October 23, 2010


One week ago today I crashed my bike.  Before you read any further know that I am totally and completely fine. Other that a couple of small Al Caponesq scars there is no lasting damage.  

Here’s the long version of what happened:  I left Myrtle Beach Friday at noon and was biking really fast and enjoying myself, despite the fact that the road I was biking on (rt 17) was a pretty shitty.  The reason I was biking on this bike-unfriendly road, rather than the route my new Adventure Cycling maps recommended, was because I had decided to go to Myrtle Beach to couch surf, and from there I was planning on going straight to Charleston to see Phish, and this was the only way to connect those dots.   Side note:  couch surfing was awesome. I stayed with two beautiful girls my age, who had two of their beautiful girl friends staying in the apartment too.  All of them were going to the Phish show, and I had a blast hanging out with them for two nights.  Check out the website they run together about the jam band scene and social consciousness and whatnot www.sparkleberrylane.com. 

So anyway, after about 20 miles the road left all commercial and residential buildings behind and became a non stop highway.  It had a line of grooved pavement (the bumps that wake you up if you fall asleep and drift off the road) over the white shoulder line and then about two feet of pavement before the grass.  Not a lot, but enough.  I had to cross over the grooved pavement now and then, and every time I did the whole rig shook like a mechanical bull.  This road wasn’t the first time I had to deal with these evil grooves, so I knew what to expect.  The grooves are spaced in an even fraction of my wheelbase, which means that the whole bike jumps up and down in sync.  Also, the radius of the arcs of each groove are almost exactly the same as my lovely 27” wheels, which makes them really slam into each groove and jump out with a lot of force.  So, aware of the evil grooves to my left, I just tracked a really solid straight line (something that I’ve gotten quite good at) and got into a good zone (mentally and physically).

As I was entering Georgetown S.C., where I would be able to get off of rt 17 and take some better roads to Charleston, I had to cross a bridge over a big river.  It was a fairly long bridge, with a high arch to it, but not a suspension or truss bridge or anything like that.  It was a really beautiful view, and as I granny geared my way up the first half I really took it in.   The pavement on the bridge was concrete, and there were no evil grooves, although there were lots of metal debris and evil teeth (the joints that prevent a bridge from cracking when it freezes are nasty wheel traps if you have skinny tires).  Coming down the second half of the bridge I went kinda fast, nothing crazy though, no more than 23mpg according to my bike computer.  I stayed within my allotted two feet of shoulder because there was fairly heavy traffic, but as the concrete pavement ended, and the evil grooves returned I noticed there was a large bush and some debris blocking my precious two feet, and a metal guardrail blocking my escape to the right.  I didn’t have time too look behind me to check if there was a car in the right lane, but the traffic was heavy enough to just assume that there was, so I was forced into the grooves.  I thought I would be able to just coast through them like I had done many times before, but something about my speed, and the fact that I was carving a turn made that impossible.  I remember hitting the grooves and knowing immediately that I was going to crash. 

After that, I don’t remember much.  However, based on my CSI like forensic investigation of all of my cuts, road rash, and damage to my bike I’ve come to the conclusion that as I was turning back into the safe part of the shoulder my front wheel got airborne for an instant and turned to the right to become perpendicular to the ground.  When my front wheel caught the pavement it tacoed and my bike fell over to the left and I fell to my right (probably with a lot of forward momentum too).  My bike received some scrapes to the left brake lever, my rack got a bit bent, and the front wheel was totaled (although I kept the hub) but other than that it was fine.  The big man little man is a beast.  Meanwhile, I gracefully braced my fall by catching the steel guardrail with my face.  I received a deep cut next to my ear, just below my temple, and another one on my chin as well as a good amount of road rash on my face, shoulder, arm, back, and leg.  The blow to the noggin left me completely unconscious, which honestly was probably a good thing since I don’t remember being in any pain at all.   The highway patrol found me out cold in a pool of blood.  I know this because the officer called me a few days later to tell me.  I slowly regained consciousness on the ambulance and was very confused, I didn’t know where I was, and I couldn’t answer any questions about where I had come from or how long I had been biking.  I still didn’t feel all that much pain though, and I enjoyed slowly remembering all the details of my bike trip, and sharing them with the EMTs.  It was like remembering a dream.   In fact, I remember telling the EMTs some pretty funny stories, but my bleeding face probably took away from my witty, off the cuff humor. 

Once I got to the hospital I was fully conscious, but still pretty dazed.  I felt like I was on drugs, and perhaps I was, I don’t know.  I had no idea how badly hurt I was, I could feel pain but it was more like a vague “everything hurts” kind of pain.  I was strapped down to a stretcher with my head immobilized, stuck in the up position, forced to stare at the florescent lights zip by as I was rushed somewhere.  It reminded me of a scene from a movie, and in my dazed state I made sure to note the trippyness of the experience.  I got a bunch of CAT scans and X-rays and was then sent to a specialist ear nose and throat doc.  The CAT scans suggested that my cut had penetrated my ear canal, but luckily it didn’t.  Instead my ear canal was only slightly torn from the stretching that happened when my face took the blow.  The other lucky thing was that the deep cut just barely missed my facial nerve, which, if severed, would have caused my whole face to become paralyzed.  Instead of that I just have some tingly feelings and numbness above my ear, and that is rapidly improving.  So yeah, I got really lucky.

As my wounds were being cleaned and my cuts were being stitched my parents were notified.  I got to talk to them soon after to quell their panic, but they were still freaking out.  My dad booked a flight immediately, and met me at the hospital around 1am.   It would've been really hard to do anything if he hadn’t flown down to meet me.  I could barely move my head, I had no means of transportation, and nowhere to go.  My bike was “towed” (I use the word “towed” because I was charged a $160 towing fee) to a local redneck car shop, and I had nothing but my torn spandex, phone, and wallet with me.  Trying to recall the chain of events with my dad, again, felt like remembering a dream.  In fact it took a while to convince myself that certain snippets of memory were not a dream, and it was only because of logic that I accepted the memories as true events that happened.  The earliest snippet still feels like a dream, if not a dream within a dream.  I remember the mosquitoes were swarming like crazy around me, and as I was woken up and put into the ambulance all the mosquitos followed me into the ambulance, continuing to feast.  I remember trying to make small talk with the EMT by saying “these mosquitoes are insane”.   For a while I didn’t notice all the bites, probably masked by the road rash, and I truly believed that memory was from a dream I had a few nights earlier while camped out in an equally heavily populated mosquito city.  It wasn’t until I noticed the mosaic of bug bites all over my body that logic forced me to accept that memory as fact. 

My dad and I checked into a hotel and after dealing with getting my bike back and bringing it to a bike shop, we actually had a pretty good time in Georgetown.  We got to see a historic wooden boat show / town fair, and I got some really good meals.  Since I could barely open my mouth I was really able to savor each tiny miniscule bite.   It also felt … interesting… looking so messed up while interacting with society.  After a good father son weekend my dad went home and checked me into a cheap, but surprisingly clean motel, where I have achieved my full snorlax / dulfus potential by watching rediculus amounts of TV and lying in bed all day.  Yesterday I saw the ear nose and throat doc again to have my stiches removed and my ear checked out.  I’ve completely regained the hearing in my right ear after all the blood clots were removed.  Good as new.  The stiffness in my back, neck and jaw are much better now, and today I emerged from my snorlax den and jogged / walked 15 miles to get my bike from the bike shop and rode back to the hotel in Georgetown, along rt 17 the whole way.  I stopped to examine the crash site on my way there, but after about 30 seconds the mosquitos got too insane and I just kept running, it didn’t look like anything happened anyway.  On my way back the fact that this trip is inherently and unavoidably dangerous sunk in.  I definitely don’t want to crash again, but other than avoiding roads like, this its hard for me to come up with a concrete lesson that I can learn from this crash.  As I biked over the bridge again I looked over my shoulder and safely merged into the car lane then back into the shoulder at the first gap in the grooves, like I would have done the first time if I had carefully examined the area from a few hundred feet away giving me enough time to make the merge.  Tomorrow I’ll be packing up all my stuff and on Sunday I’m hitting the road again.  I certainly have a slightly elevated level of fear, but I’m still looking forward to biking again, and I think after a good day on the road I’ll be feeling back to normal.


  1. May the spirit of the road continue to be with you on your journey as well as the angels of the road be your safety guide! Glad that you are back on your bike and in your sister's words: not letting the accident defeat you!! Love and support from your mom!

  2. Wow, this is the first post I've read so far and it's epic! Glad you're alright.
    Also glad you like wwoofing and couchsurfing. I had the pleasure of working on a macadamia nut farm in Australia and loved it. Great people.
    Anyway, i'll be sure to check your blog more often.
    All the best.