This story reminds me of my near miss in the Shenandoah NP in 1985. Just before graduating from Agents class I did a 100 mile ride on the Parkway, into Big Meadows and back to Front Royal. It started raining on the way back. I was easily hitting 35-40 MPH down the longer hills when a deer walked out into the road. Even with my brakes full on I never slowed because of the wet. I let out a whistle as loud as possible. She stopped, looked at me as I went past her nose less than a foot away.
By TRISTAN SCOTT of the Missoulian 12 Sept. 2008
Jim Litz has a broken bike helmet and bruised ribs to show for the 25-mile-per-hour collision with a 300-pound black bear Monday morning while riding his bike to work from his home in upper Miller Creek. “I was lucky. I was truly lucky, because I accosted the bear and he let me live,” Litz said, while recovering from his injuries Tuesday afternoon at his home.
Jim Litz is accustomed to pedaling past 300-pound black bears on his morning commute to work.“I've come close to them this time of year,” Litz said, clutching his side and grimacing. “I know bears. The entire creek bottom is just hammered by bears. That's the beauty of living here. But typically, they're crossing the road and I have plenty of time to avoid them.”
That wasn't the case during Litz's Monday morning ride down Bear Run Creek Road, up above Miller Creek. The 57-year-old man passes slender serviceberry branchlets and dogwoods festooned with bear feed, and frequently spots the animals noshing berries on his way to work at Target Range Middle School, where he teaches science to seventh- and eighth-graders. Usually, the animals barrel off the road and out of sight.
This time, however, Litz was clipping along the dirt road at 25 mph when he came upon a rise, spied a massive black bear 10 feet in front of him, and pedaled directly into the animal, T-boning its broad side.
“I didn't have time to respond. I never even hit my brakes,” Litz said.
He tumbled over his handlebars, planting his helmeted head on the bruin's back, and man and beast went cartwheeling down the road.
The bear rolled over Litz's head, and its mass cracked his helmet. As the duo toppled over one another, the bear clawed at Litz's cycling jacket, scratching his flesh from shoulder to buttocks before scampering up a hill above the road, where it stopped and whined.
Litz's wife drove by soon after and took her husband to Community Medical Center, and he immediately called Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to report the unusual collision. Game wardens told him they didn't think the animal was seriously injured, but was more likely suffering from some bruised ribs - just like Litz.
“Yep, that's my bear story,” Litz said Tuesday afternoon, too sore and bruised to go to work, but certain that he'd be back in the saddle by Friday. “That day it just happened to be on that particular corner of the road, and all the stars were lined up against me.”
The rib contusions are painful, and the scrapes down his back aren't pretty, but Litz figures he made out on top given the circumstances.
Litz's wife rides her bike to work, too. But she drives down past the feeding gauntlet on Bear Run Creek Road and parks along Miller Creek Road before pulling her road bike off the roof of her car.
As for Litz's bike, a cyclo-cross, it survived unscathed aside for the front wheel coming slightly out of true. But pointing to his cracked helmet, Litz hopes the story inspires his students to wear their helmets.
“I was lucky. I was truly lucky, because I accosted the bear and he let me live,” Litz said. “I truly respect them. They're beautiful creatures.”