Thursday, July 22, 2010

Knock Three Times

I was supposed to make it to Lincolton last night, where the Matthews family was waiting to put me up. Because that didn't work out (and because I was going to be their first Warmshowers guest), Lisa Matthews and I got together this morning to say hello and have some sweet tea (a southern delight).

We talked about biking, weaving, medieval fighting, and Lisa's various injuries (she is definitely not someone to be messed with). As I was getting ready to leave, she took a look at the route I had marked on my map.

"Be careful on Highway 73," she said. "There's lots of traffic, and at least one biker gets hit there a month."

Yeah, yeah, I thought. I've ridden through traffic that would make your hair curl. I was in the Ozarks, man! What could be worse than that?

An hour and a half later, I pulled into a Wal-Mart to grab some lunch. The greeter was a retired guy named Floyd, and he happily watched my bike while I shopped and ate.

He asked where I was headed, and I told him.

"The traffic's not too bad now," he said. "But once 73 crosses the interstate, it gets bad."

Okay. So here was warning number two. But still, all due respect to Floyd, he wasn't a biker, and he hasn't seen what I've been through. Right?

I continued down 73, and sure enough, the traffic picked up. With no shoulder to work with, I kept as far to the right as I could as trucks, SUVs, and other seemingly-oversized vehicles whizzed by.

As I approached a turn-in to some subdivision, I saw a woman standing in front of a blue Suburban. She was waving her arms at me, so I slowed to a stop in front of her.

"This is a very dangerous road," she said.

All right. Even my (over)confidence has its limits. I wasn't about to ignore three separate warnings.

The woman's name was Gabrielle, and she told me that she was a cyclist. A friend of hers had been hit on 73 on July 4th, and when she saw me, she turned back around to warn me.

We moved into the shade and she showed me another route that was 6-8 miles out of the way. And hillier. She made me promise to go that way, so I did.

As she pulled away, she told me--for the fourth time--to be careful on my journey.

"I made it this far," I said. "I'm pretty hard to kill."

I continued on for a few miles until I came to the turnoff Gabrielle said to take. There was a McDonald's on the other side of the intersection, and I was going to get something to drink and consider whether the detour was really worth it.

I looked behind me and saw a familiar blue Suburban pull off the road and stop behind my bike. Gabrielle hopped out and handed me a couple of Clif Bars, some energy chews, and a frozen fruit pop.

"I thought you might want these. And this is where you want to turn."

At that point, the detour could have been 50 miles out of the way, and I would have taken it. The kindness of strangers is not to be trifled with.

Did I avert disaster? I'll never know. What I do know is that I'm safe and sound tonight with another story to tell. Thanks Lisa, Floyd, and Gabrielle.


  1. You forgot the part at the end of the story where you try to find out about "Gabrielle", only to find out that she, in fact, was in a fatal bicycle accident on 73 one hundred years ago, and now her ghost appears every so often to warn other cyclists and spare them the same fate....(ooh, chills).

  2. I'm guessing that last comment was from Pat.

  3. you must only be a couple of daya away from the coast? Where are you putting your tire in, nag's head?

  4. "I have always depending on the kindness of strangers," Blanche said.

    Sarah B