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July 3, 2008

Hitting the Trail.....Hard

On Thursday, the day before 4th of July, my friend Laurie asked if I wanted to do a short mountain bike ride before we met up with our friend Nancy for happy hour. Biking scares me, mostly because of the fitness aspect—I’m slow—but it’s fun too. And I hadn’t done it since last year. And I could use the exercise. So I really had no excuse.


Let’s note here that I don’t have much mountain biking experience. I’m not hard-core (yet). I have a bike that I love, but I only got out maybe three times last year. And no, I wasn’t going that fast, and no, the trail is not super hard.

This is what happened.

I wrecked within five minutes of the trailhead.

Laurie and I had agreed to just go, not to stick together. We knew she would be faster than me, so we decided to meet back up at the car. We’re just getting started, cruising along, and I’m loving it. Why am I afraid of this stuff? What a blast! Laurie’s already getting ahead of me, but that’s okay—I’m just enjoying the motion, the bike under me, the trail, the challenge, and then there’s this sort of wide downhill that’s a bit rubbly, with rocks and roots sticking up besides, and I’m thinking maybe I’m going just a little too fast so I slow down a bit and then I’m losing control and then I’m full on skidding out onto the ground, unable to unclip my shoe, and there I am on my side. Ouch. I call to Laurie, but she doesn’t hear me. As I’m standing up, a guy taking a break at the next curve calls to her, but she doesn’t hear him, either. I forgot that she had her iPod on.

I move my bike to the side and try to walk it out and assess damage. One (two?) very skinned up and dirty elbow/forearm (and shoulder?), bruises. I think about walking back to the parking lot, which is so pitifully close, but it’s all superficial, and I came here to ride, right? So I hop back on my bike and keep going.

And wipe out again about five minutes later.

I was going again, thinking how fun this was despite my scrapes and bruises, cruising downhill still, thinking wow this is even better than skiing maybe, and I could hear someone behind me so I pulled off and let two guys by. Got back on my bike, and—somehow, within probably two revolutions on my pedals, endo-ed. As in, went over my handlebars. I’ve no idea how I did it. Maybe hit the front brake? Although I’ve been on bikes enough that that’s completely out of my habit. Regardless, there I was on the ground again, on my right side again, with my bike caught over my leg. With some profanity. “You okay?” called one of the guys. I guess I wasn’t really sure since I hadn’t gotten up yet, but yeah, probably. “Yeah, I’m good, thanks.” I maneuvered my bike from on top of me and stood up. Again. Hopped back on my bike, but it wouldn’t go. The back break was jammed. Wouldn’t budge. The back wheel wouldn’t turn. I tried to investigate (feeling a little remorse for not knowing my bike better) but my arms started stinging. I had to move. I walked it off a bit and came back to it but I still couldn’t figure it out and again my arms were stinging like crazy, too distracting. I figured someone else would come by soon, and I could pick their brain, but no one did so I started walking. At first, I picked up the back of my bike since it wouldn’t roll, but that was too much work. I ended up pushing the bike along instead, letting the back wheel drag a divet in the dirt.

In a bit, I heard someone coming. A young guy, looking about as comfortable on his bike as I was, maybe not the most savvy, but I wasn’t feeling picky. I asked if he had a minute to help me out and he stopped. “Did you wipe out?” he asked. Which I found amusing, because how could it have been any more obvious. “Me too,” he said jovially. “I ran into a tree.” I turned my bike over and we looked, and he had no idea but I got it. Turned a red knob and voila, my wheel spun once again. Brilliant. I thanked him and we both headed on our way.

Needless to say, I was feeling a bit tentative. I can’t say I made the best time on the rest of the loop.

When I got to the parking lot, Laurie was waiting outside her truck. “I was getting worried!” she said. “Yeah, I had some issues,” I said. “I heard,” she said. Then, her eyes widening, “Did you wipe out?” Yes. Yes, I did. Twice. “He didn’t tell me that,” she said. “He just said that you had an issue with your back brake and that you were on your way.”

She put down a towel for me on the seat and we headed off to Nancy’s house on my request. Laurie said she just rinses herself off with her Camelback—“I haven’t done that to myself for about a month!” she said—but I was opting for a shower. I felt pretty grimy, and a little bloody. The shower was definitely not going to be fun. I had scraped up my left elbow and forearm pretty good, and my right arm even better—I had scrapes from the middle of my forearm all the way to my armpit, with a pretty good gauge out of my elbow and linear scratches along my upper arm. The inside of my forearm was swollen, as were a number of bruises on my legs—like, probably six, including a six-inch-long bruise across my left thigh from where my bike landed on and wedged itself on top of me in the second spill. (It’s still tight and raised now, over a week later.)

At Nancy’s, Nancy and her daughter, Sadie, were rushing around getting ready for a friend’s parents’ anniversary party that they were late for. I jumped into the shower as Sadie put make-up on in front of the mirror. I’ll get you some band-aids, she said, and I said not to worry about it. The water in the bathtub ran brown and pink and I refrained from shouting except to call to Laurie. “Yes?” “This f*in’ hurts!” She was all full of sympathy. “I know,” she said, and went back out to the living room.

When I got out of the shower, I saw that Sadie had indeed found some Band-aids for me. Not big bandages, but Band-aids. I had to laugh. Where to even start? I don't think I had any wound that one of those things would even fit over.

We met Nancy down on Pearl Street for some food and drinks. I tried not to touch my elbows to anything. “You need a stiff drink,” said a woman entering the bar. Eventually, I went in to find our waiter. “Do you have any paper napkins?” I asked. “I’m oozing.” He grabbed me a bundle. “It happens sometimes,” he said.

Just about as we were ready to head home, my friend Tara joined us, so I stayed out. And went to an after-party for the Fourth of July cruiser ride. (Lots of people riding bikes around, sometimes in costume, whooping it up.) There was dancing. My friend Mark convinced me to dance. I again tried not to touch anyone. Some people were wearing white shirts. It was a risky endeavor.

I excused myself to walk back to the other end of town to get my bike and to check the bus times. I walked the bike to the bus station, not having much desire to be on it at this point, but an oversight pushed the issue. It was Thursday, not Friday, which I’d forgotten, it being the night before a holiday and all, and the last bus had already left. Bummer. So I rode my bike home.

* * *

The whole thing was still funny until I went to bed that night. When I lied down, the stinging came on, and I just couldn’t get comfortable. There wasn’t really any position in which my arms were comfortable, in which they weren’t touching anything. I don’t like sleeping on my back, but I had to. At some point in the night, I got up to wet two washcloths to lay them on my elbows in hopes of some relief. I considered a middle-of-the-night run to the store to get some sort of antiseptic spray, something numbing, but managed each time to get back to sleep instead.

In the morning, I called my parents for sympathy. They also gave me some advice: Get arnica.

Arnica is a natural bruises-and-bumps-and-muscle-pain healer. I went to Vitamin Cottage but it was closed for the holiday. Whole Foods was not. I immediately sought out a professional.

“Could you show me where your arnica is?”

“Sure, do you want oral or topical?”

“What do you recommend?”

“It depends on what you're trying to treat.”

I held up my arms and pulled up my skirt to show a bruise or two on my legs.

“Let’s get you the combo pack,” he said.

And asked me to stay away from skateboards.

[Photo: Laurie.]

Posted by beth at July 3, 2008 11:17 PM

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Tis what I call road rash a la grande!! Glad you did not incur more serious injuries to yourself, or your bike!!! :-))



Posted by: Muriel Haupt at July 12, 2008 4:42 AM

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