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it was my first outdoor ride of the season and it was proving to be a better first ride than most because of my diligence on the trainer through the winter months. this diligence can be mostly attributed to the belt loop i gained before the end of october. this single belt-loop is what got me on the trainer religiously. but for however spiritual and life-saving the bike trainer may be during the frigid days, the first ride of the season is always special ... and telling.

for street riding i live in one of the better setting out points for my city. this is because my burb resides at the mouth of a long and widening corridor that wends away from the city through affluent, deep lawned homes. the roads are wide, hilly, and predominately pothole free. the roads are also flanked by droves of mature and towering trees. as far as midwest, urban biking goes, it is cherry terrain.

every summer i start with the same ride. it's one of my favorites and i use it to gauge how well i did in my wintertime conditioning. it's a 25-miler and has a perfectly organized progression of challenges going from easy to rough to tough and concludes with a long and luxurious wind-down. the crueler part of the ride involves a five mile, or so, stretch of longish climbs. this span culminates on a precipice that is a high point in the area allowing you to spy church steeples poking out from a blanket of tree tops. the view is your first reward of the climb. the two-mile descent on the other side of the vista is your second.

there are two things you need to know before i continue. the first is i use a small computer attached to my bike to track statistics about my rides. from the computer i can observe how long i've ridden as well as how far. it also records average speed and one of my favorites, maximum speed. the second thing you should know about my biking is that i bike at night. i've never mentioned this to anyone who hasn't had a surprised to shocked opinion but i have my own thoughts on the matter. i've been routinely biking at night for eighteen years now. i also sometimes bike in the day and between the two, i find riding at night to be preferable both in enjoyment and safety. i of course have lights, and wear a helmet and all of that. the biggest difference is that i can go on a twenty mile, weeknight ride and see less than ten cars. this same ride on a weekend morning puts me in the path of hundreds and hundreds of drivers. the biggest bonus of night-riding is i actually know a car is behind me long before it ever reaches me given the way their lights reflect on the road signs (and given my own lights, i have better odds of them seeing me as well).

but moving on, for this particular route, the maximum speed i monitor is usually set and met on the two-mile downhill that i mentioned in the earlier paragraph so after concluding the five mile climb i was up in the saddle and charging down the wide, car-less backside. after gathering a good clip, i hit the backlight of the cyclometer on my handlebars and glanced at the readout. the speed read 34.7. this is more than i hoped for on this first ride and i was encouraged by how close it was to 35. i dug in and gave the bike several hearty strokes. i again glanced at the computer. 34.9. i still had plenty of downslope to go so knew i would hit my mark. i went to dig in again but as i looked ahead, in the bright halo cast from my front LED light, i spied, maybe fifteen feet in front of me, maybe less, two female deer. one a little to the left of me and the other directly in my line.

the casual way their heads were down sniffing the asphalt made them look as though they were meandering through a grassy mountain meadow. given the quiet of my recently tuned-up bike, they had no idea i was upon them. i shrieked. i shrieked loudly and inhumanely. if you gave me a week to reproduce the noise that came from me, i wouldn't even know where to begin. nor would i know how to phonetically represent it here. i can only imagine what the residents surrounding this affluent part of of the county made of my cry in the night. but i do know what the deer made of it. both of their heads snapped up and looked right at me. simultaneously, as if competitive synchronized swimmers, their rear haunches dipped down to bolt. both of my hands seized the brakes, locking up both tires and causing the back of the bike to begin sliding out to my left. the back legs of both deer fired but instead of shooting forth (as all three of us hoped for), their bony hooves just scratched against the pavement, and flailed outward making their back ends droop to the ground. they each repeated this action causing a second wave of scratches on the hard asphalt with little to no progress.

i'm pretty sure i closed my eyes. i think i even turned my head away ready for the collision with an animal whose backside came up even with my handlebars (about ten years ago i almost hit a possum or raccoon at a good, but lesser, clip. i ended up only running over it's tail but thought if i hit it straight on i was in for a world of hurt). this time i didn't have time to think about how sinister this outcome was bound to be. but it didn't happen. somehow, through the combination of the collective forces of braking, bolting, leaning, screaming, straining, white-knuckling, i missed them. when i dared open my eyes and looked down and found myself past the startled girls, my handlebars were quaking madly in my clenched fists. i attributed the bikes tremoring to her leg hitting my tire or her haunch grazing my handlebar but this, this minor thing, i was easily able to bring into control. taming my thumping heartbeat though was not as trivial.

i've had a few experiences in my life that have convinced me a guardian angel lives with my name printed on a slip of paper in its front pocket. believe it or not i've got a close scrape that even tops this story (also on a bike). i can't even imagine what would have happened if i glanced up a fraction of a second later. not a one of us would have seen it happen.

while surviving this brush with fate is the obvious good news, i didn't learn of the bad news until i arrived back home and logged my rides stats:

ride time : 1h:41m
distance ridden : 23.42 miles
average speed : 13.8 mph
maximum speed : 34.9 mph

given how skittish i'm sure to be on the hill in the weeks to come, i fear 35.0 may become a coveted and holy number that eludes me in 2010.




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