Its my own fault, really. After all, were taught as riders that we need to be responsible for not only ourselves but for those around us, too. Still, I wonder if there really was anything I could have done differently and the answer is, "Maybe."
It happened Yesterday, Friday, on my way home from work. I was on the four lane highway and traffic is more than moderate but moving at a reasonable pace.
The van I am following moves over to the left lane to pass a slower moving dump truck. I hit my turn signal, do a quick head check and follow suite. The truck is a semi tractor with a 30 foot dump bed and as the van and I pass, the van slows down.
There are drivers that do this on purpose. I'm not sure if its part of their nature or whether they go to school to learn this technique. You know its true because it has happened to you! These drivers usually employ this technique with me when I have followed them into the left lane to pass slower traffic and then need to exit the highway in a mile or so. That's not the case today, though.
Anyway, here I am, following a graduate from the "Slow Down While Passing School". I have the truck on my right and a 3 foot shoulder on my left. Trapped. I wish these drivers would have bumper stickers identifying them. I would have passed sooner.
We travel like that for about a mile the van holding steady about 50 feet in front of me. My frustration climbs because I can see that there is no one in front of him for half a mile and yet he refuses to accelerate to the speed limit to complete the pass.
I moved over to the center of my lane. Maybe he doesn't see me. Of course he should be able to see the 15 cars behind me. No effect. The van inches forward 10 mph slower than he was traveling.
And then the van swerves, first to the right and then back to the left. I think for an instant, "What demon has possess this idiot?" And then I see the demon coming out from under his rear axle, black, long, wiry, flopping in torment and in my path.
Of course it really wasn't a demon at all, but what looked like an entirely intact truck tire retread. Our valedictorian in the van must have been distracted because he had at least 20 seconds to identify a hazard in the road way and avoid it. I had about 3 seconds.
And 3 seconds might have been enough - 5 seconds would have been plenty - for me to shift to the outside and ride the shoulder had the demon not decided to uncoil all of its 10 feet directly in front of me and perpendicular to my path.
There were 3 distinct thumps; one for each of my tires and one when it smacked the floorboard on the left side and my pipes on the right.
The good news: I was still vertical. The bad news: It smacked my left foot as it rolled past. I raised my foot off the floorboard to make sure it was still attached to my ankle. It was still there but I remember thinking, "That's gonna leave a mark."
I rolled the throttle, cut to the right and quickly slowed to a stop on the right shoulder. I dismounted and did a quick walk around. The tires were still inflated, for now. No oil or other fluids were leaking. That's good. The bike had tread marks on its pipes. Those will buff out. The fenders were still attached. This was beginning to look better all the time.
I started the engine and pulled back into traffic. About a mile down the highway, Mister Graduate had pulled his van to the shoulder and was crawling underneath looking for either damage or brains. I'm guessing he might have found damage. I know he never found any brains since he had none to loose in the first place.
For a second I thought about stopping and asking him why he didn't try to avoid the tire tread since there was no one in front of him and he had clear vision ahead. But like Forrest Gump says, "Stupid is as stupid does.", so I chose not to stop.
At home I took my boots off. There were no tread marks on my foot, just a nasty bruise on the top side. Battle scars that will fade from view. The lesson learned will not soon be forgotten.
I bet if I had stopped to check on Mr Graduate he would have been wearing a sign. Maybe I should get some bumper stickers to hand out, too.