Today was a very speical day for me. Finally, after riding over 3,500 miles, I completely wiped out. I was invovled in a collision with my new riding partner, Matt. You know, they say that you "never forget your first time," and I'm sure that I won't.
The day started at the McDonald's by our campsite. At 6:00 am I was parking my bike out front, strategically positioning my rig near a window so I could lookout for thieves. One of the employees, an elderly white woman, told me that I didn't have to worry about thieves in Lander. She told me that if I went to the Indian reservation up the road, then I'd need to be careful, but here in Lander there was no threat of theft. I appreciated the resassurance, but was slightly turned off by the borderline xenophobix remark.
Once inside the McDonald's, I looked around. Oh, how inconvenient! There was a sign on the sode fountain which read, "Free refills on same visit only." I laughed to myself. Maybe there was more theft in Lander than this kind old woman had accounted for. Honestly, it reminded me of how easy it is to look the other way while on the road to hipocrisy.
Anyway, I broke my ride up into two legs. The first 30 miles got me to Crowheart, a town of probably 150 people. On the way there it was more lunar scenery in empty Wyoming. I did pass by an Indian resrvation. I found riding through this town to be informative. I always sort of imagined Indian reservations as these walled-off plots of land. That really wasn't the case here. This resrvation, Fort Washakie, was a totally normal town. The only ostensible differences really were the few Native American cultural adornments that hung in some windows and livened up certain administrative buildings.
Sometimes it's easier to see differences than to recognize similarities.
In Crowheart I met up with Matt and Marion. Matt and I took our time to eat lunch, so Marion headed out a bit before us. There I sat with Matt, a motivated, young engineer from New York. Who knew that in just a few hours I would share my first time with him. My first fall, that is. Boy, was I lucky!
So we headed out, riding two-wide on our way to DuBois. The one good thing about riding in Wyoming was that the shoulders were sufficiently wide to accommodate riding side-by-side. We exchanged storeis while cruising towards DuBois.
Somewhere between the 40th and 50th mile was where it happened. As we merrilly made our way, the shoulder began to narrow. Eight feet, six feet, four feet; it kept getting smaller and smaller. We said nothing but both felt the change. I found myself straddling the shoulder's edge while Matt was pressed up against the rumble strip.
One of us had to do something, so Matt took the initiative. He stood up to quickly accelerate ahead of me. As he pulled ahed, his right rear pannier clipped my left dropbar. My handlebars were ripped from my grip.
"Ahhh!" I screamed as my body was ejected from my saddle. My feet instinctively unclipped from my "clipless" pedals. Detached from my bike, the left side of my body made first contact with the pavement. Perhaps it was in that moment that my training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu kicked-in, because my left arm somehow knew to slap the pavement while my hips and legs rolled upwards to dissipate the blow. I skidded across the concrete.
Matt dismounted and rushed over to me. "Oh man. I'm so sorry. Take your time." He knew that it was unwise to jump right up after a potentially traumatic injury. What was the absolute first thing that I did after falling? I opened my left-front pannier to see if my camera gear was broken. Whew! It wasn't. That was pretty silly. I didn't even check myself to see if perhaps I was broken. Man, was I in denial of what had just happened.
Did you fall into the lane?
Comfortred that my camera equipment was okay, I proceeded to check myself. Everything felt alright. Very luckily, there was hardly any blood. A little scrape on my knee, a little scrape on my ankle, but that was all that was visible. Oh, wait. I lowered the left side of my riding shorts. Boom. There was a peach-sized burn on my left hip. Ouch. I was a little jittery, but all-in-all I felt well. I guess it could have been much worse.
Was there a car coming?
I sensed that Matt felt bad about what had transpired. Before mounting my bike I gave him a pound to let him know that there was no bad-blood on my end. It's funny. I had always convinced myself that riding with a partner was safer than riding solo. There certainly is a sort of "stength in numbers" when it comes to riding, but there are also risks which can be easily overlooked. I realized that I had fallen victim to one of those risks.
Did you hit your head?
We kept peddling. As always, the last ten miles were rough. We got caught in a brief storm, then struggled with the gravel roads at our destination. Just to unnerve me a touch more, some jerk in a station wagon come within inches of knocking me over. Our destination was the Episcopal Church of DuBois.
Dude you can't get another concussion.
That evening I sort of isolated myself. I shuffled from the library to the post office to the grocery store to the church. Despite being amongst good company, I didn't really care to interact. I even turned down an invitation to join the fellows at the bar. It felt like I had all this stuff to do. Did I really, though?
Your trip could have ended today.
I cooked myself a late dinner. When the guys came back from the bar, they asked about the incident. "I heard you took a spill today," one said.
I snapped back, "It may be more accurate to say that I was involved in a collision." Man, my ego was hurt. Though the collision was an honest mistake, I suppose on some level I was blaming myself for what hapened. Once again, my confidence in myself had been damaged. I flet like I wasn't really acting right that evening, so for the rest of the night I just isolated myself between choirs and my cellphone.
Colin, you could have died.
So that was it. My grand "first time". Though it was an innocuous little mix-up, it set off a string of insecurity that had me questioning my ability to get to my destination. As if I wasn't facing enough uncertainty living life on the road for the last four-and-a-half months and 3,500 miles, now I had to rationalize this. Depite giong to bed rather late that night, there was still this little voice in the back of my head reminding me that:
Colin, you can do this.