Sunday, April 23, 2006

Harassed

Date: April 23
Mileage: 63
April mileage: 364
Temperature upon departure: 36

I'm not a big fan of biking on the Sterling Highway anytime, but I've noticed that the further north I ride, the deeper the twilight-zone factor is. It's a strange land of driven unemployment; of rows of single-wide trailers that serve simultaneously as day-care centers/ kennels/ charter offices/ tourist lodging and summer coffee shops; of inexplicable architecture and fake flowers planted in the snow.

So when a white minivan blew by me today blaring its horn, I wasn't surprised. This highway has a wide shoulder with a rumble-strip buffer, so traffic isn't usually very threatening. I nearly had it out of my mind when several minutes later, a startlingly similar van approached from the oncoming lane and swerved toward me, blaring its horn and swerving back into its own lane. My heart was racing against the surge of adrenaline and rage, but I stayed the course on the highway. I just couldn't believe that this van would turn around and come at me again.

No sooner had I thought it when I heard that high-pitched horn blast from behind. Everything around me turned red. I mashed into the pedals and began sprinting as I heard wheels hit the rumble strip, slowing down, no more than a few dozen yards behind me. I pulled further right until I was practically bouncing through the weeds, now 10 feet from the lane itself, just as this van pulled up beside me. A woman who at quick glance looked to be about my age rolled down the passenger-side window and screamed at me. No words, just screamed - "Ahhhhhh." The van was straddling the rumble strip, rolling at my pace only a few feet away. I could have reached out and punched the woman in her ugly face, and I'd be lying if I said there isn't a part of me that savors the thought. But I knew for my own safety that all I could do was look ahead as if no part of me noticed, and pedal against the tide of boiling blood. Finally, after an eternal second, the white minivan pulled away and headed down the road.

That is the exact point where I turned around and pedaled the way I came. I had not quite reached my destination. I was 31.5 miles from home.

The minivan did not come back, but it took quite a while before I calmed down and started thinking other thoughts besides a vengeance-tainted resolve to hunt that minivan down and cut the brake line. Why is that if someone pulls a gun on you, you can call the police? But if someone harasses you with a two-ton minivan filled with adults who are probably driving drunk at noon, your only recourse is the pull off the road and hide in a bush, or put up with it. Next time I ride the Sterling north of Anchor Point, I'm bringing my bear mace. And not because I'm afraid of bears.

26 comments:

  1. That is seriously freaky! You need to call the police for stuff like that! Report their asses. It's possible that the police in that area already know there are crazies who own a white minivan. It doesn't hurt to report stuff like that and it could help someone else that freaks like that harass.

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  2. Kevin7:58 PM

    Get the license plate number next time, if you can. Pepper spray is good too:)

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  3. Jeez, what a horrible story. Stuff like that freaks me out. Glad you're more restrained than I would have been.

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  4. If you have a small digital camera, bring it with you Jill. Sorry to hear you ran into those idiots. Wish I could say we didn't have a few like that around here.

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  5. Scary! But at least you're safe.

    I hate situations like that . . . you think of all the things you could've done after its all said and done.

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  6. Been slapped in the butt, had beer cans and bottles thrown at me, had a friend shot with a pellet gun, I've been hit by an SUV (she stopped and took me to the hospital). These brainless wonders never cease to amaze me as they're everywhere. I always call the cops, since one time it was the same car on seperate occasions, so it helped to prosecute.

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  7. Fight the good fight!!!!

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  8. I too have been hit, by an old woman who then told me to "stay off the road." And I've been harrassed, often by people who were trying to make me make a mistake, so that they could have the fun of seeing me crash; and occasionally by people who, like your little playmates, wanted to scare hell out of me and perhaps injure me. I don't agree that you should fight back; you'll wind up dead. I do agree that you should just frickin hide. I called the police once, and they wouldn't track down the perp. Instead, they advised me to just stop. They said that harassers usually won't persist when the target isn't moving. For what it's worth. Mostly: Just sympathies, Jill. That sucks.

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  9. Mount the bear mace on your handlebars for quick access.

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  10. That is listed as reason #12 in the "Why I prefer Mountain Bikes" handbook. Disgusting, technically it is assault.

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  11. I wouldn't suggest trying the punch in hte face. But I bet you the mace in the face would make the passenger think twice about doing something like that again. People are idiots. It's this kind of stuff that keeps me on the trails and off the roads. I agree with you completely juancho!

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  12. Definitely take the mace. But I think you should call the police anyway. Juancho is right, it is technically assault. When they say "assault and battery" they're not just being redundant, battery is when they actually touch you but assault is a separate charge that doesn't require physical contact. Bring the mace for your own safety but "put up and shut up" is not your only legal recourse!

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  13. No license plate number, eh? Glad you survived, Jill.

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  14. Vehiles like this are the reason my next cell phone is a camera phone.

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  15. I am not a avid bike rider but I do drive. I do not at all condone what this aggravated driver did.

    I just want to comment for us drivers out there that most of the time drive way out and around the bikers on the road! (Don't forget notice us and to say nice stuff about us!)

    sometimes it appears that bikers expect drivers to be able to do that all the time and so ride on the wrong side of the white line. That is a bit frightening to me. I would never chase down a biker that does this but I am definitely annoyed.

    So forgive me and all those other annoyed drivers out there, but please don't forget to stay well on the otherside of the white line while you are out pursuing your past-time. I don't want to even muss up your hair with the wind from my car, but most of the time there is on-coming traffic to consider out there and I can't move over the line to make your day more comfortable.

    Very frightening to me is a whole family of bikers with little ones. I definitely slow down for them and will even stop but I always wish they would go where there are bike paths to do the family thing.

    This problem is a two way street.... but in this case of drivers and bikers we do have to share the same side. There has to be give and take so that no one gets hurt. So you move over and I will too ... if I can.

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  16. Ride the same road at the same time; this time with a group. Here's hoping you see the van again and they see the power of the pack. You shouldn't have to live in fear of anyone, anywhere.

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  17. Jill, I think mace is fine if you live in a city, where there are people around you can run too. But riding by yourself in remote areas of alaska, it just seems to me that mace wouldn't do the job, especially if you have a van full of drunks who wern;t out to just scare you.... if you were my sister I would want her to A: Never ride alone in these places or B: Get a gun. Learn how to use it properly and carry it with you everywhere...

    Unfortuantly, you never know if the next car or truck who tries to run you off the road is doing it just for the hell of it or has more sinister ideas in mind.

    I know, I'm just a guy in New Mexico, but I have a sister and would never want her in a position where she has to face down a car full of drunken men in the middle of nowhere with just a can of mace to protect her....

    Anyway, be careful out there. Its a dangerous world, especially for women. :)

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  18. I don't want to even muss up your hair with the wind from my car, but most of the time there is on-coming traffic to consider out there and I can't move over the line to make your day more comfortable.

    If there is on-coming traffic and you can't pass a cyclcist safely, slow down and wait until you can. Cyclists are permitted to ride in the road (except where explicitly forbidden) and are to be considered slow moving vehicles. You have to slow down for other slow moving vehicles and wait to pass, a cyclist is no different. In almost every municipality in the US this is clearly spelled out in the municipal traffice code. See Anchorage's (sect 9):

    http://www.municode.com/resources/gateway.asp?pid=12717&sid=2

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  19. you'll see her again...and when you do, I say charge her screaming....and maybe bear mace her too....just for kicks

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  20. Paging Stephen King . . . Stephen King . . .

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  21. Wrong side of the white line? Whoa, the woods sound better every day.

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  22. Joe Dell12:00 PM

    I hate f'ing psychos that have nothing better to do with their time than to f with others. They live in their own little world, unaware of other people's dreams and desires. They think there is only one way to do things and that their way is the right way.

    Using pepper spray does not seem logical. IF someone is trying to scare you by driving dangerously close to you while you are biking, do you really want to blind them? What if they get in a car accident and kill everyone in the other car? I couldn't deal with that kind of guilt.

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  23. Makes me angry just to hear about it. I've blown up at motorists who have harassed me while riding, and I've been lucky that they got as freaked out at my reaction as I was to their harassment. Not too smart of me, for sure, but I couldn't help it.

    It's a drag that apparently no matter where we go, be it Alaska, Ohio, or Gilligan's Island, there's always a handy supply of jackasses to ruin a good thing. Sorry you had to have a rotten experience.

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  24. Jill, that is truly a disturbing incident. I would try reporting it but then I guess I have this unfounded notion that people should not be able to use cars for intimidation.

    And drivers definitely need better education about cyclists, as even seemingly well-intentioned ones write about "wrong side of the white line"?

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  25. By all means report it, but if the police are anything like the police on this side of the world, don't expect them to do anything about it. It's best just to keep an eye out for them in future. I had a similar incident myself a few weeks back with someone openly threatening me with their van on my ride to work. Fortunately it was in an urban environment -- with enough surrounding traffic to escape. I'm not sure what I'd have done if it was quiet.

    Just be careful out there.

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  26. wowsers. that's scary stuff when you're out there alone. it happens way too frequently... nice going on staying calm and going Buddha on their sorry asses.

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