Monday, April 6, 2009

Blundering, Blustering, and Bicycling

"Oh, crap!" I thought as I heard my alarm go off at 6 a.m. this morning. Today, I believed, was totally going to suck.

Today was the day that I was subpoenaed to appear as a witness in the trial of the guy that was responsible for getting rear-ended by a car while riding my bike a few days before Thanksgiving.

When I received the subpoena about three weeks ago, I was surprised. His insurance company had been in touch, and the claims adjuster said that the company would assume responsibility for all of my medical expenses related to the accident and for replacing the bike that got totaled.

I was also a little pissed at the City of Houston, my sprawling metropolis, for waiting until then to contact me. In fact, I've been a little pissed at the City of Houston, my sprawling metropolis, since the day after the accident. My reasons for that are a post in itself. Let's just say, for now, that I wasn't in the most receptive frame of mind for being summoned by the municipal court . . . especially at a time of year where I'm already up to my armpits in alligators with work obligations.

So, I got up, showered, got my daughter up and dressed, and let my wife have a day off from driving the kiddo to school. Stopped by Starbucks on the way back home to get coffee for my wife and me, then returned home and surprised her with the unexpected treat. I dinked around on the computer for another hour or so, changed into a suit, hopped in the car, stopped by Barnes and Noble for some reading material (I assumed that being a witness was like answering a jury summons . . . lots of hurry up and wait), treated myself to another cup of coffee at Starbucks, then made the drive downtown.

Houston, my sprawling metropolis, has an easily navigable downtown area. The courthouse was easy to find. The entrance to the courthouse parking, on the other hand, wasn't, and I wound up getting drawn way off course by taking a wrong turn in an attempt to circle the block and come at the lot from another direction.

My navigational error took me down a neighboring street which was designated as a bike route. Houston, my sprawling metropolis, has a number of designated bike routes throughout the city. Some have what passes for bike lanes in these parts (another topic for a blog post); some streets are low traffic routes that are wide enough to accommodate bikes and cars side-by-side. This particular street (Dallas, in case you're interested) was the first one I had seen designated with "sharrows." I wonder if I'll be seeing more of those around the city over time.

Temperatures today were unseasonably cool for H-town. I thought, "I wish I were out riding today instead of doing this."

Eventually, I found a place to park, entered the courthouse, passed through security, went upstairs, and sat down in a very crowded courtroom. I took out a copy of Bicycle Times (a brand new quarterly magazine from the publishers of Dirt Rag), pulled out my reading glasses (being of that age), and started reading. My reading was interrupted several times by the bailiff checking to see if all of the subpoenaed witnesses and all of the defendants were present. I noted that the man responsible for my accident hadn't arrived yet.

After about 20 minutes, I was called to the front along with two women about my age who were also witnesses. A young, female attorney asked the three of us if any of us had been involved in the accident. I said, "Yes, I wound up flat on my back on the pavement when it happened."

"Oh, my God!" one of the women said. "You're the guy who was on the bike." The other said,"It is you! I've wondered since that day if you were all right." The first added, "Obviously, it looks like you are." I thanked them both for their help that day and for appearing as witnesses on this one.

They asked what I remembered. I told them what I remembered before and after being hit . . . especially when I tried to get up and a woman had screamed, "Don't move!" at me.

One of the women replied, "There were several of us screaming that. We feared the worst and didn't want you to wind up paralyzed." The other nodded in agreement. I told them that the first thing I did was move fingers and toes, and when they moved I decided that I was going to be OK.

The attorney told us that the defendant had "accepted responsibility" for the accident, would be serving probation, and that we were dismissed.

My thought was, "thank you City of Houston for screwing up my schedule." Then I thought, "Well, at least I get part of the day to goof off!"

On the way back to the car, I thought that since I wasn't going back to work, my daughter wasn't out of school for several hours, and the day was sunny and cool, I should think about going for a bike ride.

By the time I got home, I was hungry and tired. I had a sandwich, read a little, and fell asleep in the recliner for a few minutes. When I awoke, I thought it might be nice to just hop on my Giant Cypress in jeans and a t-shirt and take a short ride.

During my nap, the wind had picked up. The Cypress tends to be slow; with a head wind as strong as the one I was looking at, I'd hardly get enough miles covered in the time I had to make it worthwhile.

My daughter had given me a couple of ankle straps for my birthday. So, I wrapped those around my pant legs, hopped on my Specialized Cross Trail, and took off.

A strong wind, with some pretty stout gusts, blew from the NNW. Even with the increased gearing options on the Cross Trail, it was going to be a slow ride.

A woman pulled up beside me as I waited at a light to make a left turn. She asked me if I was going to be turning in the traffic lane. I told her I was. She told me that she was headed for the entrance to an apartment complex about halfway down the block on the left. I told her I'd turn and pull over to the right as quickly as possible so that I'd be out of her way. She waited behind me for me to get from the left lane to the bike lane on the far right. I said a quick prayer of thanks for her thoughtfulness.

Riding was every bit as slow as I thought it would be. When riding west or north, I had to gear down quite a bit; I didn't feel like hammering at all today.

I rode a trail around an earthen dam on the west side of town. A lot of wild flowers were planted on the berm. The other day, I noticed some pink flowers (that I don't know the name of) and some Indian Paintbrush mixed amongst the grass and fire ant mounds. Today, I noticed some Bluebonnets and some thistles. Had I been riding at my usual speed, I would have seen them anyway, but I don't think I would have enjoyed them at much. While admiring the flowers, I hardly noticed the substantial headwind (except when a monster gust would hit me).

An hour later, I had ridden a grand total of eight miles. Since I only had a couple of hours to ride, I turned around.

The return trip took 23 minutes, and that included sitting through a couple of lengthy stoplights and a crosswalk full of kids coming home from school.

Oh, yeah, and I made my first entry in this blog.

It turned out to be a good day. I'm grateful.