Silver Mountain

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It was a beautiful Saturday morning when I was enjoying the gondola ride up to the top of Silver Mountain. In the winter, Silver Mountain is a ski resort, but in the summertime, it is transformed into a mountain biking playground. I spent the time on the ride up preparing myself mentally for the ride. I'm not an expert extreme rider, and I wasn't going on the most difficult trail, but I knew this wasn't going to be some light ride through the park. This was my second time riding down the mountain, and I had an understanding of how challenging it could be. The major factor to keep in mind was speed. The highest speed I had reached was 38 mph, with an average of 26 mph. That may not seem fast, but when you're going downhill on some rough and sometimes loose trails, it can really get your adrenaline going. You have to stay focused and make quick decisions, or else you could put yourself in a bad situation, and falling off at those speeds wouldn't be pleasant. 

I had made it about halfway down the 14-mile trail before I had a life-changing experience. The part of the trail I was on ran down along the side of the mountain. To the right was the mountain face, and to the left was a steep drop down the mountain. I'd just finished making a right turn around a blind corner, when I saw a hard 90-degree left turn about 30 yards ahead. Toward the outer part of the turn, I noticed a mud puddle. Wanting to go around the puddle, and going too fast to make a sharp turn under it, I went high on the outside of the turn, cutting close to the side of the mountain. There was short brush where the trail met the mountain. As I was going around the puddle and into the brush, my front tire washed out from under me, sending me flying over the handlebars. I landed face first on the ground. 

Stunned and still in shock from what occurred, I just rolled over and sat there for a few minutes. I could taste some blood, and my nose hurt a bit from being scraped along the ground. My first clear thought was that my helmet had saved my life. I was so grateful to have been wearing it, and wearing it correctly. I didn't always wear a helmet, and sometimes I would wear it unstrapped. There was a bill on the front, probably to protect from the sun and to make the helmet more aerodynamic. That piece of the helmet broke off in the fall and saved my face from potentially hitting the ground harder. I got back on my bike and finished out the ride. 

On the way home, I was still thinking about what had taken place. Why would I ever ride without a helmet, when there's always a threat of getting into an accident? Did I find the mountain to be more of a threat? 

Roads are no safer. In 2005, 784 bicyclists died on U.S. roads. Ninety-two percent of them died in crashes with motor vehicles. About 540,000 injured bicyclists visit emergency rooms every year. 

No matter how much we hear about safety, we still hear about those who didn't take the necessary safety precautions. In the Air Force, safety is something I hear about and practice on a day-to-day basis. As a supervisor, I'm responsible for holding others to the same standards. So why would I not practice safety in my personal life? All the possibilities for an accident still exist. My health and safety are still at risk. 

I hope my accident knocks some sense into you, as it did me, and I hope you take the time to evaluate the decisions you make, and make the safe one.