I remember one of my worst animal encounters like it was yesterday. The scene is not only permanently etched into my brain, but it happened on my most ridden route, the one-hour long 15 mile loop that every other 2-3 hour ride is built off of, so I have to ride that section almost every time I swing a leg over the top tube.
It was a sunny day, near the tail end of those Pacific Northwest perfect summers a couple years ago. It was my favorite time of day to ride, long after an early dinner but with enough time to get a 90 minute ride along nearby farm roads just before sunset. The air was warm and thick and I was lucky on this evening to be sharing the ride with my friend Hayden who was just about to leave for college. We were buzzing along the entire ride, trading spots in the draft and flicking elbows to let the other person know when to take over. I loved riding with Hayden because he had that unlimited energy that 18 year olds have, and could make up for a lack of riding experience by pushing harder than all the other 40 year olds I normally rode with. We were absolutely flying over the rolling terrain, holding a brisk pace of nearly 25mph.
After a couple climbs, we started to descend on a long roller. Normally I hit about 35mph on the way down, then there’s a false flat, then more downhill, at which point I can get closer to 40mph in a tuck. While we’d been riding closely all day, on the descent we spaced ourselves apart as I have the physics advantage of greater mass for downhills, but Hayden can cheat the wind with a deeper tuck. On the steepest part of the second downhill pitch, we were both tucked low and screaming towards the flats ahead when I noticed something in my peripheral vision.
Hayden was just ahead...