Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Riding in China: Sprinting Away from a Snake


In July 1999 I made my first trip to China. It was a direct trip to Beijing and back. Between April 1998 and July 2001 I went overseas every month for a job I had as communications manager for a global maker of white pigment named Millennium Chemicals, Inc.

I had a day to myself at the end of the week, so I got a cab ride to a place 30 miles from the Great Wall and rode the rest of the way through the hills north of Beijing on Trek steel road bike.  As I approached the Great Wall, I was on a shaded road that had leaves lying on it--a road not used very often.  Even though there was no traffic, I rode on the right side of the road about a foot from the undergrowth along the tree-lined pavement.

Suddenly, I heard a metallic BANG! and my front wheel jerked left--not enough to flip me, but scary.  I looked down and saw a snake struck my wheel. I saw its body was whipping in the moment I glanced down. Then I looked up and sprinted to the middle of the road. I hammered the pedals for another 100 yards before I looked back. The snake was gone. I kept riding in the middle of that empty road all the way to the Great Wall.

In my travels on five continents, I have seen dead snakes in and along the road, but China is the only place I was hit by a snake.

I got to the Great Wall without further incident. I was riding in mountain bike shoes so I could climb the Wall and see what the soldiers on duty saw as they looked from this huge stone edifice.


Lucky for me, snakes have less mass than cats.  Five years before, I took a ride in an ambulance after a cat jumped from a ditch in southern Lancaster County, hit my front wheel and kept running.  I went over my handlebars and dislocated my right shoulder among other injuries.  

Compared to the cat, the snake was a piece of cake....

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