I was cruising down my hill on a nice evening when my car rounded the last bend to encounter a struggling mountain biker yawing midway across the steep gravel road. I completely stopped, and as he glanced into my windshield, I raised my arms, palms up.
"What's your problem?" he bellowed.
My window was down. "This is a road," I said.
He yelled, "Bitch!"
I told this story to my older son, Ted, today as we drove into town, down Red Hill Road.
Incensed, he said, "You should have given him a little retaliatory tap."
We live on Red Hill, and when Ted began driving, and then his younger brother did, I implored both to be extra cautious, considering the hordes who walk or bike the quarter-mile up from the base parking lot to the start of the popular Mushroom Rock trail, in a beautiful BLM area bordered by private property. I have worried for years that an accident may happen on our windy hill. It's great that people are getting out, but many seem not to notice the big sign saying to walk single file and on the roadsides.
Ted has been home this week on a college break, several times driving into town with me.
"You don't have to slow down that much," he said the other day of my exaggerated action.
Today, as I veered way around a phalanges of walkers, he said, "You should go a little closer. Not enough to hit them. Just enough to scare them."
"I don't want to scare them," I said.
"I do!" he said pugnaciously. "They should know they're putting themselves in danger. They think it's a trail, and it's not."
We all have different reactions to people on the road. My husband honks. One neighbor, who often drove a big horse trailer, told me she that she used to honk, and then just waved her arms. And then she moved. To another state.
I've had several unpleasant roadway encounters.
I remember coming around a blind curve to find six or eight people, plus strollers and dogs, in a cluster at the base of an old shortcut to the trail. And one of them yelled at me. My former neighbor once said she wanted to put a sign right there saying, "If you stand here, you will get creamed."
Another time I came around the lowest bend to see a guy in the road, baby in a chest carrier, a leash to his dog stretching across my path.
I stomped on my brake, came to a full stop, and looked up at him as I wove around this slalom course. I thought he would say thanks; we'd nod. Instead he shouted, "Slow down!"
When I said, "There are 20-some houses up here, and we have to drive on the road," he smirked and rolled his eyes over my head at his wife (who was sensibly on the side of the road).
We all have to share the road, but I wasn't feeling I got a fair shake. Then one day I was looking at old notes I took when my boys were small and I'd push a stroller, or they'd bike or ride scooters, around Old Town Carbondale.
One entry from when the boys were about 3 and 6 read: "Teddy, since getting his new b-day scooter, gave his old one to Roy. Roy can't seem to get the hang of the 'long, powerful' pushes Teddy kept demonstrating; he just kicks-kicks with his foot, grimacing with effort, eventually sobbing. But he learned this time to keep the same foot in front."
As we'd labored along on the side of the road, we noticed which cars hustled by and which ones slowed down and even gave us extra room.
"The kids got quite into these observations," I'd written. "Teddy praised one guy who both slowed and curved away into the opposite lane.
"'That guy was great,' said Teddy.
"'I love that guy,' said Roy ardently. 'I'm going to marry him.'
"Roy's a lesbian!" hooted Teddy merrily.
That passage melted me. I gave up.
I am grateful to read of multi-agency (town, county, Red Hill Council and BLM) collaboration and grant applications to create a "safe, separate" access trail off this county road. Meanwhile, I crawl along and give everyone a huge wide berth, and they don't wreck my day and I don't wreck theirs.
- "Femaelstrom" appears on the third Saturday of each month. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale, where she is a climber, skier and magazine editor. Contact her at email@example.com.