As I wait for the replacement spokes from my damaged tire to arrive, I’ll reflect on the perils of the road. Without question and by far the biggest peril of the road is the road itself. Glass, metal objects, potholes, bumps, rocks, big truck tire treads with sharp steel reinforcement. All these require constant focus. In Mosier I hit a sunken rain drain grill invisibly recessed in the black top. The front wheel went air-born. I went sideways as the rear tire hit, launching the rest of the bike.
I had the sensation like when skiing when I’m about to fall but make my best effort to stay upright. I did manage to stay upright on the bike but there’s always next time.
On the freeway I just missed a piece of ¾” diameter PVC pipe. Had I allowed my tire to hit that it would have rolled the wheel and possibly caused a crash.
In the mountains bears are active this time of year. They are aggressively storing up for winter. I heard of a car that was broken into by a bear trying to get to spilled salt on the floor of the car. Their sense of smell is phenomenal so carrying any food in bear country is an invitation to trouble.
Cougars are a bigger threat than bears. They are unafraid of anything and confident in their ability to kill. Oregon allowed hunters to shoot cougars for a time. 900 were killed but that was barely 10% of the population. The others are still out there, occupying those beautiful mountains, drinking at the rivers and streams I go by. One can almost feel them lurking, alert for ambush sites on both sides of the road.
At night rattlesnakes are a threat. These cold-blooded killers like temperatures in the 60s. You rarely see them but you always fear them. My friend Bob in Arlington, Oregon lessened some of my fears by telling me rattlers avoid humans, but they do seek warmth. I’m nice and warm in my down sleeping bag. I do not want their company. Bob told me he backhoed a trench at his place and the next morning it was full of rattlesnakes that had crawled in and couldn’t get out. So, they’re out there; for sure they’re out there.
Lightning is a big, big problem for Sunride. If I encounter thunderstorms I will certainly have to stop and get to shelter quickly. Just like golfers who get struck when their three-iron is raised high over their head ready to hit, Sunride’s all metal frame extends over six feet in the air, inviting a million-volt potential to fry me in an instant. It’s probably a better way to die than snakebite or getting eaten by a bear but I don’t want to die at all, not now at least, with miles to go before I sleep.
Mean people are also a threat, though I haven’t encountered any of those yet. In Portland I was riding late one night on a bike trail notorious for homeless campers. I approached a young man walking on the bike trail who had a large, baseball-bat-sized tree limb in his hands. He stood there open faced watching me come closer. I thought it possible that he was planning to club a bicyclist and rob them for drug money. I sped past him without incident. I wondered if his intentions were bad, and if he didn’t take a swing at me because the solar panel framework surrounded me like a protective cage.
Gravel, wet roads, oil spills – all the usual there. My motorcycle friend Carey went down on his Harley hitting an invisible oil spill on a freeway entrance ramp. So many times people have told me to be careful on this trip. Wise they are because if you are careless, watching the scenery, listening to music instead of the sounds of the road, not paying attention to your surroundings, trouble could well befall. I don’t even sip water or bite into a Cliff Bar while I’m moving. I get off the bike and view my surroundings, have a drink or stretch. So, Sunride and I are on high alert as we go, and so far it’s going swimmingly well.