My 2017 road cycling season ended prematurely on Sept. 24 when a narrow but deep washout that slashes diagonally across Macedonia Road in Chatham caused me to dismount my bike in a way I had not previously practiced.
I was going downhill, traveling somewhere around 20 miles an hour. I was 40 miles into the 54-mile “gravel grinder" on dirt roads. My sunglasses were covered in dust. Like Trump voters, I never saw the danger ahead.
The washed out channel turned my front wheel to the right, and stopped the bike. I went over the handlebars and landed on the gravel road on my left side. Like anyone who has fallen off a bike, I wanted to get back on quickly to avoid more embarrassment.
I started to crawl toward my bike – “how’s my beautiful baby!?” -- which was in the middle of the road, rear tire still spinning. That is when I looked down and noticed that, at its main knuckle, my right middle finger was oddly pointing right at a 45-degree angle. I remember saying to myself, “how the hell did that happen?”
Then I felt a sharp pain in my left shoulder. Okay, heck with the bike. I crawled to the side of the road. I was alone. On a lightly traveled country dirt road. I waited a few minutes. No one came. I started yelling “help” in a weak, pained voice.
Within 10 minutes, a few fellow cyclists came upon me. One found a mailbox and pulled out a piece of mail to find the street address. He called 911 and soon the Chatham Rescue Squad was loading me into a meat wagon.
On the way to the hospital, the EMT and I had the following exchange:
EMT: “Do you want a painkiller before we get to the hospital?”
Me: “I don’t know. What’s done normally?”
EMT: “Have you looked at your finger?”
Me: “Good point. Let’s go with the painkiller.”
At the hospital, the nurses used scissors to cut off my expensive Hincapie jersey, shorts and gloves, causing about $400 in damage to the patient. What is left of the jersey hangs forlornly from the wall of my barn.
Now, 10 weeks later, I have a four-inch surgery scar on my left shoulder and a human cadaver’s ligaments attaching my collarbone to my shoulder. My bruised/broken ribs are healed, the road rash has disappeared, and my middle finger, with its gnarled knuckle, is an effective communications tool when I am angry.
Cyclists will want to know if my bike is okay. It is, and stares at me ruefully, like a dog begging to play catch. I had to cancel a week of cycling in Arizona in November. I am unable to work out. I am fat. I watch replays of this year’s Tour de France and eat peanut butter by the jar.
With my arm in a sling for the next two months but with nine working fingers, I decided I would go writing instead of riding. What about? Riding, of course. Specifically, my adventures the last two years riding every inch of every county highway in Columbia County.
Why did I do that? I am not sure but it felt like I was “collecting” roads, many of which I had worked on during college summers on county road crews. Or maybe it was a way of reacquainting myself with the county after 30 years away. Or maybe it is just one of those stupid things men do in middle age.
I mapped every ride before I departed, stuck notes in my pocket to make sure I didn’t miss a turn, still got lost, got chased by a dog named Nate, ridiculed by motorcyclists, and nearly run down by a guy in a black Toyota pickup who must have been bullied by someone on a bike in his childhood.
I saw some of the most beautiful scenery along some of the best riding roads anywhere (except bumpy County Route 18, which my butt tells me it hates). I will write about these adventures on a new blog, “Writing About Riding,” and reserve my blog, “Spokesman,” for posts about communications and growing up in Hudson.
I hope you like my biking blog. And if you don’t, well, I’ve got this finger…