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Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Longest 35 Miles

I set out for an adventure on my bike today, and I guess I wasn't disappointed. Only about 35 miles, but it sure took me a lot longer than any 35 miles I've ever done.

Originally, the plan was ride from home, but I wanted to get over the Heart of America bridge now that it has a bike lane.

And I wasn't sure I wanted to do a Century, which is what that would have approached. I thought, maybe just ride 50 to 60 miles, nothing crazy.

I parked at the Merriam Farmer's Market and headed downtown.

Once there, I couldn't remember which road becomes the HOA. So I asked a cyclist, which is how I met Corinna, and by result of that, a bunch of other fun urban cyclists.

I asked if she knew how to get to the bridge and she offered to show me. She had an awesome helmet mohawk and had decorated her very Touring bike with lots of cool stuff. She offered me an apple from a bag bulging one of her panniers—she offered apples to everyone we came across. Cookies, too.

Corinna, I came to realize, is incapable of missing an opportunity to help a person. She greeted one guy I took to be homeless (and with some serious mental health issues) by name. Turns out, he's autistic, guess I should have known when she had to say his name nine times to get an acknowledgment. Turns out she's a mental health advocate, among other things. Which is to say she's one of those mostly invisible people who do much of the good that gets done in the world.

As we entered the River Market, I approached a grate in the road, and right when I started over it, I realized it only had slats parallel with the road, as if it was designed to eat the front wheel of a bicycle.

The next thing I remember, I was washing my wounds in the bathroom of a coffee shop I don't remember going to or entering, And for the life of me, I couldn't recall where I'd left my car.

When I emerged, Corinna had ibuprofen handy, and I gratefully accepted three of them. My fingers hurt when I did much with them, my knee was raw and my face felt like George Foreman had hit me with one of those grills he hawks.

But I'd only ridden nine miles, and I generally felt pretty functional. HOA was scrapped as my Sherpa was on her way to a group ride that started at 3:00, and it was 2:30. And I wasn't sure how I'd feel as I rode, so getting closer to my car seemed sensible. The bike shop she was headed to was in the direction of my car, and that's how I ended up exploring downtown and the Northeast with some really fun people. I even knew where I was parked, so I was set, right?

I can't remember the name of this cool little bike shop in the Crossroads, but this was the rendezvous for the Three O'Clock ride. Most group rides, I'm the oddball in a Hawaiian shirt instead of a jersey, the one without SPD pedals, the one with the fattest tires, etc.

Here I was in my only cycling jersey riding with t-shirt clad folks, one of them not even wearing a helmet, mountain bikes with impossibly fat tires (even for mountain bikes) in the clear majority.

Of course, mountain bikes come in handy when the city is your playground. These guys never missed a chance to ride off down some stairs or jump a ramp.

We ended up at the new Acme Bicycles, Christi's house. She's the half of Acme that didn't move back to Portland. She has cool folk art made of bicycle parts in her back yard, and neato sheet metal decorating her home's face, functioning as a security gate. The sheet metal was the scrap from someone cutting out shapes for sculptures, so they're the reverse image.

I was sad to learn that the bike sculpture that used to be across from Grinder's was not preserved, but hauled off as junk. I loved that sculpture.

Christi later diagnosed my bike as rideable (good thing since I rode it there), my fork was not bent as I thought, though I put a wrinkle in my bottom tube. She said she thought the bike might handle better with the wrinkle.

We went on a beer run, sort of. I bought water for my Camelbak and ice for my cheek. Then, on Cliff Drive, where I last rode with my brother probably 15 years ago, we stopped to imbibe. Well, except me. I was feeling headachey and as out of character as it is for me to wave off a free beer (Boulevard Pale Ale, a fave, too), I feared alcohol would make the headache worse and I still had to ride back to Merriam.

As we were stopped there on Cliff Drive a motorcycling couple stopped and asked if we were climbing in addition to riding, and I said, 'No, we're falling and riding.' The look on his face as he took a second look at me should have told me.

A couple of times, I was asked what happened, and once Corinna volunteered, 'He ate a grate in the River Market.' But actually, I think, the grate ate me.

See also at least three people asking if I had insurance, including Corinna when she gave me those Advil, when I wasn't even swollen much.

Hell, I'd probably still be running around with the whole sick crew except I left my headlight in the car, not keen on riding alone in the dark anyway, and they were talking about going back and doing the haunted houses.

Parting ways, Corinna commented that I prolly wouldn't have ridden with them if I knew how messed up I was. When I mentioned my little memory gap, she asked if I remembered two motorists who asked if I was okay.


Actually, by the time I got back to my car, I kind of did. Hazy, like a forgotten dream, I remember being asked if I was okay and saying, "I'm not sure, still taking inventory."

I was still in the 'just go home' camp. Actually called a friend near where I'd park thinking I'd make a social call.

I reasoned that there wasn't much to be done but ice my contusions and clean the wounds. After all, I was healthy enough to ride twenty more miles after the biff.

Then, calling to tuck my kids in, my ex told me to to fool around with my concussion symptoms, the memory loss. And I'd gotten chain grease in my wounds and couldn't remember my last tetanus booster.

Reluctantly, I peeled off and went to Olathe Med, where three hours, a CAT scan and a series of X-rays revealed that my eggs are not scrambled, but two of my fingers are indeed broken.

My ring finger on the left and my middle on the right. Talk about a big bowl of suck, I basically type for a living.

This post has taken forever with my awkward new typing technique.

I still haven't figured out how to get my riding gloves on over the splints or how hard it'll be to brake with splints.


Anonymous said...

Yikes! What a day. I am not surprised you spent the day post-accident hanging out with urban cyclists. Glad you went to the hospital to get the final verdict on your brain. The broken finger thing sucks big time.

Chixulub said...

I'd tend to agree, and if I do sue, it'll be my first time. I took Celebrex the year I had my heart attack, but really, the Shoney's breakfast bar and all those cigarettes I used to smoke and the booze and so on, it'd be bullshit to blame the only deep pocket in sight. I made a lot of choices that elevated my risk there. If it rains, you get wet, ice is slippery, coffee is hot and it's not really anyone's fault.

BUT, a grate like this that's obviously been there for decades, and it's not the only one, this is not the result of my bad choices. It's not my fault some civil engineer sucks at his job.

Corinna said...

I'm glad we met that day.
It might not have happened any other way.