“Don’t die,” Kathy told me the night before I went riding in the twisties of Tennessee.
Good advice. I like advice that is simple to follow.
The next day, half an hour into the ride, I almost died. I almost died because I did something I know I shouldn’t have done.
Here’s what happened.
There were four of us riding at a slow, controlled speed. We were riding this way because the two-lane road was hilly and narrow with lots of tight curves.
We came upon a car that was going slower than we were. We waited patiently for a little passing visibility and then went around.
A quarter-mile ahead, I saw trouble.
It was a truck trailering a big mechanical device of some sort, followed by a pickup truck.
We were gaining on them quickly. Those two trucks were traveling at twenty miles per hour. Then they hit a steep hill and slowed to ten miles per hour.
Our leader, David, came up behind the trucks as they inched up the hill. He caught them at just the right time at a short straightaway. He throttled and blew past both of them.
Now there were three of us following the two trucks as they entered tight turns with short straightaways. Hanna was behind the trailing pickup. I followed her, and Frank brought up the rear.
Hanna passed the trailing pickup.
Now she was wedged between the lead truck with the trailer and the pickup. With this lead truck going so slow and being stuck behind its big trailer, she didn’t have enough visibility to know when it was safe to pass. I saw a break ahead and decided to get past the trailing pickup truck.
As I was passing the second truck, the driver of the truck and I locked eyes. He was going 10 miles per hour and I was doing 15 miles per hour while passing him. He yelled at me, “You are going to get yourself killed!”
He rattled me.
He rattled me, because he was right. This road was too narrow and too curvy for me to pass these trucks. But pass the first one I did. Now I had in my head, “I’m going to get killed,” as I pulled in right behind Hanna who was right behind the bigger lead truck.
That’s when I almost killed Hanna and myself.
The rule of riding with a group of motorcyclists is simple. You don’t pass them when they are passing unless the rider in front of you motions, “Okay.”
Hanna didn’t motion for me to pass.
But being rattled and being a little further back from the truck in front of us, I saw a tight opportunity to pass and took it. As I was just about to pass Hanna, my peripheral vision saw her starting to move left to pass the truck, too. Thank God she saw me in her peripheral vision and returned to her lane.
But because of her initial move, I moved further left into the oncoming traffic lane. This put me dangerously close to the edge of the road which led to a fifty-foot drop. My eyes locked onto the edge of the road which brought me within what felt like a few inches of leaving the road. At the same time, I was worried about a car coming around the curve and finishing me for sure.
I screamed at myself, “Look where you are going!”
My eyes immediately looked up and then to the free space in front of the truck I was now passing. In a split second, I was safe. I successfully passed the truck and Hanna.
What a bonehead move!
Less than a minute went by and a clear passing zone appeared just ahead. There would have been no risk in passing the trucks if I just would have been patient. But I wasn’t patient.
I was rattled by the driver of the follow pickup truck. Furthermore, I was rattled just thinking of what could have happened if Hanna pulled out to pass when I did. She would have hit me, which would have sent me off the cliff. Then she would have gone down trying to avoid me, which would have landed her under the wheel of that truck.
The truck driver would have been right, “You are going to get killed.”
As entrepreneurs, we are faced with these treacherous situations every so often. We understand the hazard. We know the right thing to do. But we are rattled or get impatient and do the wrong thing. We find ourselves focused on the hazard and not where we are going.
Be patient. The road will clear. The opportunity to pass will come.
Remember Kathy’s advice, “Don’t die.”