"I've been hit harder before," I told the driver of the PT Cruiser as I tried to convince her I wasn't hurt bad and that she really could get back in her car (which now sported a dented hood after decking me and my bicycle Friday afternoon) and drive away. "I hope not!" she exclaimed.
It was true that I have had harder falls before (both on a bicycle and once courtesy of an angry man I was arguing with about sidewalk etiquette back years ago when I was a journalist working in lower Manhattan). But I've never been hit by a car while on a bicycle before. And I'm grateful that -- even though she _didn't_ see me before she pulled out of the parking lot she was in onto busy Commack Road -- she _did_ see me (rolling up onto her hood before falling back onto the ground) in time to stop her car before the wheels crushed me.
But, despite coming out of it with only mostly minor scrapes and bruises (even my bike is _mostly_ ok) -- I've been thinking about the accident a lot since it happened. I know all too well that bicycle accidents can have emotional impacts well beyond any physical ones -- an accident I had when I was a freshman in college (I was 'doored' in Boston) scared me away from serious bicycle riding for over 20 years. Cycling, on some level, requires a certain kind of fearlessness even to get on the road at all. At the very least, you need to _trust_ that the drivers in the cars constantly passing you on your left will not hit you if they see you.
I'm not sure if I've lost my 'fearlessness', but I did get back on the road for a little bit today, riding around Sag Harbor with Minna and her Mom. Minna and I are here after almost a week of bike touring as vacation. We rode from our home in West Reading, PA, to the Jersey Shore (no, I did not see Snooki!) where we picked up a ferry to lower Manhattan and then the Long Island Railroad to my Mom's house. It was one of the best bike tours I have ever done. Not in terms of scenery (although we did have some very good riding, especially the last 10 or 15 miles in PA on the way to cross the Delaware in Washington's Crossing). But in terms of the _real_ goal of a bike tour -- 'getting away' -- it really worked. I forgot about all the stress of the hardworking (but great!) summer I had just had teaching pastoral care at JTS (Jewish Theological Seminary), and about the upcoming final year of coursework (and much uncertainty) for my doctorate at NYU. All that mattered was the road and pushing one-pedal-at-a-time to cross it. And all the places we passed by and through. The bucolic fields of PA. The slums of Trenton (where are you now, Stephanie Plum?). The historic tow path along the Delaware and Raritan rivers. A shady tree where we had collapsed for a rest and where a man sounding like Tony Soprano in a Cadillac SUV asked us if "you guys are alright" because "you're on my property." The great taste -- enhanced by our exercising so hard -- of fresh tomatoes and peaches from a farm stand where we took a break. . . . But mostly it was just great having an adventure together, just the two of us -- very cool.
Now a couple of more days here near the sea where I will be able to get daily to the salt water to help heal my scrapes (and the wounds on my psyche and soul) and then back to 'the world" . . . . and soon the chagim (High Holidays) and a chance to ask God for another year. . . . . I hope it is a rich one for everyone!
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