In which I relate the fantastic story of an early evening bike ride turned ugly...
After a hard, sweaty ride, I arrived at the park. I had biked here more than once before, and each time I had simply gone past the empty gate booth. This time there was an official-looking "ranger" type manning it. He asked me, "Do you have Palo Alto resident identification?"
"Palo Alto has ID cards?"
"No, but I need some kind of proof that you're a Palo Alto resident."
I offered him my Stanford ID card. "Is this good enough?"
"Stanford is chartered with the county of Santa Clara, not with Palo Alto. Sorry."
"I guess I'll be on my way then." I turned around in the driveway.
"Feel free to fill up your water bottle on the way out."
Assholes. Like I don't spend enough money in Palo Alto or something. Where the hell else can I go, after all?
I decided to see whether I could make it any farther uphill in my tired state. There was a road sign next to the park that said "Winding Road Next 6 Miles". I knew from an earlier drive that signs like this were placed every mile along this road, so I decided to try to make it to the next one.
Ten minutes and maybe three-quarters of a mile farther along, my leg muscles screaming, I called it quits. I did a U turn in the middle of the road and let gravity carry me back from where I'd come. Very soon I zapped back by the park entrance.
Before I knew it, I was flying around the tightest, scariest curves on the way down. Even applying my brakes I was nervous. A car glided slowly up behind me. Given the narrow and twisty blind curves there, I was uncomfortable with the idea of being passed, so I grabbed the middle of the lane, taking advantage of my right to do so under California state law.
Seconds later and just a little bit down the road, the road opened up into wider and safer curves, with better visibility. I eased over to the right and let the car pass. The driver blatted the horn rudely on the way past, so I returned the sentiment with the traditional one-finger salute. The car slowed and stopped. For a moment I wondered if the driver had decided to apologize. I veered to the left to pull up to the driver-side window and find out.
The car surged forward. I quickly figured out that the driver wanted to play a game of cat and mouse, with me as the mouse. He would start off moving slowly, then as I came down the hill, powered by gravity, he would let me approach close, then stomp on the brakes, with his goal for me to run into his back bumper or veer off into the opposing lane on the left or the steep slope on the right. In other words, his game was attempted murder, not a very mature or appropriate response to a rude gesture.
The first time I screeched and skidded to a halt just back of his bumper, I looked at the license plate, but it was a dealer plate, with no identifying numbers visible. The second time, I decided that two could play at this game. Instead of heading straight down the road, I veered left again, as if to pass him. He brought his car across to block me. I veered to the right, and he dodged back into the lane.
He had taken the bait. A car approached in the opposing lane as I continued to dodge and weave from side to side. As I had hoped, he was too busy watching me in the rear view mirror to carefully watch the road ahead of him. I made a final twist to the left and he followed. The other car's horn sounded. Through the rear window, I saw his head turn toward the opposing car, then a desperate twist of the wheel to the right, overcorrecting. Its brake lights were an angry red in the gathering twilight as his car bumped down the rough incline. It rolled once, then twice, and ended up on its roof.
I had to turn sharply and brake, myself, but I was expecting it and continued down the hill with no further trouble. Out of courtesy, I stopped at a pay phone to inform the appropriate authorities that there had been an accident. I made the call anonymously, of course, there being no reason to become any more involved than I already had.
Thinking back, it's kind of funny the way I feel about it. You'd think that I'd feel good about it, both because I won and because I helped to get rid of a real sociopath, not to mention the fact that he'd been trying to kill me. But actually I feel kind of guilty, as if it was my fault. I suppose the feeling will go away with time. In fact, just a few hours later I find myself wondering whether it really happened at all, and so perhaps you should too...