We had a beautiful weekend here in Connecticut, sunny with temperatures in the 60s and low 70s, and I was fortunate to be able to ride Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Sadly, my riding is not up to the level it was last year, and it’s not likely ever to reach that level this year, given the various interruptions I’m facing. (Although some of the interruptions are good ones — only 1 1/2 weeks until Ireland!) But still, I’m enjoying myself. I ride some on my own but often with friends, and I’ve found that riding a bike is a great context in which to have a conversation. It gives me at least an hour to talk, although often much longer, and it’s a low pressure situation: it’s not awkward if you’re not talking the entire time, because you’re busy doing something else: riding. You are free to be quiet and ride if you want. Or you can talk the entire time, and the interruptions — getting out of the way of traffic, letting a loud truck go by — don’t matter much. In fact, they offer time to think about the conversation and plan what to say next. The interruptions also make it easy to bring up a new topic without awkwardness. Conversations are also much more fun when you are pumped full of adrenaline. Everyone is wittier and laughter comes much more quickly when you’ve been working hard and are feeling both pleasantly tired and full of energy.
Yesterday’s group ride was an odd one, though. It was 60 very hilly miles, and I rode with four other people, including Hobgoblin. About halfway through, I was riding with a friend about a quarter mile ahead of the others, and we passed three horses and two riders coming from the other direction. I didn’t think much of it — we were in horse farm country. A couple minutes later, though, I heard a clopping noise behind me. My first thought was that someone’s bike was making some very strange noises, but then I realized that it was a horse. My second thought was that it was strange for a rider to be galloping down the left side of the road, into oncoming traffic and uncomfortably close to me. Then the horse passed me, at top speed, and I realized it had no rider. And then another horse galloped past me, also at top speed, also with no rider. My friend started to panic, and we pulled over to the side of the road as she told me horror stories about friends getting kicked by horses. We looked back, and fortunately there were no more horses galloping at us. We waited for the other riders to catch up, but they didn’t appear. Finally a woman on a horse — thankfully fully under her control — came along and told us there had been a bad accident. She rode on without giving us any more information than that.
This time I panicked along with my friend. I have heard way too often about bad accidents and cyclists, and, unfortunately, Hobgoblin tends to be accident prone. If anyone is going to have a run-in with a horse while riding a bike, it quite possibly could be him. I was having visions of horse/cyclist run-ins, ambulances, concussions, broken bones, everything you can imagine. We headed back down the road trying to keep calm, and you can understand my relief when I saw the entire group all upright, everyone’s bike in working order. It turns out the horses had gotten spooked by the cyclists behind me. One of them had thrown its rider, and it and one of the other horses took off down the road. Everyone watched as they galloped toward my friend and I, yelling at us to get out of the way, but we couldn’t hear anything. Fortunately, the horses weren’t interested in knocking us down. Unfortunately, the woman thrown from her horse was hit hard enough to crack her helmet, although she didn’t want help and seemed to be okay.
We felt concerned for the woman who had taken the fall, but the situation felt so bizarre we rode the rest of the way home laughing. I kept saying I know this is horse country, but I never expected to be chased by them! It’s really kind of funny the way strange things happen to you when you spend hours out on your bike. There’s no way of knowing what any ride will bring. I have learned, though, to steer well clear of horses out on the road, no matter how calm they seem.