I wasn’t even planning on going out for a ride this afternoon; I was going to run instead. But Alvin took the day off from work and took care of Carys late this afternoon so I figured I might as well. After all, I hate running.
The grind up Grizzly Peak was the same as always; I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention as I thought about my upcoming (work) trip to Seattle next week and who I should try to make sure to see while I’m there – staying just alert enough to avoid the puddles of tempered glass left over from the beating that the cars up here took last Saturday night.
I usually stop at the top to breathe in the panoramic view for a minute while I pull on my arm warmers but I hadn’t brought them today, so I just pushed on. I settled into the descent, slightly annoyed at the Honda SUV that pulled out a little way in front of me – you can’t get a fast Strava time on this stretch with a car in front. Darn it.
And this stretch down to the top of Claremont is, I think, my favorite descent in the Bay Area – not that long, and not horribly steep, but with some fabulous curves that keep you on your toes without being dangerous. Because really, what kind of descent could be better for a control freak than one that allows you to be in control the whole way but still go pretty fast?
I glanced behind me and saw you there, a little way back and not pressing to pass. I got out into the middle of the lane, the safest spot to be at 25+mph on a curvy road when I’m moving at essentially the same rate as traffic. We rounded a right-hand bend and the Honda pulled away just a little on a straightaway where the steepness slacks off. I knew the Honda was going to brake as it hit the upcoming blind left bend so I stayed in the middle of the lane and nudged up the effort just a bit; there wasn’t enough room to pass anyway before the curve.
But you decided that not only was there enough space, you just had to do it. You pulled your grey Beemer SUV out into the left lane (I heard the engine gun at the same moment I saw you out of the corner of my eye as you passed me) and sat there for perhaps it was only a second, but in that moment my eyes flew agape.
If a car had been coming the other way around that blind corner at just that moment, it would have hit you and then I would have hit you.
You would have killed us both.
Then you whipped in front of me with such force that it made the SUV shimmy and I thought you were going to lose control and flip yourself over the low wall that separated you from a several hundred foot dropoff. I screamed “Holy shit!” and wobbled a bit myself from the surprise of it, and followed three feet behind your bumper the rest of the way down. When we got to the bottom there was a line of five cars waiting to get to the intersection with Claremont and Fish Ranch Road, as there always is at 5pm on a week day, and which you must have known would be there. I rolled up on your side of the car to find you calmly staring off into space.
I momentarily debate whether it’s a good idea to engage with someone who is reckless enough to almost kill both himself and me, but there are a lot of people around and you’re middle-aged with demure curly hair. Instinct tells me you’re unlikely to shoot me on the spot.
“Did that make you feel good?!” I shout at you.
To my surprise, you roll your window down. “Did that make you feel good?” I pretty much shout again.
“You were in the middle of the road!”
“Of course I was in the middle of the road; that was the safest place to be! And what did it get you to pass me? You were tailing the Honda all the way down the hill, just as I would have been if you hadn’t passed me. And here we are both sitting in the same line waiting to get through the intersection!”
My eye is caught by the Camelbak sitting on the seat next to him. Incredulously, I ask “Are you a rider?”
“Are you crazy? What the hell were you thinking?!”
“I’m sorry,” you say. I’m actually shocked at how sincere you sound. The bite goes out of me immediately. “I appreciate the apology.” The cars in front are rolling forward, and we’re almost at the intersection. “I got your license plate number, but I appreciate the apology.”
East Bay cyclists, watch out for a Beemer SUV with license plate 5FJ****. The apology is the only reason this isn’t being typed into a police report right now although goodness only knows they likely wouldn’t do anything about it.
You lived up to your car’s stereotype this afternoon, dude. Ride safe out there.
And watch out for the Beemers – those drivers are assholes.
It was a beautiful evening in Berkeley; I shot the lenticular cloud at the top of this post minutes before I was blown over by a 60mph gust of wind with a 30lb pack on my back on a solo trip in Patagonia three years ago. Thank goodness this afternoon didn’t end up like that one – or worse.