There was this moment on Thursday — I lay on my side in the westbound lane of Highway 76 looking east. It lasted just a couple of seconds. I had just thrown my bicycle across my body to get it out of the road so it wouldn’t get hit by a car. I saw no traffic headed my way and rolled quickly into the bike lane. I’ll remember the vision of that empty lane ahead of me for the rest of my life.
If you know me, you know I’ve been in that position a few times…
The parachute. The lightning strike. The Class IV rapids. The jetty. The bikes. The rattlesnake. Conversations through the years with medevac pilots, paramedics, ambulance drivers, and emergency room nurses and doctors have been near annual events. The joke in my family is that I don’t get an annual physical — I just get my blood work done while I’m in the emergency room each year.
When I woke yesterday I couldn’t put any pressure on my right leg — the pain was that bad. I hopped to the shower and went about my morning routine exclusively on my left leg. I was a 170 pound pogo stick with no recoil. I considered that the damage might be more severe than I’d been willing to admit to that point. I thought about the implications of needing surgery, and there would be many. For that moment, I was scared.
At 8am, after coffee, I forced myself to walk across my living room putting my right leg down. I said some bad words and made some funny faces with each stride. After that I went down the stationary bike in my studio and pedaled easy for five minutes. I was surprised how good that felt. From there, hard as it was, I walked twice around the perimeter of my house making sure I used my right leg with as normal a stride as I could muster.
I repeated that routine every two hours until bedtime. Otherwise I was seated on my sofa looking into the information rectangle in my left hand, only occasionally staring up at the information rectangle against the wall. Sitting on my sofa, I continually rolled my ankle in every possible direction, testing range of motion up to the point of pain, but not through the point of pain. All day though, I kept thinking about those two seconds laying in the traffic lane.
By day’s end I was confident that an x-ray wasn’t necessary, there would be no surgery in my future, and that it was just a sprain. There was still lots of pain, but I was able to take care of my mom, my pets, and equally confident I could return to work on Monday.
Those two seconds though, I kept thinking about them and how different things might be if there had been cars headed my way. I received a few private messages and a handful of social media comments questioning whether it would be in my best interest to continue riding — suggesting I should consider giving it up.
I don’t really have a death wish, at least I don’t think I do. I’m a safe and intelligent cyclist. I don’t push boundaries, test limits, or take unnecessary risks. I ride because it helps me clear my head, helps stave off my depression, and because I find joy in the act.
I have no timetable as to when I’ll be back on the road, but I have no problem saying that sooner is better. I will only go back out though, when I’m 100% confident that my body won’t deceive me.
I’ll continue to think about those two seconds, as I regularly look back to similar experiences — the parachute, the rapids, the lightning bolt, and the rest. Sitting in that road though, looking up to see no cars headed my way, was both the most horrifying and the most beautiful of moments I’ve experienced in recent years, simultaneously.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
(6) 5-minute intervals
Yesterday’s earworm: Drunken Poet’s Dream, by Ray Wylie Hubbard