Monday, November 16, 2009

The good, the bad and the sticky

Jim and Rick and I were flying along on our bikes, the wind at our backs, the road straight and flat and empty, wide open before us like some kind of Irish cyclist's blessing. We were making the most of one of those irrationally nice November days you know could be your last good ride of the year when Rick glanced off a chunk of dried horseshit, lost his handlebars, lost his balance and sealed the deal.

It was bad. Jim and I both knew it before we could turn and see it. Too much silence after the impact. Rick was a rag doll. The first sounds were small comfort: gurgling, a serious fight to breathe through a compromised airway. Rick would finish his ride in an ambulance and his weekend in neurological ICU, and we'd honestly be relieved he made it there.

Rick is a very good cyclist. All three of us were. Nobody screwed up. It was bad luck, that's all. But it wasn't all bad luck. Help arrived practically as soon as I called, a swiftness as freakish as it was fortuitous. We were a quarter mile from the corner of nothing and nowhere. I'd learn later, while picking up Rick's bike at the township hall and fire station, that the rescue crew and ambulance had been on a training exercise only a couple such intersections away.

When I finally looked at my own bike, I noticed that one of the three bottles I'd had mounted on it was missing. Huh. I wasn't the one who crashed; there's no reason I should have lost a bottle. Except … of course. We had a lot of generous and competent help from passersby even before the ambulance arrived. There was a lot of blood. No doubt someone had taken a bottle from its cage to flush out some of Rick's wounds. There was an exactly 33.3 percent chance they'd grab the bottle filled with water instead of a sticky, mildly acidic sports drink. Rag doll Rick got lucky again.

The story ends well. No broken bones. No brain injury. No deep regrets to look back on, and a few good habits reinforced.

I would never ride without a helmet. I'm not an idiot. But I am dumb enough that I used to carry my cell phone grudgingly, graduating only to inconsistently; I'll now carry it religiously and gladly. I could be prone in the past to forget to carry identification; much less so now.

Replacing all my opaque bottles with clear ones might be overkill. But I won't say it didn't cross my mind.


Jeanie said...

Jef, the thing you may have left out is that you and Jimi -- I believe, and I think you do, too -- saved Rick's life and gave him the chance on the road he wouldn't have had otherwise. Our hearts are full of love, joy and gratitude to you both forever.

Thanks so much for all you've done, both then, coming to the hospital with Patty, your checking in, positive reinforcement and most of all (from Rick's point of view after the lifesaving thing) picking up his bike and keeping it safe till he's back on again.

I'm posting my take on your heroics over at as soon as the photos load. Check it out. And again, from both of us, thanks. We'll see you at your signing. Hopefully, both of us!

Kitty said...

It is with heartfelt thanks that I write about Rick and what you did for him. I agree with Jeanie-you were God's angels that day and always will be to me. Good luck with your book. You deserve it.
Kitty, Rick's mom

ShirleyPerly said...

Oh my! I'm glad help was fairly close by and that Rick will be OK. I always cringe when I see some roadies not wearing helmets.