Thursday, December 16, 2010

Crossing Over

Crossing over a patch of wet concrete at an angle on a bike invites an instant takedown. It happened to me late on Thursday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, I had an ultrascan to see if I had a blocked carotid artery or two. The carotids, one on either side of the neck, are tributary rivers of blood that arise from larger arteries. My opthamologist thought a blocked carotid, which would have meant starving the optic nerve of oxygen and nutrients, might be the cause the loss of my night vision, that I noticed a few days ago in one eye.

I'm happy to report the technician who performed an ultrascan thought my carotids looked "clean as a whistle." While I can cancel the concern I had that I might have suffered a stroke, that doesn't explain the loss of night vision in one eye. None-the-less, to celebrate my reasonably healthy state, I went for a bike ride, heading for the top of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, about a five mile ride from my home.

At the entrance to the road leading to the top of the overlook, I recognize a potential danger sign: a concrete gutter that held a little water, the breeding ground for moss. I slowed and leaned – about as far as the tilt of the Tower of Pisa – into the turn. I coasted over a patch of green moss that lay almost – but not quite – invisible in the gutter. The water that hid the moss came from a little rain that fell over the city last night. The in that water was as slippery as black ice.

In an eye blink, I was on the ground, with my feet still locked into the pedals. I rotated my bike above my body, untwisting my legs, and then lowered the bike back onto the ground. After twisting my feet out of the pedals, and getting back on the bike, I discovered I was largely unharmed, marked only with some scraped skin on my right leg, including one bloody wound the size of a quarter, and another with the circumference of a fifty cent piece. Some thin, red lines ran from just below my knee to about halfway down my shin. I was especially happy to note that my favorite windbreaker was completely unmarked, despite my having squished it's absurdly thin material between my back and the pavement.

My experience with similar situations (including another fall, a few years ago while riding in the Cahuenga Pass), should have alerted me to the potential danger at the base of the overlook. Rather than making an oblique turn, I should have cut straight across the mossy gutter, without leaning my body. Perhaps familiarity with the turn – this was my 16th visit to the overlook since May (yes, I keep a record of my rides) – had bred a bit of contempt about the danger that lurked there. Even though I had only a fleeting moment to notice the moss in the gutter, I think my past experience should have better served me.

There are six straight days of rain forecast for Los Angeles, beginning Friday night. The streets will be slick, with or without moss, during the storms already lining up far off the California coast. The streets will be slippery for a time after the rain stops, too. While I plan to ride those slick streets during and after the rainfalls, I also intend to stay upright, and leave any leaning to the Tower of Pisa.

Note: click on the photo above, for a larger-sized view.

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