Back Road Rage

Oct 05, 2013 View Comments by

Back Road RageI spent several hours last Saturday exploring some fantastic southern Ohio dirt roads, some of which were little more than well-groomed trails. I only saw two cars the entire time, one coming towards me and one that I came up on from behind.

Conditions were very dry, and the dust stirred up by the vehicles was thick. It often lingers in the air for several minutes before settling, and following someone in these conditions is pure misery. I can usually hold my breath long enough to get through the worst of it when the car is coming from the other direction, but this option doesn’t work so well when following the rolling “fog machine.” Cars generally travel these roads at a much slower speed than I ride, so pulling back and waiting for the dust to settle isn’t an option.

For some reason, perhaps because someone once replaced the driver’s gray matter with butterscotch flavored school cafeteria pudding, the thought of pulling over to let the motorcycle safely pass on these very narrow roads rarely crosses the driver’s mind. After a couple of miles of following someone in these conditions, my temper usually gets the upper hand, and I generally pick a safe spot, hit the horn, and pass with a liberal amount of right wrist action. This has always been the end of the situation for me, other than returning home looking like I’ve worked a double shift in a flour factory.

A friend of mine had a different outcome, however, when he passed a car dawdling along at around twenty miles per hour on an extremely dusty road. He passed the car on a wide curve where he had some visibility, and sped up to his usual speed of around forty-five mph or so. He glanced in his rear-view mirror a minute or two later to find the car rapidly gaining on him, and responded by kicking up his speed a bit. He was riding a KLR 650, and is an accomplished rider.

To his surprise, the car responded in a like manner, and the dangerous game escalated until they were hitting eighty miles an hour on the straight sections of the dirt road, and barely clinging to control in the curves. He finally decided to stop and confront the driver, although this had potentially high risks as well in such a rural area.

The car slid to a stop behind him, and the infuriated driver immediately jumped out and began yelling at my friend, berating him for endangering his wife and infant son in the car. My friend told the driver that he himself was the one who was endangering his own family, and that he had simply passed to avoid the heavy dust stirred up by the car.

The argument escalated to the point where the driver wanted to fight. My friend, who had simply had enough of this idiot, said fine and removed his helmet and jacket. The driver then had a change of heart, and the situation began to calm down a bit until the man’s wife got out of the car and began her tirade. The driver then took the motorcycle’s license plate number and called the sheriff. My friend put his gear back on, fired up the bike, and left the car to wait for the sheriff alone. He was never notified by any law enforcement agency about the matter, and assumes the driver was told that there was no legal action that could be taken.

I guess that this story should be a reminder to all of us; whether we’re right in our actions or not, tempers can flair easily and seemingly innocuous events can lead to dangerous situations that can have potentially life-altering consequences if we’re not careful. As for myself, I’ll try to take a deep breath, pull over, and calm down the next time. Oh, I almost forgot…I can’t take a deep breath because of the dust.


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