was my fault! Even if, technically, the accident wasn't her fault, I still think it's just the decent thing to do to show some compassion and concern for a fellow cyclist. Of course, we tried to rationalize her behavior. Maybe she didn't speak English. Maybe she was embarrassed. Maybe she has no concept of propriety. I don't know. Frankly, it was stunning.

It is only with a little bit of shame that I report both Alyssa and I yelled down the trail to the woman. Alyssa said "I hope your sunglasses are ok! I'd hate for anything to have happened to them. We're fine - thanks for checking!", while I pathetically stood and cried and yelled who knows what. A runner came by while Alyssa was yelling and assumed we were yelling at him, to which Alyssa said, "NO, you're fine runner dude!" If I hadn't been in pain, it would have been pretty funny. And, as is my default reaction, I was angry. I reached into my jersey pocket to find that our digital camera was broken. The lens was permanently stuck out. We've had it for a couple of years and it has done a yeoman's job, so its demise was particularly upsetting. It was the perfect size for putting in my pocket or my jersey. RIP, Casio Exilim. You will be missed.

After assessing my bumps and bruises and determining nothing was broken, we decided we should turn back around. I was in pain and unbelievably angry. I think had we continued on the path and come across that couple, I would have had a hard time not shoving her off of her bike. I know that's awful.

Oh, and Alyssa was fine. Neither of us is exactly sure what I hit when I slammed into her, but she was fine. She doesn't have a mark on her or her bike.

I'll close this with two pictures, taken with my camera phone. You know, because that dumb woman caused me to break my real camera.

The bruise, 4 days later. I can assure you the bruise is very large, as I have gigantic thighs:

Alyssa tightened my seat in the parking lot before we left. She was tightening it since it was loosened from the last time I fell. Unfortunately, she now has to tighten it again as my fall loosened it once more.

This weekend we're riding from the Grosvenor Metro station into DC. I can't wait to report back on that one.

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