Saturday, April 13, 2013

Urgent business

The driver of the blue and yellow utility truck guns the engine up this narrow, twisty, forested road. There's no visibility; he's counting on best case scenario. While descending, I give the hand signal for 'slow down'. He ignores it, continuing up the hill.

A few moments later a car appears, a red Honda sedan. Give the 'slow down' signal, pressing downward with my left hand. Ignored again. Some local in a hurry. Must be a lot of urgent business in the hills above Occidental...

Then I see the ambulance. Lights on, threading up the hill at a cautious pace. It's a Sprinter van, totally appropriate for a road that is barely two lanes wide.

Hope those two idiots were able to stop in time.

There is - or was - one tandem on this ride, a couple who were strong hill climbers. In a howling whirlwind we had just followed them up Highway 1 to Bodega. The wind was so chaotic it was not really possible to draft; I rode behind them just to keep a pace. The others drafted off me. That was a tough section.





There's a collegial stop at Bodega Country Store to get cards stamped and refuel.

The tandem leaves a few minutes ahead of me. Somehow they climbed freakin' steep Joy Road on that machine. Clearly descending Bittner, something went wrong. Now they're lying in the middle of the road flanked by local helpers. Two doctors and two volunteer firefighters, as it turns out. Several local cyclists are helping alert traffic.

The captain tells the helpers what happened. The tandem hit a couple of potholes - Sonoma County does not appear to be maintaining its roads - and a few seconds later the front tire blew off the rim while going downhill.

They're being taken care of. When I left they were both conscious and talking. I can't help in any meaningful way but it sure is tough to leave the scene.

It's even tougher to get the scene out of my head. During the easy cruise to Guerneville, I'm thinking that could have been me. Still could be on the Davis Double; Jeff's tandem had a front blowout a few weeks ago. Maybe should call it off. What am I doing out here anyway? The thought of dealing with another injury of any kind...

It's noon, mile 80 and change. Food doesn't really sound good but everything else feels normal and fine. A Red Bull and half a salami sandwich, that seems like enough. The last leg was sheltered but the wind is definitely there, pushing me along the Russian River.

That feeling is becoming more and more urgent, the need to get to Hopland, get to the turn around. Get the wind at our back.

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