"Never in a Million Years...."
That was my sentiment back in 1986 after a horrible biking accident in Germany that left me with scrapes, bruises, broken teeth, and my lower lip torn away from my jaw.
You always hear that most accidents happen close to home. Well, this was no exception. I was riding my road bike to the grocery store and was less than a mile from my apartment when disaster struck.
I needed to make a left turn so I indicated my intentions and moved into the left lane. Unfortunately, I didn't account for the streetcar tracks being in that lane as well and my front tire got caught in the track immediately halting the forward motion of the bike. My back tire came off the ground at such a rate I was thrown over the handlebars. The force of impact with the ground was so fast and hard all the air was knocked out of me as I smashed my face on the tracks! To make matters worse, this happened in a tunnel right next to the train station.
My only thought was I needed to get up and off the tracks before I was killed by an unaware driver or worse the streetcar! Fortunately, all the cars behind me stopped immediately (or it seemed so at the time). I think the person in the car immediately behind me thought it was their fault because it happened right in front of them. They seemed almost as shaken up as I was.
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt you were in the "Twilight Zone"? That's how I felt at that moment. All these people were gathered around me, trying to help and talking rapidly in German. You know how hard it is to put your thoughts together coherently and express yourself after something like that happens?? Try doing it in a foreign language! All I could get out was "I live on Mennwasse Street. Get my husband"
I have no real idea of time during this event. I only remember trying to get everyone to understand to get my husband and next thing I knew he was pulled up next to us. He carried me to the car, threw the bike in the back, told the Polizei to follow us to the emergency room. I later learned he was in route not far behind me because I had forgotten my bike lock and he was bringing it to me.
After we arrived at the base hospital, things are all fuzzy. I have no idea how long I was there or what transpired. The next thing I remember, I was sitting in a dental chair on a different base having oral surgery. Apparently, the attending physician checked me over, cleaned me up and notified the dentist on call to expect us for emergency surgery.
My lower lip was reattached to my jaw (6 or 7 stitches); I had stitches in my upper lip, my front teeth were both fractured. One was a vertical fracture which healed on its own. The other was a horizontal fracture which resulted in the lower half of my tooth being removed and a composite buildup being done.
All things considered, I was super lucky to only have that happen. I told my husband to get rid of the bike. I never wanted to ride again. I was afraid and convinced I'd never ride again in a million years!
As our kids got old enough, they wanted bikes like all kids seem to. I wouldn't let them ride unless they wore helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards. I was so paranoid about bikes. Whenever I'd see a cyclist on or near the road I was driving on, I would move way out of their way. I couldn't understand how they could ride along the same roads as motor vehicles going two to three times as fast as they were!!
FAST FORWARD TO 2010 --
Kids are adults and on their own, new husband, new life. My husband is a martial artist (almost 40 years) and a personal trainer. We have a health and nutrition business and are very active and love hiking, rock climbing, camping, etc.
He started taking some of his students out on bike rides for one of his classes (Core and Cardio). This went on for about 3 1/2 months. As he talked about the rides and how much fun everyone was having, I began thinking "maybe, just maybe . . . ."
November 14, 2010 -- My first bike ride (on a borrowed bike from a friend) after 24 years. We just rode around the neighborhood a few times, but that was all it took! I was hooked. The feeling of freedom on a bike is unlike anything I can describe.
My son was getting ready to move out of state and he had "stored" his old Huffy mountain bike at our house. He said he wasn't going to take it with him and if I wanted it I could do what I wanted. Famous last words: new tires, tubes, seat, tuneup, helmet, bell and I was out and about.
Baby Steps -- Being near vehicles, especially on the major road our neighborhood sits off of, was still scary. I wouldn't get near them. I would ride as far to the right as I could, go to the cross walk and wait for the pedestrian light to go across and then stick to bike & multi-use paths whenever possible. Over the next several months, I found my confidence as I got better on the bike and was beginning to venture out onto road more often.
For Valentine's Day this year, my husband surprised me with a brand new 2012 Trek 8.3 DS!! He even bought a rack, saddle bags and pannier so I could ride to the grocery store if I wanted to since we live less than 2 miles from a couple of shopping centers in either direction.
Since then I've ridden all over the city. There pretty much isn't a place in town I can't ride my bike to. The only time I drive is if I'm picking someone up, going to an appointment, or will be hauling something bigger than my bike can handle. I ride on average 5 days/150 miles a week.
This November marks two years since I've been "back in the saddle". To commemorate the milestone, we have registered for the annual "El Tour de Tucson" bike race. This is the 30th anniversary of the ride, which takes place the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This year it will be on Saturday, November 17th -- our anniversary.
I cannot think of a better way to celebrate my triumphant return to biking than to ride along side the love of my live and biggest fan!