The Kindness of Strangers towards White-Haired Guys

I found a fun new local ride last week. And I learned, once again, there are lots of kind-hearted people in the world.

The route was a new and different way of getting over to CA-9 at Boulder Creek. From there, taking 9 up to Skyline Boulevard (aka CA-35) and then coming up the spine of the Peninsula is a favorite. Among other things, you get to see both wilderness and a giant megalopolis off in the distance. A nice contrast. Plus, there are plenty of curves to enjoy. As well as the occasional flock of I’m-not-getting-out-of-your-way turkeys.

But I usually get onto 9 from Santa Cruz, where we spend a lot of time these days. This time I went a different way:

over the spine and down to Boulder Creek

As always I spent a fair bit of time planning the route using Google Maps and Street View. The latter is useful for learning whether or not that road you’re planning to ride is full of potholes :). So I thought I was well-prepared.

Only once again my good “friend” Murphy showed up1.

You see, there’s one little segment where Bear Creek Road — the one I was following up from Highway 17 — runs on top of Skyline Drive. I mistakenly thought the two roads simply crossed.

So when I came to an intersection I wasn’t expecting to encounter I wasn’t sure which way to go. To make matters worse there was little to no cell phone coverage so I couldn’t just check Google Maps.

I guessed I had to turn right/north and started off. But after going less than a couple of hundred yards I became convinced I’d made a mistake…so I had to make a u-turn on a narrow two lane road with no shoulder. What’s worse, the traffic was picking up. It was the start of rush hour and I guess some people commuted over what I thought was just a scenic by-way.

Doing a u-turn with only a narrow dirt “shoulder” into potentially oncoming traffic is a potential disaster: bikes don’t stay upright in tight turns at low speeds so you spend more time than you’d like at speeds which make it difficult to get out of the way of a vehicle which might suddenly appear around a curve.

But I managed it and went off in what I thought was the correct direction.

Only to have the road shortly go to one-and-a-half lanes. Which meant I was probably now going in the wrong direction.

Time to pull over and figure out what to do. Wonder of wonders, I’d managed to pick up one bar of cell phone coverage…at 4G. Which meant Google Maps still couldn’t work but I could at least call someone and have them check out the route for me.

Of course the first call I made was to my wife. Who was out on a walk and who generally keeps her mobile in “don’t bother me with a ring” mode so she didn’t notice the call coming in. She wasn’t at home near our landline, either.

Fortunately my son was available at work and he was able to confirm, yep, I was heading the wrong way. Time for another u-turn. But that’s okay! I’m experienced at u-turns on this narrow, shoulder-less road!

Which of course meant I dropped the bike in the road.

I was clever enough to leap off2. But the bike was unclever enough to fall on the kickstand side, so even if I could figure out how to pick it up by myself3 I’d have to figure out how to keep it from toppling over onto the other side4.

My first step was to take off as much gear as I could, including my helmet, because it was a fairly hot day and getting the bike back up was going to be a royal PITA at best. All the while muttering5 imprecations to the gods6 about what I was going to do to them for allowing this situation to occur.

But taking my helmet off was a huge help. Because it induced a pickup truck with two nice women in it to stop and ask the old white-haired guy if he was hurt.

I told them only in my pride. And asked if they’d be willing to help me pick the bike up. Which they agreed to do.

Between the three of us it was no problem, and I was able to get the kickstand extended so we could rest the bike on it. From there on it was just a matter of getting geared up, resetting the throttle7 and taking off on the rest of the ride. Which was great!

But the two women wouldn’t leave until I had the bike restarted. And, in the end, urged me to be careful and stay safe.

Which called for some kind of special expression of thanks on my part. If I was a religious person “bless you” would’ve been appropriate. But I’m not.

So what did I say? Well, click this link.

Which earned me a huge laugh from my benefactors.

  1. if I ever get my hands on him he is going to regret it 

  2. last time I dropped the bike I’d unconsciously tried to stop it by using pressure on one foot; bad idea — that was several months ago, and my foot is still recovering from the injury I gave it 

  3. it weighs 650 pounds all by itself 

  4. managing 650 pounds after you’ve just done a major lift is tricky; at least for people who aren’t weight lifters 

  5. okay, there were some shouts in there, too 

  6. and Murphy 

  7. FJRs have a safety interlock which requires you cycle the ignition to enable the starter; it presumably keeps knocked down bikes from spewing gasoline and starting fires 

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