Thankful, Part I

11.24.2009 | 8:20 am

Tomorrow I plan to write my annual list of things, people, and events that I’m thankful for. Today, though, I want to write about one particular event and something that didn’t happen that from time to time (yesterday most recently) pops into mind, completely unbidden (and, honestly, unwanted).

And every time I remember it, I am incredibly thankful things worked out the way they did.

This happened back when I lived in Orem, Utah. I was driving home in the family minivan, going up Gold River Drive, as I did pretty much every day.


I was driving pretty slow — there were a lot of kids in that neighborhood.

Then, I noticed, behind a car — parked just about where you see the one in this photo — one of my next-door-neighbor’s kids. He was just standing behind that car, not walking anywhere.

But he looked skittish to me. Like he might bolt right in front of me, across the street.

So, as I got close, I tapped the brakes, slowing down just a little bit. Just in case he did run.

Which, as it turns out, was an incredibly fortunate decision, though not for the obvious reason.

The boy didn’t move at all. However, the instant before I pulled past the car parked on the right side of the road, the boy’s sister shot out past the front of that parked car on her Big Wheel.

Right in front of me, and right past. She had just zoomed down the sloped yard — between the trees — on the right side of the road, across the sidewalk, in front of the the parked car, and over over to the opposite side of the road.

I never saw her until she was right in front of me, and then she was past. I missed her by maybe two feet. Maybe just one.

The kids’ mom, who had witnessed the whole thing, called out to me, laughing. “I’m glad you’re watching out for my kids!” she yelled.

She didn’t realize that I had never seen her daughter, and hadn’t slowed down for her at all. I had tapped my brakes for a completely unrelated reason — her son looking a little bit like he might make a break for it.

She didn’t realize that I had just not run over her daughter in front of her because of a very lucky accident.

I drove the remaining 50 feet to my house, parked the van, and went inside. Where I sat down on the floor, with violent shakes and nausea. Considering what had almost happened.

And so thankful it hadn’t.


  1. Comment by Jessica | 11.24.2009 | 8:38 am

    This is extremely moving. I am thankful for that, too.

  2. Comment by Sara | 11.24.2009 | 8:45 am

    You have good karma. Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. Comment by bikemike | 11.24.2009 | 9:03 am

    Gobble, Gobble, to everyone. The attitude of gratitude.

  4. Comment by geraldatwork | 11.24.2009 | 9:04 am

    Wishing you and everyone else a Happy Thanksgiving.

  5. Comment by rightbehindyou | 11.24.2009 | 9:12 am

    “And HE will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways, lest you strike your foot agaist a stone” or child on a big wheel … (a Warrior King’s prayer) Thankful as well for all the things that never do happen!

  6. Comment by Leslie | 11.24.2009 | 9:13 am

    Good post. We are probably all oblivious to many immense dangers we’ve missed out on through luck like this.

    Thinking of you and your family during these holidays…

  7. Comment by Boodabikes | 11.24.2009 | 9:30 am

    I grew up near where you live, Fatty, in Cedar Hills. 25 years ago there were not as many houses as there are now and we would race bikes, big wheels, and homemade soap box racers down the winding streets giving parents heart attacks and thrombo’s. Now I’m teaching my teenagers to drive and think back on my stupidity everytime I get in the passenger seat. I’m thankful for moments like these.

  8. Comment by Heather S | 11.24.2009 | 9:41 am

    I’ve got to say, I think cyclists are some of the best drivers. You get in the habit of being vigilant, are conscious of the damage your vehicle could do, and maybe go a little slower than most when the situation calls for it. Too many drivers treat their car more like a living room than the potentially lethal moving object that it is. Well done! I wish more of the people on my street would realize that you never know when someone’s child or pet may unexpectedly appear. One more reason to be thankful for bikes!

  9. Comment by Bill Martin | 11.24.2009 | 9:50 am

    So glad you were paying attention even though it was focused on the wrong event. Imagine a driver on a cell phone … don’t think of it, too scary.

  10. Comment by Tommy F | 11.24.2009 | 9:52 am

    God bless you. I drive without haste and very defensively. Maybe, just maybe I have saved a life in the past 30 years. It’s clear you did.

  11. Comment by Kathy McElhaney | 11.24.2009 | 10:17 am

    I think we can all be thankful for many things that have not happened.

  12. Comment by OldManUtah | 11.24.2009 | 10:28 am

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! Please drive safe where ever you may be going. It be awesome if we had a zero fatality holiday!

    Thank you for making us think Fatty!

  13. Comment by PennyPue | 11.24.2009 | 10:29 am

    Cul de sac? I’m really worried about mom’s attitude. You had a ‘by the grace of God’ moment. Should have been a warning to her to tell the kids not to play in the street. Way too many parents believe buying a home on a deadend street means their kids are safe. False hopes. Kids are safest when they’re taught to behave safely.

    Scares me just thinking about what you experienced. I think Mom and I would have had a very interesting talk. And a big flag on the back of the big wheel!!

    Nope, not a cul de sac. But I had / have the same reaction to her laughing. – FC

  14. Comment by Rantwick | 11.24.2009 | 10:33 am

    Whew! Stuff like that freaks us all out. Good work on relating your good luck.

  15. Comment by ksteinhoff | 11.24.2009 | 11:20 am

    I had one of those experiences a couple of months ago.

    I was leaving a Florida Bicycling Association meeting with three other members in the car when a little girl about three years old broke away from her mother and darted out into the street between parked two parked cars.

    Luckily I caught the motion out of the corner of my eye and locked down the brakes. The car bumper was about 18 inches from her when I stopped.

    If I had been going faster or not caught the movement in my peripheral vision, the outcome would have been a lot different. I’m not sure who was more shaken up, the mother or my passengers and me. The little girl had no clue how close she had come to never having another birthday.

    I guess that’s something I hadn’t thought to add to my Thanksgiving count. Thanks for the reminder.

  16. Comment by Clydesteve | 11.24.2009 | 11:51 am

    What rightbehindyou said.

    Have a happy & grateful Thanksgiving, all.

    Go Beavers!

  17. Comment by Jenny-Jenny | 11.24.2009 | 11:55 am

    What a blessing! I am so glad that little boy was there.

  18. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 11.24.2009 | 11:57 am

    We have all had those “but for the grace of God” moments – I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count up all the really stupid things I did when I was growing up that should have landed me in the hospital or worse, or times when that little something caught my attention and let me avoid something quite tragic, either on my own part or as you point out in this instance, on the part of someone else. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? It doesn’t seem that this amazing luck that seems to hit us all from time to time can be pure coincidence.

    Thanks for the reminder that we have more than just our possession to be thankful for. Family, friends, and their love and support get us through the rough spots, and everything else is a bonus.

    Happy Thanksgiving

  19. Comment by Haven (KT) | 11.24.2009 | 12:29 pm

    I would have stopped and given that mom a piece of my mind, a la “yeah, I was looking out for your kid because obviously you aren’t”.

    I also think that cyclists make better drivers, for the same reasons Heather wrote.

  20. Comment by Bruce Bebow | 11.24.2009 | 12:32 pm


  21. Comment by Heidi | 11.24.2009 | 1:22 pm

    Whoa, there’s a mom who needs to keep closer tabs on her kids. I’m a big believer in listening to my “little voice”, and it sure paid off for you AND your neighbors’ family.

  22. Comment by GJ Jackie | 11.24.2009 | 2:42 pm

    Some kids have more to be thankful for than they’ll ever know. Maybe I do too.

  23. Comment by Cyclin' Missy | 11.24.2009 | 2:46 pm

    Thanks for being an attentive driver! Your caution gave you the chance to respond to something that you didn’t even know you had to respond to at the time. Someone’s looking out for you and those kids! Thanks!

  24. Comment by AngieG | 11.24.2009 | 3:23 pm

    You know FC we all have had those moments when after the fact you know a higher power was watching over you. My husband missed being part of a head on collision last week by inches. Literally. The truck directly in front of him hit some ice on a bridge and lost control striking an oncoming truck, then burst into flames. The oil from the collision sprayed all over my husbands jeep as he tried to stop. He stopped to help, but the driver that lost control died on impact.
    I am truly thankful this Thanksgiving for the things I have and have not gotten.

    Thank you so much for helping us all remember this.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  25. Comment by FNEditor | 11.24.2009 | 3:39 pm

    It’s really amazing the way God watches over little children.

    I can think of two particular instances in which my baby girl was only millimeters away from cracking her head open on some piece of furniture or other. I’m sure it will happen one day, but so far so good.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  26. Comment by Kathleen | 11.24.2009 | 4:25 pm

    My heart is still in my throat after reading this post.

  27. Comment by Mike Roadie | 11.24.2009 | 5:52 pm



  28. Comment by sharon | 11.24.2009 | 6:35 pm

    just a small reminder that miracles happen daily, we just need to recognize them
    Happy Thanksgiving

  29. Comment by Rachel | 11.24.2009 | 7:54 pm

    I am also thankful that you didn’t hit his sister. And that I didn’t hit a dumb cyclist the other day. And that my husband (who is not as attentive a driver as I am) did not hit the smart cyclist a couple weeks ago (who works at the bike shop. That would have been embarrassing.) And that any number of dumb drivers haven’t hit me (as I am a particularly smart cyclist). And that any number of smart and dumb drivers didn’t hit me, before I was a smart cyclist (ie, before I took the Bike Class, and thought we were “supposed” to bicycle on sidewalks, as though anyone anywhere in city planning has ever thought about what cyclists are “supposed” to do–what’s a cyclist again?)

  30. Comment by Linda | 11.24.2009 | 8:11 pm

    similar incident last winter..driving in my hood…come around a corner and for some reason I just stopped and a kid on a sled comes flying right in front of me from his driveway. I would have killed him. I could not even drive the car the block home I was so shaken. I think it is truly guardian angels.

  31. Comment by jill | 11.24.2009 | 8:45 pm

    Wow. That’s pretty spooky.

  32. Comment by eric | 11.24.2009 | 9:13 pm

    Life is full of moments we have no control over but a win is still a win.

  33. Comment by justrun | 11.24.2009 | 9:42 pm

    Close calls like this, that you remember, that speak to you, have got to be the work of something bigger. I’ve had a few, both on foot and as a driver, and they make me the cautious, slow granny, thankful driver I am today without a doubt.

  34. Comment by 96hookooekoo | 11.24.2009 | 11:13 pm

    I have kids, I live by a high school, the kids leaving school drive 35-40mph down our road which is a 25mph. Called the cops on many occasions but nothing gets done. One day I go running into the road to stop a kid racing down the road, he slowed down but didn’t stop. I jumped up, placed both my hands through his windshield as he ran into me. The word must have got our around school, very few kids speed down our road now. I appreciate drivers,such as yourself, who are conscientious in the neighborhoods.

  35. Comment by Sasha | 11.24.2009 | 11:58 pm

    Wow. That story made me think and made me nauseous. I’m so thankful it had the ending that it did. I’m thankful for finding your columns, for being able to share Susan’s last moments on Earth through your blog. I’m thankful for so very many things and try to remember to be thankful every day, not just on Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for my wonderful husband and our family and friends, for my three wonderful dogs (they are my kids), and for all the wonderful things that God continues to bless me with even though I don’t deserve it. Happy Thanksgiving Elden! I hope it is a spectacular one!

    Your fan from Alaska :)

  36. Comment by stevearino | 11.25.2009 | 12:25 am

    Your post today reminds me when I was learning to ride, about 5 or 6 years old, without parental supervision I took it upon myself to solo ride. Without realizing the consequences, I flew out of the garage, down the steep’ish driveway into the street lost control and crashed in front of a car carefully driving through the neighborhood. I was lucky I didn’t get squashed. No one else saw. I didn’t tell my parents, and I’m sure the guy in the car felt like you did, to him I apoligize. You did the right thing, like you always have. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

  37. Comment by Powerful Pete | 11.25.2009 | 6:25 am

    Bravo. Instincts of a defensive driving cyclist and a parent (you always get that strange feeling when kids are going to do something silly…).

    Again, be careful out there guys.

  38. Comment by KillBillVelo | 11.25.2009 | 12:33 pm

    Trust your instincts…

    Have a nice holiday Fatty…

  39. Comment by cece | 11.25.2009 | 4:03 pm

    I read the blog this am and have been thinking about it all day! This blog and the Fat Cyclist “people” feel like extended family. Many of us are bound together through the cancer connection and we have shared the many laugh out loud moments and then the many heartfelt tears…I look forward to reading Fatty and hearing what we are all saying and it does feel kinda like home to me….I am thankful for this wonderful community…a community that cares!

  40. Comment by Dobovedo | 11.25.2009 | 4:54 pm

    I’d like to think that shortly after the incident, the mother replayed it in her head, and realized just how lucky the little girl was, and how lucky ALL of you were. And that she taught her children a lesson. And that they are all still healthy and happy.

    That would be nice.

  41. Comment by mregel | 11.25.2009 | 11:53 pm

    *cyber hug* Happy Thanksgiving, Darling Fatty

    ps- I got my Fight Like Susan shirt and Team Fatty stickers the other day. WIN! <3 :D

  42. Comment by normzone | 11.26.2009 | 3:46 pm

    One day in my pre-driving years I asked my mom why she always drove down the middle of the street in residential neighborhoods instead of to the right side. She replied that it give you a fraction more space for reaction time to any kid darting out from between cars. I drive in the middle whenever appropriate.

    Thanks for the great jersey.


  43. Comment by Asthmagirl | 11.27.2009 | 5:22 pm

    From the other side of the road (so to speak), my daughter got hit by a truck last week. I wish the driver had had one of your moments.

    Perhaps it is a blessing in that we will be making some changes we’ve hesitated to make. She’s 19 and mildly autisitic. And we’re so grateful that she’ll be okay…

    A regualar reader who rarely comments…

  44. Comment by eclecticdeb | 12.1.2009 | 2:43 pm

    Had that been me, I would have taken a walk over to the Mom and let her know just how thankful SHE should be.

  45. Comment by Razor | 12.9.2009 | 11:12 pm

    Had a similar experience but had to stand on the anchors that hard it hurt my ankle – the shuddder of the ABS working was amazing. Don’t know how I missed the kid.

    Pulled over, got out and threw up. Went home and hugged the kids.


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