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.