I write this with a heavy heart. As most that know me will attest, I’m not a quitter. However, I do have enough sense to know when I am beaten.
Yesterday, I left Dalbo in good spirits, well rested and enthused about making it to at least Stillwater, Minnesota before nightfall. It was a nice day for riding and my progress was fine. I decided that I wouldn’t follow the Adventure Cycle Assoc. maps and would go directly across Wisconsin so I could make the ferry before they changed their schedule on the 11th.
I stopped for a quick lunch in Grandy, at about 30 miles. At Harris, MN, I went south to North Branch where I picked up the Sunrise Prairie rail trail. I was moving along very well, about 15 MPH (23 kph). There were people out for a Sunday ride and it was nice seeing all the smiling faces.
About a quart mile from the intersection of the rail trail and the main road in Stacy, MN, disaster struck. I was on a lone section of trail, no other vehicles or riders in sight when, without warning, I felt myself being catapulted through the air and crashing down on my face on the pavement.
This all happened in milliseconds! One moment I was riding along enjoying the day, then suddenly I’m laying on the ground with my bike and gear scattered all over the trail. My face hurt and there was lots of blood coming from somewhere. I remained calm, the worst thing one can do in these situations is panic. I sat up slowly and assessed my situation.
I checked my legs, nothing broken. Same for my arms and hands. I looked around, there was a substantial debris field, all of the gear from the bike was scattered about, like a garage sale. As I sat there, two people out for a ride, came up. At first, they were just curious why somebody would be sitting in the middle of the trail. Then they saw my face.
I was bleeding profusely from my nose, upper lip, lower lip and chin. There were also cuts on my hands and wrists. I got up and grabbed some clean paper towels from my bike and pressed them on the wounds to try and stem the bleeding. Then, I picked up the bike and leaned it on a bush.
What had happened? At first, I thought perhaps I had hit a deer I hadn’t seen, that’s always a possibility. I looked at the front of the bike, the luggage carrier on the front was tilted forward far enough that it was resting on the front wheel. Then, it all came back to me. Prior to this trip I had mounted that carrier and didn’t have a proper bracket to secure it to the bike forks. I made a bracket, which was actually very substantial. I recall looking at it and thinking that if it ever broke there would be nothing to stop it from rotating forward and catching the front wheel, exactly what just happened. At the time I mounted it I was going to go back and put a safety strap on it, just in case. As you’ve concluded, I never did. I forgot and now I was paying the price.
It appears the bracket fractured from all the “bump, bump, bump,” of the seams in the roads that I complained about in an earlier posting. I was concerned about broken spokes, I hadn’t thought about the rack. One time, many years ago, Jane had a BMW motorcycle and when we were riding across I-84 in New York, something similar happened to her ignition coil. At that time that road also did the bump thing. Her mount for her coil snapped. Just prior to my crash, that very thought had crossed my mind.
The bike stopped so quickly that the front forks bent to where the wheel stopped up against the bike frame. That takes considerable force. When the bike stopped it launched me over the handlebars. Having a firm grip on the bars I essentially did a very quick handstand and then crashed to the earth. The first part of my body to hit the earth was my helmet, followed closely by my face.
People talk about folks that are dying seeing a lighted tunnel. This all happened extremely fast, but I recall at one point seeing a lighted tunnel and thinking, “This is it? That’s all there is?” Thinking back, I realized the “tunnel” was my panniers (saddle bags) on the front were wrapped around my head creating a “tunnel.” The light, was the sun.
The two people that stopped, a couple just a little younger than I, were concerned about how injured I was. They wanted to get me medical care, but I was concerned about leaving the bike, ham radio gear, and computer. We managed to put everything back on the bike and they helped me roll it to the nearby trail head. The front wheel wasn’t working well, but I was able to force it along.
When we arrived at the trail head, which is also the town park, they offered to go get their car, eight miles away and come back and help me. Mike and Barbara were my new best friends. Barbara insisted that I stay at their place. Here I am bleeding to death and would certainly mess up the inside of their car and they didn’t care, I needed help.
The bleeding was ceasing. They told me that AAA has a service for picking up people with bike problems. I wasn’t aware of it. We called and AAA said they would send a wrecker out. Mike and Barbara gave me their cell numbers and told me to have the wrecker take me to the Wyoming, MN hospital, four miles south of there.
They rode off on their bikes and I waited for the wrecker. People stopped by and offered to help. I told them the situation and they looked at me a little strange, “don’t you know you’re bleeding to death?”
One fellow and his daughter stayed with me, just in case I might pass out from an unknown injury. Eventually, the wrecker showed up. At first, he didn’t want to take me. By law, if I’m bleeding, I’m a bio hazard and he is not supposed to deal with that, just vehicles. Finally, he did agree to take me, the bleeding did seem to have stopped. The fellow with his daughter explained to the driver that he was a medic in the military and thought I would be okay.
I put the gear in the truck and off we went. The driver warmed to me and we talked about his son in the Marines and being a GI. In about five minutes, we arrived at the hospital, he handed down my bike, we got the gear out the truck, and he took off.
Grabbing the gear, I moved in all inside to the emergency room reception area. The bike stayed outside. The staff took one look at my face and jumped into action. I didn’t really have to explain.
They rushed me in for X-rays and were very professional and checked me over thoroughly. I didn’t have any broken bones or neck injuries that they could see. They then went to work fixing my face with stitches and cleaning it up. They really knew what they were doing.
After a few hours, they discharged me. I called Mike and Barbara and they were there in about twenty minutes. They took me to their home, made me comfortable and I conked out.
During the night there was a huge thunderstorm, or two, that rolled through and it kept waking me with all the noise. I slept on the bed with some plastic sheets on it and threw my sleeping bag on top of everything. I didn’t want to soil their nice stuff. They are true trail angels.
As for my bike, I’m leaving it with Mike. He is handy and a professional auto mechanic and I’m sure he’ll have it repaired in the future, minus my front luggage rack. The bike has 60 thousand miles on it and would make a good bike for around town, but needs to be retired from long distance rides.
I was extremely fortunate. The way I crashed, I could have ended up like Christopher Reeves. It all happened so quickly there was no time to have any control over the situation.
Because I’m so bloody, I might have trouble getting a flight home (bio hazard) so I have rented a car and will drive back to Sarasota, Florida, starting tomorrow morning.
It is a heart breaker, but on the bright side, I am able to sit here and write this blog…it could have been worse. As for the pain, yeah, it hurts, but considering the alternatives, I’ll take it. I’ve seriously considered getting another bike and continuing, but I’ll need dental work soon and it can’t wait. I’ll go back for my dentist.
Thanks for following along on my journey. It has been an epic adventure and who knows what the future holds? Jane wants to hike in Italy, stay tuned.
If you don’t want to see how my face turned out after the stitches, then don’t scroll down.