Sunday, August 14, 2011


Bad habit: Every five years the siren song of the emergency room calls out, and I find myself heading in with some minor damage. Never anything truly threatening -- the sort of thing that requires a small amount of attention, the appropriate bandage and instructions to take ibuprofen until it feels better. Sort of the grown-up version of a band-aid and a kiss on the boo-boo.

Lately, I thought this trend was broken. It's been a whole eight years since the last incident (broken ankle coming down from Joe's claim). Maybe at 40, one grows out of this sort of nonsense, or has developed better woe-avoidance skills. It's certainly not that I stopped doing interesting things. (I hope)

Alas, it was merely overdue.

This time it was four stitches on my chin. I was minding my own business, riding a consistent 24 mph downhill in the bike lane along Foothill near the 280 on-ramp near the end of my ride two weeks ago when a clueless and/or evil driver attempted to maneuver his/her car into the same space I was to occupy.

On the bright side, despite the car's apparent intention to inhabit my space sneakily from behind, I did have the reflexes to avoid it. However, the thought "Phew that was close -- jerk!" was closely followed by "Oh no -- there's no way I'm going to avoid going down..." Because I had to veer off my line and brake hard to avoid the car, the bike then fishtailed toward a curb. One could argue that the fishtailing would have been avoided by not hitting the back brake so hard, but in the heat of the moment, all possible braking power was needed.

A real rider would probably have been able to bunny hop up the curb, but I still lack the ability to reliably execute this skill. So I hit it -- hard. Argh. I did manage to aim myself in such a manner to end on the sidewalk instead of in the road. It just seemed prudent.

The bike toppled over gently once it ejected me; I got to experience a slow-motion Superman flight while musing that Chad would be annoyed by me damaging myself just before a trip, and then the sidewalk came up and met my hands and chin.

Did I mention that, quite uncharacteristically, I had forgotten to wear my gloves that morning? Ouch. I forgot my phone too. Bad Ma.

It was pretty apparent almost immediately that all the major parts were ok. I pulled myself into a sitting position next to the bike and reached for my water bottle to take a drink while collecting my thoughts.

Problem-Car did not even bother to stop, but Roberta, the next driver on the road did. She was incredulous at the dumb move of the other driver and wanted to know if there was anything she could do to help. A passing pedestrian also stopped -- he was livid about what he had seen and wanted to call the cops. I didn't see any point, as the only part of the car I saw was the side passenger door, and it all happened so fast that I'm not even sure what color it was, much less who was driving or what the license plate number was.

Amidst this discussion, I realized that my chin was bleeding a lot, and decided to take Roberta up on her offer of a ride. She kindly put the bike in the back of her truck, found some water and a wad of paper towels so I could clean off a little (with a quick peek at the gouge in the mirror -- eeew!), let me borrow her phone to leave a message for Chad, and dropped me off in downtown Mountain View. I wandered into the Minor Injury Clinic at Kaiser, hoping to get an appointment for later in the day to get stitched up.

Yes I was dirty, but do people in the waiting room really need to stare so much when you limp your bike into the doctor's office?

Fortunately, the staff at Kaiser in Mountain View are quite helpful and good. They squeezed me in between existing appointments and did the standard crash check, x-rayed my hands, and scraped the gravel out of my chin before stitching it up.

I reclaimed my bike from the security desk where the receptionist had left it and walked a block down the street to the bike shop to get help untangling the chain, which had dropped off the inside of the rings and jammed itself up against the frame. The guys in the shop didn't seem as actively disturbed by my appearance as much as those in the waiting room, presumably because I was no longer actively bleeding, but one of them did comment that I seemed remarkably cheerful for having just crashed. I only wish I had been able to come up with the reply that occurred to me later: "What would Jens do?"

(Jens Voigt is the epitome of the hard man of the cycling peloton, for those unfortunate enough not to know already. He bounces off the pavement, gets back on, and gets the job done. Most admirable.)

At any rate, once the bike was taken care of, I rode gently back to Sunnyvale, just in time to pick Nim up from camp and pack for Downieville.

It wasn't until I got home that I realized that my bike jersey was (a) covered in blood and (b) riddled with holes across the chest. No wonder the other people in the Kaiser waiting room looked at me oddly.

Lest you worry, I was out on the mountain bike at Yuba Pass the very next day. You can just barely make out the little black threads of the stitches hanging down from my chin.

And now, just a couple of weeks later, all is healed up, and my hands no longer hurt, even after logging a 100+ mile hilly day near Mt. Rainier this week. More later...

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