Mental Ward

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Keith Vs. the Pavement: Keith Loses

One of my passions is riding my bike (although you might not know it to look at my waistline). And I mean bicycle, not motorcycle (in fact, motorcycles should not be allowed to be called bikes, since there's no B, I, or K anywhere in the name. But that's an argument for another time).

I've been hurt a few times, but always on my mountain bike (which may be why I don't ride my mountain bike much anymore). I've always been much more of a roadie anyway. And I've never had a serious accident on my bike.

Until yesterday. I was out for a lunchtime ride on a glorious, 81-degree day here in north-central Maryland. I was on a fast downhill, probably going 35 MPH or more. Suddenly a cat starts crossing the road from the opposite side, not too far ahead of me. I see him/her, and gently apply brakes. I'm going too fast, however. The cat stops in the middle of the road. I literally shout out "Go one way or the other!" The devil cat then moves a little bit across the road, into my path -- then freezes, as if hypnotized. I swerve to the right to avoid him. But at the last second, this evil feline decides that that's the time to move. Right under my tires.

Bam.

Crash.

Over the handlebars; into the road. I slid on my left side for what had to be 8-10 feet. I distinctly felt my helmet smack, hard, against the pavement. I laid there for a few seconds, trying to figure out if I was dead or not. Deciding that I wasn't, I tried to get up (not good to be laying in the road with cars; fortunately, the roads I ride on for the most part are very lightly traveled.)

I was able to stand and walk to the shoulder. So far, so good. I could stand and walk. Next I moved my left shoulder, since all my pain was on my left side. It's extremely common for cyclists to break their collarbones when they do a header (head-over-handlebars). It felt OK. I didn't have any spots or diziness, which was another good sign; my next fear was of some kind of head trauma. Was it possible that all I had was some road rash?

I called my wife on my cell, which I always take with me on rides. The accident happened less than four miles from my house. She was there, packed the kids up and headed out to get me (AFTER asking if this was a joke -- but that was my own fault. For an April Fool's day prank a few years ago, I went out on a ride, then called her halfway out and told her I had an accident and broke my arm. Classic case of reaping what you sow.)

Kathy, a doctor, checked me out at the scene, then brought me home. I was pretty certain by now that I'd escaped the worst of it. She confirmed that my left side looked like a total mess, but I appeared to be otherwise uninjured. After that followed the most painful shower of my life; first, just the water hitting those raw wounds was horrific; then adding soap was another joyous activity. Kathy wrapped me up, and I spent a real fun afternoon and evening staying off my left side, adjusting bandages and having my family wait on me hand and foot.

This morning wasn't a walk in the park, either. I'm as sore as if I'd just finished a game at right guard for the Redskins. But all the parts seem to be working, no headaches and I shouldn't need a trip to the hospital. Overall, it could have been a lot, lot, LOT worse. I'll just need some time for the bruises/cuts/abrasions covering my side to heal up.

If I could pass along one piece of advice from this, it would be to shout ALWAYS, ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET! I'm quite sure it saved me from a serious head injury at the very least; at best, it might well have saved my life. I never ride without a helmet; it's fitted properly, and on tight. Since I had it properly secured, it didn't slide or come off on impact; it protected me exactly the way it's supposed to. I've done a lot of stupid things in my life; this might have been the smartest.

It's something all of you who ride, or who have children that ride, should remember. I can't tell you how often I see kids in my area, including very young kids in my neighborhood, riding their bikes without helmets. They and their parents, of course, never expect that they'll have an accident. I didn't expect to have one either.

And the cat? When I finally gathered enough of my wits to look around, the little mischief-maker was gone.

Posted by Keith Ward on 04/19/2008 at 12:48 PM


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