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Friday
Dec212007

My accident, part I: Lessons learned

A settlement has been reached regarding a claim resulting from my accident last year.

The accident happened on December 5th 2006 when a female driver in an SUV traveling in the opposite direction, made a left turn in front of me and I ran head first into the side of the vehicle.

I was wearing a helmet at the time, but still sustained a hairline skull fracture. I had multiple bruises and the worst injury was damage to a nerve in my right eye, resulting in double vision.

The double vision was severe at first but has gradually improved to slight. Every morning when I wake, my eyes are in perfect focus, but after I have been up for 15 minutes of so, my vision goes back to double. Doctors tell me the fact that my vision varies tells them that it will return to normal in time.

I am not going to talk about the settlement itself, but now the case is resolved I can write about the accident and what I learned from this whole episode.

Lessons I learned here might be of value to others, either in avoiding a similar accident, or learning what to do should you be unfortunate enough to be in one.

The accident happened on Savannah Hwy., Charleston, South Carolina. This is a busy main road, two lanes of traffic either side, with a center turn lane. The businesses on both sides of this particular section are mostly car dealerships.

I was traveling south, it was a clear sunny day. A strong wind was blowing behind me so I was probably doing at least 25 mph. There was a steady flow of traffic in both lanes beside me, traveling in my direction. Because of this, I was not expecting anyone to turn in front of me, from the center lane.

I had just come through a traffic light, which was green, but I believe it changed to red right after I passed through. The result was, this person was sitting in the center lane waiting to turn, and did so when all the residual traffic had passed.

The problem is cars are faster than bicycles, so when the last motorized vehicle went through I was lagging behind. The driver did not see me, partly because I was hidden by the flow of traffic, but mainly because the driver was concentrating on the “gap” in traffic.

When that gap came the driver “floored it” to get quickly across the two opposing lanes. The driver then slowed to almost a complete stop to negotiate the ramp over the curb.

This gave me no chance; I was about 20 feet away when the vehicle appeared in front of me. I had about one second to react, and swerved to the left to go behind it and I might have made it had the vehicle kept moving, but the driver stopped giving me no chance.

What annoys me is, these SUVs are depicted in TV ads driving up the side of a mountain, over boulders almost as big as the vehicle. In real life a driver slows to almost a complete stop to negotiate a four inch ramp up a curb.

Lessons I learned here. Be aware of vehicles in the center lane, waiting to turn across my path. Be aware of traffic behind me, mainly by turning my head slightly and listening.

If there is a vehicle behind me that is my protection, but if there is no one behind me, look out. There maybe a gap in traffic and the person turning may not have seen me.

It may be to my advantage, if safe to do so, to move to the left to the center of the lane. This means the driver turning is more likely to see me, and if they do turn in front of me, gives me more room to maneuver and swerve behind them.

On Monday I will post a second part and talk about what you can do to protect your rights, if you are as unfortunate as I was, to be involved in an accident.

Wednesday
Dec192007

Correctness

Is it just me, or has the whole “Political Correctness” issue regarding Christmas, now become a non-issue or in many ways a huge joke?

All my life this time of year has been Christmas, then a few years ago I found I couldn’t refer to the season as Christmas, I had to say “Happy Holidays.”

I am not a practicing Christian, neither do I subscribe to any other religion or set of rules, so at first it didn’t bother me one way or another.

Then some seven or eight years ago, I was living in Eugene, Oregon. The city council decided they couldn’t put up a Christmas Tree outside City Hall because it went against the Church and State issue.

That pissed me off. Maybe I’m just a big kid but I liked seeing the decorated tree and all the lights and other stuff that went with it. To me, I didn’t have to be a practicing Christian to enjoy the spirit of the season.

A time of giving, goodwill to all men and all that goes with it; a time to celebrate life. Taking away the tree, and the lights, and decorations somehow took away from that.

What annoyed me even further was when I read in the local paper that firefighters in Eugene, who had to work Christmas Day, couldn’t have a tree at the fire station.

Traditionally, their families and children would come to the station to be with them, because they could not be at home. One of the men put a Christmas Tree in the back of his truck, to get around the ban, and everyone went down to the parking lot to exchange gifts.

Out of pure cussedness, I went back to wishing everyone a "Merry Christmas." As I see it, December 25th is Christmas Day, (It says so on my calendar.) and therefore the weeks leading up to that day is the Christmas Season.

My attitude is, they can take away my tree, but they can’t take away my right to say whatever I please. If others are offended, it is their choice to take offence, and not my intention to offend by uttering the words.

Now most people I speak to are of a similar opinion and are saying and doing whatever suits them.

What happens in America has a way of spreading to the rest of the world, and it usually takes a year or two. I recently had a WTF moment when I read that a certain town in England had decided to go with a “Harry Potter” theme for the holiday season, instead of the usual Christmas one.

If there is any political correctness left out there, just think about wishing someone a “Happy Harry Potter-mas,” and laugh about it, otherwise we will all go insane.

Sunday
Dec162007

Raymond Poulidor: A working class hero

Three won the Tour de France multiple times; however, Raymond Poulidor never won, or for that matter never wore the race leader's Yellow Jersey during any of the Tours.

He did place second in 1964, 1965, and 1974; and placed third in 1962, 1966, 1969, 1972, and 1976. He entered the Tour de France 14 times and finished 12 times; he was consistently in the top ten.

He had a longer career than is usual for a professional cyclist. His first major victory was in the classic Milan-San Remo in 1961. His third place in the Tour in 1976, came at age 40.

His inability to win the Tour de France won him the nick-name in the press as the "Eternal Second." However in spite of this he was immensely popular with the French public, and was more often than not known affectionately as "Pou Pou."

During the first part of his career, Poulidor had to race against Jacques Anquetil, and although the former could get the better of Anquetil on the bigger climbs, he lacked Anquetil's tactical ability, especially in the discipline of the time-trial. Poulidor’s riding style was aggressive and attacking, whereas Anquetil would control the race in the climbing stages, then win in the time trial.

There was always intense rivalry between these two riders. (Pictured together, left.) Anquetil was the top French rider of his day, and it always irked him that Poulidor was in many ways more popular with the French public, and was often given more favorable coverage in the French press.

For example in 1965, when Poulidor was perceived to have received more credit for dropping Anquetil the previous year on the Puy-de-Dôme than Anquetil had received for winning the whole Tour.

Long after their retirement, Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor would finally become friends. Anquetil died of stomach cancer in 1987, and the day before he died, he told Poulidor, “Once again my friend you will be second to me.”

In the latter half of his career after Anquetil had retired, Poulidor could still not win the Tour de France. He was then up against Eddy Merckx, considered by most to be the greatest cyclist ever. He does hold one record, in that he finished in the top three in the Tour de France no fewer than eight times. No one has done that before or since.


Today Raymond Poulidor is still immensely popular with the French people; see above as he signed autographs in October 2006. (Picture by Thierry Malaval.)

When asked in a national survey in 1991, which man they would like to invite for a Christmas dinner, a French audience overwhelmingly answered Raymond Poulidor, beating out famous movie stars.

What could be the reason for such popularity? He came from peasant stock, from the farming midlands of France. He speaks with a regional accent; in other words, he is a "Working Class Hero."

There is something about a person who attains success in life, but they retain their "down-to-earth" qualities that the ordinary man on the street can relate to. Think of the continuing popularity of rock stars like Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young; they have that same working class persona.

Or maybe Raymond Poulidor’s popularity was in the fact that he never did win the big one, but at the same time never gave up trying. The world will always admire such spirit, that of the underdog.

Friday
Dec142007

Velo News


The number of readers on my blog has steadily increased this year from 100 visitors a day in January, to 500 a day at the beginning of December. It always drops down a little on the weekends, but stays pretty steady Monday through Friday.

Last Tuesday Velo News featured this blog as “Site of the day,” and the number of hits that day shot up to over 5,000. It has since dropped back again, as Velo News moved on to feature other sites of the day.

When things level out again it will be interesting to see how many new readers I pick up. All this has made me realize that I am only scratching the surface when it comes to the number people who read the stuff I write here.

These last three days there have been new comments on some of my older blogs. This tells me that new readers are going back through the old stuff. Don’t forget to look at the “Archives” page on my website; this lists almost 200 articles on a single page.

All this increased activity here and on my website has meant that my Web Host is having to move my personal site to another server. Because of this, www.ProdigalChild.net will be down for about an hour on Saturday, December 15, sometime between noon and 5:00 pm. (EST.)

I thank Velo News for posting the link, and Chris, the guy who wrote and told VN about Dave’s Bike Blog. Thanks to all the regular readers, I see you as my extended circle of friends. And welcome to new readers, I hope you will stick around.

Wednesday
Dec122007

It must be all this talk about cycling is the new golf

If you Google “PGA Drug Testing” you will find many conflicting views whether professional golf should, or should not test for performance enhancing drugs.

One thing is clear, to the top officials of that sport; “de Nile” is not just a river in Egypt. Or is it denial.

To hear PGA officials talk, golfers apparently do not cheat they play by the rules. After all, they keep their own score cards, and if people cheated the whole system would break down.

PGA Tour Chief Tim Finchem said if he had any indication a player was using illegal drugs, he likely would confront the player. All righty then, that takes care of that problem.

I know sod all about golf, in fact I have little interest in any sport that involves a hitting a ball, running after a ball, much less searching for a ball in the long grass; so why am I even writing about this?

I am tired of reading articles by sports writers who hold up cycling as the worst case example of a sports organization failing to control the use of illegal substances.

Pointing the finger and saying, “We are not like those guys.” It is easy to pick on cycling because it doesn’t have the fan base of say the NFL, Baseball, or for that matter the PGA.

I believe the fan of cycle sport is actually more concerned about the use of illegal substances than NFL or Baseball fans, most of whom could care less. The reason being most cycle-race fans, at least in the US and the UK, actually ride a bike, whereas fans of the major sports are mostly non-participating spectators.

The nature of the war on illegal substance use is the same as the war on crime, one side trying to detect, and the other side avoiding detection. A war that is ongoing with no winner, and no clear end.

It seems logical to me that illegal substances used in cycling would be basically the same as those used in other sports. So if cycling does not have control over the issue, then neither does any other sport that has a drug testing policy in place. This would include the PGA, if and when they start testing.

Implementing drug testing does not immediately stamp out the problem; I doubt there is one sports controlling body that has a complete handle on the issue yet, and there won’t be. Professional sport is big money, and so too is the manufacture of illegal substances.

It used to be just about dope, stimulants that give more energy; now it is body-altering chemistry. Not just bulking up like a football player, but lower, often-undetectable doses of human growth hormones, building lean body mass, enhancing the strength of the athlete.

I have written about this before, but it stands repeating. I believe there has always been dope use in all professional sport throughout history since performance enhancing drugs have existed, for this simple reason. Professional sport is entertainment, and the greater the athletic performance the greater the entertainment value, which translates into more money for sports promoters, the athlete, and the people managing the athlete.

When big money is involved, unfortunately, it is human nature in some to look for an edge in improving performance, and professional golf is definitely big money. Are cyclists any less human than golfers, or vice-versa? Or any other professional athlete for that matter.

No one can convince me that lean body mass, and extra strength would not help a golfer hit a ball further. Professional golf officials need to get their head out of their ass and get with the times. Denial of a problem is not a cure for a problem.

In addition, sports writers need to back off, and give the sport of cycling a break; at least officials of the sport are trying. The UCI was criticized in the past for doing nothing; now there is large scale testing and a few offenders are getting caught, they are still criticized. They find themselves in an unenviable no win situation.

Cycling happened to be one of the first to be exposed for doping; most other sports have since had to deal with the same problem.

Just because cycling was first, doesn’t make them the worst, any more than thinking because professional golf is one of the last to implement drug testing, makes them squeaky clean.


The picture at the top is from an article in the Wall Street Journal, called “Golf, Drugs and Denial” by John Paul Newport.