When I arrived in the Russian River Valley of California 17 years ago, one of the first things I said to myself, as I looked over to the Mayacamas Mountain Range with Mt. Saint Helena in the background, “Please don’t ever let me take all this for granted.” I knew then that if I lost sight of why I moved 3500 miles, I’d be needing to take really long, deep breaths.

I traveled to pet-sit for my daughter and son-in-law’s cats deep into Russian River Valley. It was here that I was reminded – as I slowed to take the treacherous turns… Be ever mindful…

It’s so beautiful out here. This is why so many people move to California – for the beauty, the Mediterranean climate, and bountiful lifestyle. Agriculture and viticulture are so evident and abundant. It’s also why people come to visit and vacation.

Years ago, you couldn’t get me off my bicycle. I pretty much lived on it. I was told when I got it that I had to respect being on the road, and be prepared to share it with drivers: Ride in single file, obey all traffic rules and regulations, keep to the right-hand side of the road, and “Just stay away from cars… They’re bigger and badder than you.”

All set, and off I went without any incidents.

Then, I moved to wine country. Somewhere between here and there, those rules and regulations went down the drain for many – not all – bicyclists. Honestly, for those of us driving the back roads, not knowing what’s coming around the curve, it’s treacherous. I slow to a crawl, because I know too well that even though the folks on bicycles can hear me coming, there are those who just don’t care and think they’re somehow protected, when they’re so very vulnerable.

Notice this car has NO BRAKE LIGHTS, yet, and people were flying by at 50 MPH, so there’s the speed of this car.

BICYCLISTS ON THE ROAD: How fragile they are, I observed, as I watered my kids’ planted flora… I’m going to share this with you, so if you’re going to be bicycling or in a neighborhood you’re driving where there are many bicyclists, be advised.

What I saw was/is an accident waiting to happen.

The first group I saw presented no problem. It was a group of four, and held their safety in their own hands, but by sheer numbers.

Wearing all the same “team” clothing, the group was a really tight, collective society as they swiftly flew by, completely at home riding their bikes, hunched over their handle bars in that 90 degree angle that says, “I’m serious, don’t bug me.” Then, when they approached the blind-from-on-coming-cars hill, they all shifted to straight upright, two abreast and two deep, protecting themselves from being passed by the cars going-too-fast, piling up behind them. They had cleverly, intuitively without a word or signal, created an impassable wall. Once they knew they were totally safe, they formed a single line, again.

Big phew for them.

The next independent person had no real plan developed – it seemed, as he rode dead center in his lane. As only one person riding lackadaisically, there was no way to hold back any oncoming cars, but he thought the middle of the road the safest place. He finally gave into the break-lighted, slowing down engines behind him, pulled over to the right, as I stood there. I left my watering plants duty, had my camera set on “Sport” photography, which allowed me to take a quick succession of images… too many to share, but you get the point.

I dumbfoundedly watched as obviously inexperienced drivers, who couldn’t even see what might be coming straight at them in the on-coming lane at the crest of the hill, actually passed the bicyclist on the incline in the left hand on-coming lane. “How brave and stupid,” I thought. “Putting your fate in the hands of the gods. Hopefully the gods won’t become exhausted watching all of you, or blink even at the wrong moment.”

As it turned out, there wasn’t an on-coming car(s), this time. Never-the-less it was totally frightening to watch.

You might think I’m an alarmist, and that’s your right.

I, on the other hand, operate from experience. I’ve witnessed four separate accidents, where pedestrians (not bicyclists) were involved in accidents (1 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 7 people all now gone). Each story is horrific, and with each accident it involved people who met his or her fate with vehicles).

I now just know it happens, and if this saves one person who prefers to be more alert, it was worth sharing.

Be safe and have fun out there, as I think about the holiday weekend we’ve just had and the remainder of those come through the summer! Just know that “Share the Road” is a double-edged sword that works both ways, and a lot of people on both sides don’t seem to care, or get it yet.

If you’re a bicyclist, you might want to better protect yourself. This Website has got great cycle jerseys that will – at least – slow down a few drivers, and at best – save a life. Meanwhile, cyclists, if a car’s coming, get out of the middle of the road, and make passing you a pleasure, not a problem.

Share the Road. Drivers, don’t take offense. Take a deep breath and enjoy the humor of the shirt. After all is said and done, we’re all pretty funny. I like the “thanks” one myself.

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