Several years ago, after a frustrating series of flats, I went in search of a more puncture resistant tire. A Kevlar slick was recommended to me. I tried it, though I was skeptical of how much traction a tire with no tread would provide.
One morning I headed to work just as the sky was beginning to lighten. A slight drizzle was presenting itself, but the road was wet from an earlier rain. On a downhill corner, I laid the bike down. The tires simply didn’t grab the road.
The knuckles on my right hand ground against the asphalt as I slid across the road. My knee also took a good hit. Were it not for my helmet, my face would have been a mess as well. Due to the knee injury, I was forced to drag my leg when I walked for several months.
When the leg finally healed, I got back on the bike. I was not overly concerned on the first downhill when I was reluctant to go fast. That was normal after a fall, right? But as the weeks went by, I realized I had lost my nerve on the slopes. To tell the truth, I had never been particularly fast on the downhills, but my current state was bordering on a phobia.
I devised a plan to conquer my fear of hills. The road I chose was a long straight downhill which leveled out at the bottom where there was a swampy area on either side. There were no intersecting roads, traffic was practically nonexistent and the pavement was dry. In other words, perfect conditions for what I wanted to do.
At the top of the hill, I waited for the moment to be right. A minute went by, and then two. Taking a deep breath, I let the bike coast. As I moved faster, I pedaled, tentatively at first, but then with increasing voracity. My confidence built. I tucked and pushed harder.
At around forty miles per hour, I felt like I broke through an invisible barrier, and the fear was swept away with the wind. Was that all there was to it? I had to make sure. With 300 yards left to the bottom, I pushed harder still. My eyes toggled between the road in front of me and the speedometer. I saw the numbers hit 45 mph.
I quickly glanced up, seeing something at the edge of my vision. A large familiar shape slowly rose from behind the cattails up ahead. Then in an instant I was blinded as the massive form pressed against my front side. It felt like a half minute went by, but in reality it was most likely five seconds or less. Forgetting to apply the brakes, my mind was more focused on the last glimpse of the road, and trying to keep the bike from going off it.
The time that followed is a little hazy in my mind. I do remember that as quickly as it appeared, it was gone. I didn’t look back to see what happened to the great blue heron, and I don’t really remember the rest of the trip home. All I can say with any certainty is that somehow in all this, I did regain my ability to ride downhill. Now if only I could get rid of my fear of swamps.
Photo courtesy of http://www.freenaturepictures.com/misc-birds-pictures.php