Sometimes Life has Other Plans
The good news is that my ankle isn’t broken. The bad news is that, instead of pedaling out of Portland as planned, I am house-bound, with my ankle wrapped in a brace.
We rarely ever injure ourselves in some sort of spectacular event. No, it’s always the little things that get you. Sunday morning, as I was packing up my bike, I decided to just grab the bungee cord first. As I trotted down the wet stairs, my right foot slipped out from under me, and I crashed to the ground. An involuntary scream, louder than I’ve ever heard before, rushed out of my mouth, and I laid on the concrete, sobbing, thinking ‘no, no, no, no, no…’
Your view of an event changes depending on where you stand, and two people can live through the same few moments and have rather different experiences. For me, the experience was full of anger and embarrassment and desperate wishing that there was a rewind button. For Russ, standing on the outside, the experience was one of feeling helpless and searching for meaning.
I would like to say that my fall caused me to think deeply and introspectively about how precious life is. But, honestly, as the searing pain subsided and I sat with ice on my ankle, I could only think about how utterly stupid I felt. In one swift and klutzy action, I had completely ruined our ride-out-of-town plans and forced us to change our much-hyped start date. Maybe I can just wrap it up really well and it’ll be fine and nobody will ever know…
As injuries go, I suppose I got lucky. A simple sprain that will heal on its own over time. Wonderful neighbors and friends who drove us to the clinic. Insurance that actually picked up part of the tab. But, as I wait for my ankle to heal, I am forced to simply sit still and wait. It’s a frustrating irony that I am required to be nearly motionless when I should be cycling across the country.
So I sit here, trying to think of the silver linings. I am grateful that it gave us the opportunity to spend more time with our friends here in town. I am grateful that it wasn’t a lot worse (including how easy it would have been for me to hit my head on the concrete as I slammed to the ground). I am grateful that our plans and other external forces are flexible enough that we can stay in Portland, in this apartment, while my ankle heals.
And I think of this: Sometimes it’s not the cars on the road that will get you, or the most-hyped diseases. Sometimes it doesn’t matter who you are or what you have planned. Sometimes you just slip, and things change. Life is short and wondrous and has an incredible knack for making sure that you never take it for granted.
But that’s just my side of the story. Russ was outside when I fell, so he didn’t see it happen, he just heard me suddenly start screaming…
It was the day we were supposed to leave and set off on our next big adventure. Truth be told, I was feeling a little reluctant to leave in the morning. It was warm and dry inside and decidedly the opposite outside. I was still a bit melancholy about leaving all our friends. I had the usual doubts, and was questioning our general sanity and wondering what it was, exactly, that we were doing, leaving things behind again.
My bike was more or less packed and I was waiting for Laura to finish loading her Brompton. I was staring at the sky and wishing for better weather.
It was then I heard a dull thud and Laura screaming from down the stairs. In that instant, my heart sank and the gentle balance of the day had been broken. I ran downstairs to see a sight that everyone dreads – their loved one, crumpled up on the ground, sobbing in pain and fear. I didn’t see any blood and, not knowing what else I could do in that moment, I held her and tried to comfort her. I felt completely helpless and hopeless, wanting to make things somehow better, but not knowing how.
After the initial shock of what happened, the reality of the situation began to set in. We were not riding off today as we had planned. Life had its own agenda for us. There was a bit of guilt about letting our readers down, about changing the plans of our friends who were going to ride out with us. But there was really nothing we could do, we weren’t leaving that day.
It’s funny all the things that run through your head. All our ambivalence about leaving was gone now that we couldn’t go. I thought it strange that we managed 10,000 miles across the country with hardly an injury and here we are, literally minutes from pushing off, and Life decides to step in and change our itinerary.
The intricate and delicate balance of our lives was laid bare. Our intentions, dreams and hopes hang in the ether like a giant mobile, with nothing but our willful delusion of control holding it all in place. A sudden change of direction and everything teeters towards the edge. One moment we are preparing for adventure, the next I’m rushing over to our neighbor’s house asking for a ride to urgent care (thanks Scott and Martha).
At the end of the day, Laura thankfully just sprained an ankle. No blood. No broken bones. Despite that, the whole incident made me re-examine our trip and the choices we’ve made in our lives. I thought about, if for some reason she couldn’t join me, how different and hollow the experience would be, how much it means to me that we share our adventures together, and how that I don’t regret our decision to set off and travel by bike two years ago.
In the end, what started as a pretty challenging day ended well. Our friends who were going to ride out with us came over and brought food and drinks. We didn’t have a chance to organize a farewell party, so this was a perfect impromptu one, given the circumstances. We ate and we laughed and we felt lucky to have been dealt a pleasant surprise after the more somber one in the morning.
Assuming that all goes well, we’re aiming to leave Portland on Friday. Cross your fingers for us!
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