Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Broke Dick Biker or Exile on Indianola Ave

Not mine but sorta similar.  I like the text!

Sam Auen's hurtin' ribs reminded me of a time that I felt like I was hit by a truck.  I believe it was on June 6, 2010, that my biggest fear confronted me and slammed me onto the ground.  Bicycle crash at high speed.    For years I often thought about how awful it would be to crash a bike at high speed.  I think about this every time I ride fast down hill.  It does not stop me from riding this way, but it makes me think.  After that day in June I think about it more.

The south side of Des Moines is geographically marked  by three zones: flood plain, cliff and numerous hills in that order from the river to the county line.  Living in the flood plain I must climb my way out if I desire to go south of Little Italy.  And consequently, I have several opportunities to fly downhill on my return.  Indianola Ave is my favorite.

I first encountered this road on the Mayor's Ride way back during the John Pat Dorian era.  They routed us down this long steep hill.  I hit 40 mph on my Mottobaccane.  This is my standard.  Two lanes in both directions with a stop light on the top and other one after the road flattens givers bikers an excellent opportunity to get into the 40s.

On this particular day I went to a friend's house south of County Line Rd.  Sam is smart.  He bought his house in Warren County.  I helped him move furniture.  Just a shade over 6 or 7 miles south of my house, which is not a considerable distance, it is a pain in the ass to get there and back.

I usually take SE 6th/5th all the way, mostly, avoiding the high traffic narrow sections.  Sometimes I opt for sidewalk action on SE14.  There is an option to take SW12th/SW14th but that is out of my way and requires riding up Mac Rae Park.  This is extremely steep and out of my way and places my way out of my way on a busy narrow road with a shit sidewalk.  On this day I took one of the former and SE5/6TH back.  At night that road is safe enough.

Decision was made at the intersection of SE6th and Indianola Ave.  I could go forward and cross to enjoy a short steep descent, what out for rough pavement by a church and hit the light at Hartford, turn left on Hillside and wind back home.  OR I could turn left and get a run for a loooonnnngggg modestly steep hill and try to hit 40 mph and enjoy a view of the downtown skyline.  Been some time since I was in the 40s so I turned left.

The 520 was my bike that night.  26 lb without rack and bags, its weight is a good accelerant.  I have hit 44mph on this bike once before going into Elk Horn, Iowa, a long long time ago on a ride supporting what became the T-Bone Trail.  The possibility of my wish being granted was quite good.  the only thing really holding the bike back was the big ring.  50 tooth rings while good for accelerating and touring, are lacking in the downhill department I always felt and still do.  Strange, because the 2 times I'd been in the 50s, tandem, were with a 50 tooth ring.

The light near the intersection of the Git n Go was green.  Time to work the gears.  Hands in the drops.  Proper position is essential for speed.  Teach that back to stretch.  Besides, the drops are the best weapon against headwind.  7 speeds. I spin out each as I push the shifter forward with my right hand.  The 520 should have come with barcons but when I purchased it at Barr, used, it had downtube shifters.  Fine with me, I hate wrapping bars with barcons.  Work the gears until the 11 is reached on the cassette.  Then really stretch the back and keep head down.

Keep the head down.  Look up occasionally to see if there are cars or obstacles in the way.  Very important.  Things can change very quickly.  I've had clear lanes one glance and then bikes in my way at a later glance.  Today the road was empty.  Check speed, 30+  good,  Put head back down. 

At this point everything was going well and my mind began to drift.  Tomorrow is a big day at work.  Lots of shit to do.  It's late and I've lost at least an hour of sleep.  Been a great two weeks riding.  Got 200 miles last week and today is day two and I will have 50 by the time I get home.  Better look up.

Standing next to my bike I felt a bit confused.  What to do now?  I don't know how long I had been there.  Knowing me, I probably jumped up right away.  Instinct.  I looked at the bike, concerned that the front wheel had collapsed.  I always worry about this.  It seemed fine.  There was a bright light.  Must have been a car.  A voice, "do you need help?"  "Nope, I am fine."  Automatic response wired deep in the back of my brain.  "No thank you, please fuck off as I need to do this on my own."  Surely that was a thought not a verbage.  The light went away.  Good.  No need to drag strangers into this mess.  Having a hard enough time dealing with myself let alone others that I do not know.

Did I need help?  Why?  I am standing.  Always a good sign of health.  My arms are still attached.  Hands still there.  Obviously I still possess eyesight and hearing.  Breathing is not labored or noisy.  No sign of severe bleeding.  Well, it is dark, for all I knew I could bleed out before reaching my destination.  My bike is laying down beside me.  Something happened.  I picked up the bike and wondered which way I needed to go.  What destination?  Where am I going.  Lost? 

Oh yes, I am going home.  Must get to bed because I need to be at work tomorrow.  But where is home?  I look around and everything is a bit unfamiliar.  To this day I cannot tell you where exactly I landed.  But why did I crash?  I am standing on a sidewalk.  Someone's driveway is 3 feet from the bike.  Must have drifted onto it and wiped out.  But which way do I go now?

Look around again and I see the EMC building and immediately had my bearings.  That way.  One mile from home.  No hills.  The safety of residential neighborhoods.  Disappear and get home.  No need for speed.

Suddenly the shock wore off a bit and the pain hit.  I felt like I was tackled by a truck.  No where specific, just my entire midsection hurt.  Just get home and sleep this off.  Big day tomorrow.  Sleep and a shower will cure all.   Get back on and take it easy.

The ride home was slow.  No need to go fast.  The bike is handling ok.  Nothing on it seems busted.  Get home and sleep.  Everything will be better.  Leave the bike on the back deck.  Deal with it later.

Mary was asleep when I crawled in.  Must have been 1030 pm.  2am found myself awake.  The pain was just as intense as it was when I got home.  Humm...that is not part of my plan.  Go back to sleep.  The alarm will give me another 4 hours.

I woke again at 4 am.  The pain still as strong as ever.  Something is definitely wrong.  If I lasted this long I can wait until Mercy South opens.  Avoid the ER as it is full of people I  do not want nor need to see.  Cheaper to go to the clinic. 

I woke up Mary.  "Honey, I need you to call in sick today.  I think I really fucked up."

Anders did not have this option.  His kids were little when he limped home with a busted collar bone.  He had to take a cab.  All I have to do is wait for the kids to go to school.  Seems easy enough but someone needed something and my needs waited for a bit.

While the family was roaring back to life I cleaned up and assessed damage.  The shower was quick and refreshing but did not improve my condition.  Scrape on head.  Scrape on left elbow.  Chest looks a bit out of whack but pain is everywhere.  Nothing hurt more or less than anything else.  Orange shirt is completely green on the back from grass.  WTF did I auger in like a meteor?  The bike fared better.  Some grass on a the left brake hood.  Bar tape ripped as if a dog bit it.

My helmet fared worse.  Cracked in several places.  Giro saved my life that night.  Don't crash without one!

This lid's time has come.  Notice that the pads are shot and missing.  Got my $150 worth out it.

After what seemed like an eternity it was time to go.  First stop was at work.  Had to let them know that I would not be in today AND give them the keys to the company truck.  Visual face to face with the boss would be better than a phone call.  Besides, we had time to kill.  I think we had to make a stop for one of our children.

Finally we get to Urgent Care.  Not many people there.  I get a room quickly and wait for a decade.  This is when I really fall apart.  Felt like whiplash was setting in.  The severity  of it all washing over me.

I forget the name of the doctor.  Never saw her before, have not seen her since.  I did get a letter saying that she moved on to bigger and better or different.  Basic description of the incident and pain was given.  I was fighting back tears.  She asked me if I took anything for it.  No.  My kids go through our over the counter pain meds like Pez.  Rarely do we ever have anything in stock unless we plan ahead.  No planning lately.  She then started to touch me to evaluate my pain.  Clavicle was suspect.  When her finger touched my right clavicle my left hand made a fist and began a round house that surely would have cold cocked her if it was not for Mary grabbing my arm..  "Found the trouble maker.  Let's get you to x-ray."

If possible, if you find yourself in the x-ray room, take your cell phone with you.  There is a moment after the radiation dose and subsequent exam of the photo that you are left alone to stare at the aftermath of your sin.  And it is much easier to take a photo of it right then and there than ask them for a copy.  So there I was staring at the image of my bones.  Not a pretty sight.  my collar bone was in 3 pieces. One long piece was sunk just below the level of the outer two as if a press stamped into that position.  The doctor said that surgery was unlikely but that I needed to see an orthopedic.

Then she placed my arm in a sling, telling me that in order for the bone to heal that it needed to be immobilized.  A discussion of drugs then ensued and a prescription was given to me and an appointment with the ortho. 

STOP  If it is very likely that surgery is not necessary this all one needs for a broken clavicle.  A sling and a supply of pain meds.  Of course, a visit to the ortho to confirm that surgery is not needed I recommend.  But after that you just contribute to the ortho's boat payment and get unnecessary exposure to x-rays.  Sure, you may be given a brocure on rehabilitation of the shoulder after the 3rd or 4th visit but common sense is just as good.  You may need the ortho to write a work release for you and a release to work again.  BUT the healing process is pain killers and lack of arm movement.  I stopped visiting the ortho after my 3rd or 4th visit.

My ortho was and probably still is a real asshole that showed no concern for me whatsoever.  Sure, he thought I was in pain every time I saw him but my pride did  not allow me to take advantage of that for extra prescriptions, something I regret although I was not in pain.  But when the fucker walks out of the room without telling me he is done with the day's visit I get pissed off.  I hope to never see him under similar circumstances.

My recovery was spent managing pain.  1 Darvocet and 4 Aleve did the job.  I remember reading the drug information.  The first sentence said, "if you are an alcoholic DO NOT TAKE THIS MEDICATION."  Addiction and the use of Tylenol = dead liver.  So that Friday I went cold turkey.  I thought I was over the pain, having not felt any since the pills first took hold.  I wanted to drink some wine over the week end since most likely I'd be on the couch watching a movie.

I was wrong.  Saturday I woke up in pain.  My 5 pill cocktail to the rescue!  Put on Exile On Main Street, remaster, and drift away.  Mary was in a particularly chatty move but I could not form the words, "please be quiet and enjoy this music and stare at the ceiling."

Biking was difficult.  Having been on the 100+ miles a week kick I was quite sad that this campaign came to a halt.  I think I was at 16 weeks in a row,  So when one's goals are impossible, aim for older goals.  Ride at least once a week every week.  I had 50 miles the week of the crash so there was time to rest.  Now working downtown, a mere 2 miles away, did not really require a bike.  I walked.

A mile round trip to B&B Supermarket was my first ride since the crash and burn.  Scary.  The red bike really requires two hand when taking off.  I needed a cheap bike with "flat foot technology" but that was not going to happen.  That trip, that 1 mile was the only mile I rode that week.  Got one ride in and that was enough to say that I rode during that week.  The next week I had 30.  I got tired of walking to work.  I even rode to the ortho.

Sometime during this mess I received a phone call about my daughter Katie.  Apparently, she was at Mercy getting examined after a car hit her.  not the best news one wants to hear over the phone.  Given that I just downed my meds and was drifting into  la la land was not good either.  I had to drive a car to be there.

At this time we had a classic Saab 3 door.  Great little car for it was fun to drive and could carry 2 road bikes in back with the hatch shut and the bikes fully assembled.  Rare.  But today it was not fun.  Power assist steering was lacking and it was a 5 speed manual.  The ignition was located behind the shifter between the driver and passenger front seats.  Use of right arm/hand was necessary.  I have not driven for quite some time and certainly not since my crash.  Somehow I managed.  Fortunately, Katie was alright and 6 months later she received a check for the damage to her bike.  The wheels of insurance are fucking slow.

I felt healed enough for Ragbrai.  I captained the tandem and Timmy was my stoker and we had our panniers stuffed to the gills.  I carried the pain killers, now including vicadons.  It takes more upper body strength to control a tandem than a single.  I felt tired and sore after every day but I was doing what I loved most and with the people I loved most.  I live all year for this week and had over a month to heal.  The hundred mile week campaign started anew.  Back in the saddle again!!!

Pass the Wine

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