Happy that the rain had stopped, I decided to take my bike out for a zip while Lady Jaye went to Target yesterday. It was hot as balls on Saturday, and I worked up my first major sweat on a short 30 minute jaunt during our new window installation. Not wishing to repeat that overheated experience, I contemplated wearing my orange safety vest on top of my black perforated leather jacket. I figured that the overcast sky might cause some visibility problems for car drivers, so I took my vest anyway.
Taking the vest was the kind of seemingly inconsequential decision that can make a big difference later down the line. I didn’t have any problems being seen by other drivers (not that I was aware of, at least), but what was supposed to be a half hour drive turned out to be two hours of misadventure.
Tired of my two usual routes, I took a right where I normally take a left and wound around near Cleopatra’s folks’ home. It’s probably a five mile drive each way, full of windy little turns, tiny crested hills, and roads that I would have eagerly sought out in my Subaru WRX or MINI Cooper S. The ride was great; I was enjoying myself despite being a little conservative around the corners, and the weather had cooperated with me so far. I was about ready to return home when I realized that I had no fucking idea where I was.
If you have ever been in a car with me as my passenger, you will know that I have excellent tactical driving skills. I know where all the other cars and obstacles are on the road. I’ll know who’s behind me, what their rate of speeds are, and if I need to pull into another lane to let them pass. If you’re in the car with me, you will never have to worry about being in a wreck. You will also know that because of my tactical concentration and my generally shitty sense of direction, I get lost very, very easily. I am more concerned about being run into than looking at the scenery, and I have a tendency to get lost even along roads I’ve already traveled. For example, I drove to Cleopatra’s once before, during the night. The roads looked entirely different to me during the day.
I could remember some basic traits of my afternoon drive when I realized I was lost: a four way stop, a few street names. But I couldn’t remember if I should take a left on Whackingnuts Street or go straight on Chumbawumba Lane. Stuff like that is pretty important if you want to find your way home. Two phone calls to Lady Jaye to let her know I was OK and two hours later, I arrived home. Luckily untouched by rain or danger alike, but I had logged almost 63 miles during my trip, over ten times as the distance and four times the duration that I had expected.
Remember my vest, that I almost left at home? It kept the wind from sapping away too much of my strength as I drove for almost two straight hours in the overcast, breezy day. It wasn’t a life and death decision, but if I didn’t have my vest, I would have been chilled. If I was chilled for two hours and thinking about how cold I was I may have become more tired on my bike, which could have led to a lapse in judgment. At my skill level, a lapse in judgment could have meant not properly avoiding hazards like the stupid bitch who sprayed her wet lawn clippings all over the road around a corner. Not properly avoiding hazards would have resulted in a dump, which at the very least would smash up my nice new bike.
So, is it a stretch to say that my nylon reflective vest kept me from crashing on my bike today? Possibly, but I believe that without even that extra bit of wind protection I would have been less comfortable, and less attentive. And who knows what would have happened.
When I got home I remembered all the stories of people getting lost in the wilderness. Normally their survival hung on one stupid mistake or one dumb-luck in their favor. I’m not saying that my vest saved me from being on the six o’clock news, but it definitely made me realize how important it is to be prepared every time I go out on my bike.