Coincidence? Or Not…

Musings from the saddle, random and otherwise

I am not a mathematically-minded person. One look at my checkbook register will confirm that. But lately I’ve been thinking about probability and statistics while riding my bike. I’ve been reviewing the eccentricities that I’ve witnessed from the saddle, an amazing front-row seat to slices of life glimpsed for a second before whizzing past, thinking, “Did I just see what I think I saw?”

I’m not talking about the bee-in-your-sports-bra kind of thing, or the rides where you have a headwind in every direction. I’m talking about life’s weird moments that you witness just because you pedaled past at the instant they occurred.

These happen to me all the time. “You won’t believe what I just saw,” I’ve said to my husband after countless rides. When I explain, he usually replies, “I have never seen anything like that.” Which puzzles me because he is a former pro racer who has logged far more saddle time than I have.

Maybe I notice this stuff because I am a journalist, a “trained observer.” Or maybe I’m just not riding hard enough to be distracted by pain. At any rate, it’s gotten to where I say, “Guess what I saw?” and he gets that look on his face that says, “You’re making this up.”

He gave me that look when I recalled the naked guy climbing out of an irrigation ditch as I rode by. And the time I hit a cat while trying to avoid a dog. And when the same green Jeep nearly hit me two days in a row at the same intersection. And when I saw a tail-less coyote, twice.

One day I rode up to a busy intersection where an obviously stressed motorist was hunched over the wheel, trying to inch into traffic. I thought the odds were pretty good that she would floor it just as I passed in front of her hood so I made sure I caught her eye as I approached. She saw me, sat up and I rode safely by. I had pedaled another 20 seconds when I heard an engine rev, horns honk, tires screech and a terrific smashing of metal. I looked back and saw her car T-boned by another. Both drivers were climbing out, obviously unhurt, so I kept riding, shaking my head in amazement.

There is a route I ride a couple times a week and the time of day varies. Regardless, at least a third of the time I get passed by a speeding white BMW with its stereo booming. I always think, “Does he just drive back and forth all day?” Then one day it occurred to me that he was probably thinking the same thing about me: “Doesn’t this chick ever bike anywhere else?”

On this same road I passed a dead animal that looked like a miniature black wolf. I rode another mile and conveniently found two park rangers chatting on the road shoulder. I stopped, described the animal and asked what it was. They said it was a red fox and exclaimed how unusual it is when they are completely black. Two months later, riding along that same stretch, I saw another dead fox. It, too, was black. Admit it – that’s weird.

It all seems random, but is it? I mean, haven’t you ever wondered why this happens: you are biking along a quiet road when you suddenly come upon a runner whom you have to swerve around, just as cars appear from both directions and pass you. All four of you simultaneously and closely intersect the same invisible line across the road – and then you are alone again. What the heck is that?

Maybe all this randomness means something. I hear that Native Americans don’t believe in coincidence. And there is order in chaos. Whatever. All I know is cycling is great exercise, an economical way to get around, and an interesting vehicle from which to view life. It doesn’t matter if I under- stand everything I see, only that I have the opportunity to experience it and marvel, “Wow! What are the odds of that!?”