The day couldn’t have started any better. Just after 5am my friend Tim, who lives in Steamboat Springs, texted me that he was in Oceanside — about 20 minutes away. He and his neighbor had driven through the night from Colorado to deliver a car to his neighbor’s son at Camp Pendleton. Since he was this close, Tim wanted to stop by Fallbrook and poach some lemons before he headed home. Poaching lemons is a tradition on our annual bike ride each spring. Due to the COVID-19 situation, we had to pass on the ride this year, so I was delighted to hear from him. I figured if we could poach lemons from a safe distance while wearing masks, I’m in.
Last year our victim was a cheap motel on Old Highway 395 just south of Fallbrook. There are six decorative lemon trees in the motel parking lot that are loaded this time of year. I believe we hauled about 40 pounds last year. We decided to meet there and continue the tradition, even if no bikes were involved. After an air high-five and some salutations from a 6-foot distance, he tossed me a bag and we began stealing lemons while in plain sight.
I don’t think we were together for more than 15 minutes when we said goodbye and he and his neighbor headed back to Colorado. I couldn’t have been more stoked to get on my bike later in the morning. My intention was to ride by the the same lemon trees and photograph my bike in front of them. There was a strong onshore wind though, so I changed my route and bypassed the motel.
Riding west on Highway 76, a four-lane thoroughfare with a 55 mph speed limit, I was about to turn north onto Gird Road when I felt something tugging on the riding bag I wear on my back.
Something was tugging on my shoulder bag while I was traveling at 18 mph or so. I had looked over my shoulder moments earlier and seen no other cyclist in the lane behind me. What transpired next happened in less than 4-5 seconds…
With my left hand on the handlebars, I reached behind me to feel what was tugging on my back. I was shocked when I felt the wing of a bird, possibly a crow. Caught off-guard and a bit scared, I tried to brush the bird off of me when I lost control and came off my bike. My bike ended up in the middle of the righthand automobile lane, and I was beside it, just outside the bike lane.
In what probably took just a few seconds, I grabbed my bike with my left arm and flung it over my body into the bike lane. I rolled over quickly into the bike lane, looking uproad to see no oncoming traffic. I go to my feet and took inventory of the situation. I skinned my right knee, my right elbow, and felt a little pain with my right ankle. Shaking and a little bit flustered, I took a gulp of water and quietly assured myself that I was okay. This could have been so much worse, I thought.
I had roughly 10 miles remaining to return home. I rode at a standard pace, and felt little of my ankle or knee as I pedaled. I was delighted that I felt so good and was already planning tomorrow’s route while riding home.
I had a single session from 1:30 to 2:30 in my fitness studio and got through that okay. I was hobbling a little bit more by the end of the session, but still thinking I dodged a bullet. Shortly after my client left, my ankle and knee began swelling and the pain was increasing. I realized then that it was adrenaline that got me through the last 10 miles of my ride as well as my appointment. That adrenaline was starting to wear off.
Over the next hour the pain became unbearable and my ankle and knee continued to swell. By 4pm I wasn’t able to put any stress on the leg at all, and was hopping through the house on my left leg.
With a little elevation and some acetaminophen, the pain diminished some and the swelling dropped a bit. I gave a cursory test that I would apply to any injured athlete, and deemed my ankle sprained, but with nothing broken and ligaments intact.
Now it’s just a waiting game. I know I won’t be on a bike for at least a few days, and won’t even be able to walk my dog for a day or two. As I write this, roughly 20 hours have passed by since the accident. I’ll follow the course of active surveillance for the next 24 hours, testing range of motion often, applying heat, and acetaminophen for pain.
Because I felt so good even after the accident, I gave my ride an A+ in my workout journal. The only note I made in the journal was as follows…
“Attacked by bird. Came off bike. Bird and I never made eye contact…”
I’ve only missed four days of riding since January 1st, and haven’t missed two consecutive days since June of 2019.
I’m guessing 3 to 5 days on this, but we’ll see.
Yesterday morning I got to poach lemons with my friend Tim, and see him for the first time since our annual ride last year. A few hours later, a bird, probably looking for my ravioli, initiated my first accident in nearly three years. Lying in the automobile lane of Highway 76, and looking east to see no cars coming toward me, might have been the most glorious moment of my life. I’m just gonna take it all in for a few days, but I have a feeling I’ll be back out there again soon.
Lastly, for those who think this was another sign I should call it quits, I’ve been dealing with depression, idiopathic sadness, and suicidal thoughts since I was a child. Riding is good medicine for me. I have no intention of giving this up.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
Bike: Cortez The Killer
15.5 mph avg
Yesterday’s earworm: Will in’, by Little Feat