Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Plea to Torontoids: Stop using me for target practice. Please?

Went down again on Nov. 2, after a woman zoomed out of a parking lot on Harbour Street to zip across three lanes to cut me off. That makes three crashes in one season after 20 years without a single crash. The difference? I'm riding in downtown Toronto a lot.

In June, when a Pathfinder sideswiped me up on Ellesmere, I got a bruise that ran across my pubic bone, a foot high around my hip, and across my spine. This time, in November, I cracked a rib and broke a thumb. It was four weeks before I could breathe in or out without excruciating pain. Talked the hand clinic into swapping my hand cast for a thumb splint after a week -- and got the splint off right before New year's, but it still hurts.

And I got off easy. I wasn't going fast enough to go down hard and was wearing fully armored leather. I'm still angry about it, which is why I haven't yet written about how this woman zoomed out of a parking lot across three lanes of traffic to cut me off on Nov. 2. I was already angry about the Pathfinder driver who sideswiped me the last Saturday in June: he looked at the side of his van before checking to see if I was still alive. And then yelled at me for not getting out of his way when he found out I wasn't dead.

I posted a long note on Facebook after the incident, but was too upset to write about this latest event, yet. Someone chased after the woman who cut me off and asked her to come back and give her insurance information. She refused to do that, saying that she didn't have to because she hadn't hit me, before taking off again. Police disagreed: she was later charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

Both displayed egregious disregard for human life and a callous attitude toward their victim. I have been thinking a lot about why that could be and will be writing more on that subject after I've processed it.

Sorry about the gap between my last post and this one; it's not just because of going down in November. The month of September crazy busy as I tried to cram as many track days and rides as I could before a) the snow hit and b) I started a full-time contract at Yahoo Canada at the end of October. A 9-5 schedule would start limiting my rides to weekends and commuting downtown.

As it turned out, the November crash eliminated the possibility of any more fall riding and the snow came early this year. My recuperation and the new contract took my undivided attention for quite a while, but here's a short recap of September and October:

Finally got to try the Long Track at Shannonville (see the two track photos above), and it was a humbling experience. The Long Track makes Shannonville's Nelson track look like a cakewalk: more than twice as many turns -- enough that you could spend an entire day and still not be sure of the order of the turns. It's a hard track to memorize and the mixed elevation makes knowing those turns pretty important -- you can't always see what's around the turn. That many turns means memorizing the good apexes gets tricky. I crashed almost at the end of my second full lap session.

The red "X" in the pic of of the Long Track on the right indicates where I went off the track.

Here's what I posted on Facebook:

Picked a too-late apex on the second to last turn before the main straight, went egregiously wide, tried to save it by leaning more, and lowsided into the grass.

Ralph (at TO Cycle) told me it's impossible to keep a bike up when you enter grass on a lean. I wonder if the result might have been different had I'd tried to stand her up and take her into the grass on purpose. Sigh. I guess this is how you learn?

Baby: broke her shifter link, so that was the end of that track day. We were out of commission before lunch. Got a CAA tow back to TO Cycle, where Junior replaced the shifter link and did some more plastic welds. So Baby's back.

Should have taken pix of the damage; don't know why I didn't think of it. Another sign my focus was off?

I realized, (not entirely unexpectedly) that if I'm going to continue to squeeze more track days into a short time frame I'm going to have to stop riding Baby to the track the morning of the track day. I need to get a trailer, arrive at the location the night before to get a good night's sleep. Before this crash, I was running a sleep deficit. And getting up at 5 a.m. to get to the track early enough to prep the bike for an 8 a.m. start time put a big dent in my ability to focus. I used up my one long-distance CAA tow getting Baby from Shannonville to Junior at TO Cycle in Etobicoke, to get her shifter link replaced. The next distance tow would cost a mint.

I finally got on my first dirt bike -- and fell in love. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, at least to learn the basics about throttling through loose material.

Hills -- heh. That was another story. Deep, muddy ruts? Bit me twice.Just what I needed: another transportation-based obsession.

Carolina, one of the gals I was fortunate enough to meet through the Chic Riders, set us up at Trail Tours and after a morning of learning how to get knobby wheels over lumpy objects like tree branches and boulders and how to change gears while wearing Frankenboots, spent an afternoon terrorizing the trees in the Kanaraska forest. Some of the best fun you can have with your clothes on!

You can click here for more pix from the Kanaraska Forest.

Also went on a ride with my friends Equus and Rose up to Fenelon Falls. The leaves were just starting to turn red. The ride was beautiful and we found a wonderful little restaurant that overlooked the falls when we stopped for lunch.

The next week, a fall colours ride up to Collingwood drew so many riders who wanted to get one last glorious run in before the snow fell that we had to break up in six or seven groups - it was the largest ride I was on all year, after the annual ride up to Aminal & Fozzy's.

This picture shows us in a parking lot, staging the different groups, with John Reed (who'd organized the ride) getting experienced volunteers to lead each group, followed by a volunteer "sweeper" who makes sure no one gets into trouble and falls behind.

Aminal & Fozzy really outdid themselves for their annual BBQ. They do every year, but this year we were only a handful short of 500 bikes riding in one group, in staggered formation, snaking about 10 kilometres from the Elmvale Zoo to Aminal & Fozzy's house.

You read that right: 500 bikes. Aminal and Fozzy invite the entire community of bikers in the GTA to this every year, and Aminal (who's a chef) cooks up a spread you wouldn't believe. That's Aminal in the vest with all the patches on it, in the parking lot of the zoo before we got into formation for the ride.

He carves his radishes to look like wee little mousies, complete with little radish tails. I kid you not. They are SOOOOOO cute.

I was happy to see a number of first-season riders (including my new friend Goldie from the Chic Riders) join that pilgrimage. This last photo shows all the bikes parked up and down Aminal & Fozzy's street: his neighbours move their cars to make room for us. Those are VERY nice neighbours.