As a woman who frequently has the audacity to move around outside, I am used to being cat-called/generally creeped on. Though I obviously wish it would not occur and that society would find a way to stop this nonsense, I know that is probably not possible and try to make it as unpleasant as possible by at least being amused when they come up with something creative (So far my “favorite” was the guys who were getting stopped at the same stop lights as me and yelling “smack!” every time they drove past. Ugh, that memory makes me want to throw up a little). Usually, it is not actually that scary or dangerous-seeming, so it doesn’t bother me that much. When traveling, though, it is a different story for some reason.
Yesterday, I made one of my treks from Indiana to Pennsylvania. Usually, these are uneventful, but there have been two times where men creeping on me seriously made me feel unsafe. It is relevant on this blog because yesterday this was “brought on” (it was actually brought on by the guy being a creeper, but this was how he got me to talk to him) by my new bike.
The first time I was seriously creeped on while traveling, I never even got out of the car. I was driving down the highway and I noticed that no matter how many cars I would pass or how fast I would drive (to be fair, I’m the opposite of an aggressive driver and I never go more than 10mph above the speed limit, even that is pushing it for me), this one particular truck would keep up with me. For some reason, it seemed like it was more than a coincidence – like it was following me – so I tried speeding up and making some more unpredictable passes. Even when I got up to going 85 in a 70 mph zone, the truck kept up with me. Eventually, I wedged myself into a space where he wouldn’t fit behind me and he passed me. When he finally passed me, he held a sign up to the window that said “nice legs.” I was scared that if I stopped to pull of the highway the truck would follow, so I waited until he had passed an exit and pulled off at it (so it would be difficult for him to come back). I was pretty shaken up after that.
This time, I stopped because although my bike rack seemed secure every time I stopped to check it, and I had just checked it about 20 minutes before when I stopped for lunch, it just looked REALLY crooked on my back window and I kept having these visions of it sliding down the window and the bike crashing down on the highway and causing a giant accident (I might worry about things too much). I stopped at what seemed like a legit place – an exit with a large number of truck stops, gas stations, and restaurants and pulled into a Pilot (they are usually pretty non-shady, and to be fair to the Pilot, the truck stop itself did not seem shady at all). I get out to adjust the bike rack and a man walks up to me. He seems innocent enough at first. He asks if the bike is mine and if I mind if he asks how much I paid for it because it looks brand new. I tell him, and he starts telling me about how he builds bikes of “similar quality” (you would have to be both really lucky and a good bike mechanic to do this I think) for next to nothing by rooting through junk yards for parts. Not creepy so far, I think it is perfectly normal to ask a person about something cool they have, like a brand new bike. Then, he asks which direction I am heading – east or west. Still, not very creepy – just normal small talk. I tell him east. This is when he gets creepy. He says “Oh, it’s too bad that you aren’t single or headed out west, I was going to ask you to drive me back to Denver!” WTF DUDE. Even if I was single and headed straight to Denver there is no way that I (or anyone rational) is going to drive a stranger the whole way from southeastern Ohio (practically West Virginia) to Denver! That is not appropriate to ask anyone at all. He then starts telling me his life story and ranting about the Colorado government. It became increasingly apparent that he was basically crazy – he had some story about how he was headed out east to Baltimore for a job because his roommate blacklisted him at every employer in Denver (must have a powerful roommate) but then his truck broke down (yesterday, but for some reason he has only been waiting around 3 hours) and he can ONLY go back to Denver, not Baltimore (for unexplained reasons) and his roommate is a jerk that won’t answer his phone calls. WHAT ON EARTH. Meanwhile, I can’t really escape – my bike rack is like completely disassembled while I try to fix it. Luckily, some truck driver comes over and starts talking to me about the bicycle (but for real this time, asking if I am in any clubs, how long I’ve had it, recommending a more stable bike rack, etc), basically saving me from crazy dude. The two men then get in a fight about whether cyclists are ruining the Rocky Mountains by turning them into one giant recreational area (crazy dude’s exact words) and I am finally able to leave. I don’t think the crazy creeper dude could have hurt me, because we were in broad daylight in front of a busy truckstop, with way more people than the helpful truck driver around, but it was still super scary.
Lesson: apparently traveling brings out the creepers.
On a side note, my last 2 mile run before my half was last night! Eek! It’s so real! I’m going to run 13.1 miles in TWO days – and hopefully in under 2 hours!