Monday, March 25, 2019

Four Surprises


When I suggested, in my last post, that I might provide preparation updates, I had no idea it would turn out like this.  What didn't happen is much in the way of preparation.  The prospect of going off on this bikepacking trip with so little preparation is humbling.  What DID happen is a change in destination.  The original plan was for a meet-up in Missouri.  But now, due to an odd series of events, the plan is Big Bend Ranch State Park.  Humbling, I tell you.  And that was my first surprise.

The next three surprises happened yesterday, just moments after the photo above was taken.  I was zipping along a gradual gravel downhill, heading toward a "T" intersection with a paved county road.  No traffic was coming in either direction, so I only trimmed my speed slightly to help make the right turn onto the narrow road.  As I leaned into the turn (slightly braking), I noticed several pot-holes and irregularities in the gravel interface with the pavement.  At that point, I sort of half stood to allow my legs to absorb the bumps, and I let off the brakes to roll through the turn.  That is when I experienced my second surprise.  Both wheels completely released their traction, and I was sliding sideways.

After the rear skidded about 6 feet laterally, and the front about 4 feet, those Compass 48s re-gripped the paved road, and we traced a perfectly smooth arc around the curve.  Coming out of that slide, that lasted about an hour, stunned me.  I recovered with no injuries whatsoever.  And that was my third surprise.

Of course, that slide didn't last "about an hour".  It was only a split second of terror.  So this fourth surprise might be the biggest of them all.  During that tiny slice of time, in which I was not in control, my mind was thoroughly analyzing the situation, processing options, and making decisions.

I remember recognizing that I was turning "right" because I've always been more comfortable power sliding on left turns.  I felt uncomfortable.  I also remember thinking, I'm sort of standing and both feet are on the pedals.  No foot down to sort tripod my way through this.  My center of gravity was too high, and I felt awkward.  Strangely, however, it was also apparent that my lean angle was pretty good, and the slide was fortunately balanced.  I was sliding at constant angle, neither high-siding nor going horizontal.  That was pretty good, I thought, but it was lasting WAY too long.  I wanted to grab my brakes and put an end to it.  Somehow, and I actually thought ALL of this, I reasoned that I have three possible outcomes.  If I brake, I'll absolutely go down.  If I don't brake, I might go down, and I should be ready for that.  But not braking is my best chance.  My tires might grab so I can recover...which of course they did.

After my heart rate returned to normal.  I replayed the slide in my mind, and all that mid-slide analysis gushed out.  So my fourth surprise was realizing all a brain can do in those extremely short, but high-emotion, moments.

Finally, I wondered how the slide would have appeared to observers.  I decided that it must have been fantastic.  Surely, I looked like an expert shredder, like that was how I always turn corners on gravel roads.  I was deeply remorseful when I realized that my rare display of excellence wasn't captured on film.  But nothing about that surprises me.

9 comments:

  1. I'm glad to hear you made it out unscathed, Chris.

    I can relate as I had an incident last Spring where I too found myself in a surprise slide. Unfortunately I was unable to recover and took a good long slide across a unswept school parking lot, tearing up my rain layer, putting some scratches in to my new, at the time, Soma Wolverine, and a dent in my ego. Luckily I wasn't too badly injured.

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    1. Oddly, I had time to think in advance about protecting myself (somewhat) in case of a crash. When it was all over, I wanted to think my experience and skill saved me. But I was simply fortunate.

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  2. Yep, glad this incident ended up the way it did. An injury could have had a deleterious effect on your Big Bend trip. It's an interesting thing how the sympathetic nervous system can put a scary event into a slow motion sort of replay so you can recount how it proceeded.

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    1. I was fascinated as much by the awareness of so much going on, as I was by my good fortunue.

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  3. Chris:

    You experienced "time dilation" in that brief time of sliding. The human brain speeds up incredibly in these sorts of intense conditions, perhaps due to the possible outcome(s). Good on you for keeping a cool head & then analyzing the process.

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    1. Haha...I take no credit for the "cool head". I have no idea how that happened.

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  4. Glad you weren't hurt, especially just before a trip you have planned and worked for so hard. My experiences have been more fat, dumb and happy one minute and severely hurt the next. Wish I could think my way to safety as you did. Well done!

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  5. Thanks for the kind words. I would not claim to have thought my way to safety. I would claim good fortune, and a huge sensory experience.

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