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!
bob k. May 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm
heal fast, and ride slowly. i (and i am sure all the other readers out there) will not fault you for waiting until you are all healed up before setting out again. the road (and rails) aren’t going anywhere without you.
get better soon.
love, bob k.
Evelyn Johnson May 17, 2011 at 7:05 pm
Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar eats you…
I often reflect on whether we made the right decision relocating, and if it was truly worth it in the long run. Usually, the first thing that pops into my mind is unquestionably it was due to the incredible friendship we found by meeting you both because it’s been filled with such substance, by two truly unique, fearless people.
Russ and Laura, I can’t tell you how sad I am to see you go but I look forward to reading (watching) your travels and wish for your timely return.
Simply Bike May 17, 2011 at 7:09 pm
hope your ankle feels better soon! Don’t rush the recovery, all your readers understand that you need to be healed before you can take on a cross country bike ride. I’m sorry for you and Russ that you have to put your plans on hold, but you’ll be out there soon enough!
Jeff L May 17, 2011 at 7:15 pm
I too had a similar incident falling on the ice this winter and spraining my knee. That feeling of stupidity, guilt and rewinding the thought “how could I do that, I know better.” And the realization that in literally a split second, you can change your life! Keep your heads up, there is no reader amongst us that feels in any way disappointed, perish the thought. A Friday start date sounds too aggressive. I was down for six weeks with my sprain, but then I am more than twice your age and healing is slower….
Lisa Brady May 17, 2011 at 7:17 pm
We are misty eyed over here in Boise too. Much love to both of you and may you forever be each others adventure partners. Get to feeling better soon Laura! One day at a time…the road will be there when you are ready for it. 🙂
peace to you,
Lisa and Daren
Richard Díaz-Cataldo May 17, 2011 at 8:33 pm
It’s definitely the little things that get you. Sometimes things happen for a reason… embrace it, and give it some time.
I wish you prompt recovery, and whichever good things the universe has in hand for you guys.
Frank Peters May 17, 2011 at 8:33 pm
I can relate. Once just days before I was to lead a backpacking trip into the Sierras with the boy scouts I step off the curb and lost my balance. I screamed for ice and waited while my son ran to the store. This quick first aid was just what was needed and I left on time. Hope you can, too.
T.J. May 17, 2011 at 10:49 pm
I was saddened to hear of your injury and delay in getting off on your next adventure, but happy to know that your injury is not serious. A couple or few days delay is not the end of the world. Just a little more time to enjoy the company of your friends there in Portland. Looking forward to enjoying all your reports and following your experiences when you are back on the road. Just relax and enjoy the moment for now. All the best.
Sue May 17, 2011 at 10:51 pm
Let me see…was it your last post where you said, “We know exactly what we’re getting ourselves into…”? Hmmm…I wonder what an adventure is if this isn’t it? I just hope the rest of it doesn’t involve pain or falling unexpectedly, but is thrillingly joyful!
Jimmy May 18, 2011 at 2:44 am
the human body. so delicate, yet so hardy.
You will recover. you’ll be back on the bike soon.
David J. May 18, 2011 at 5:21 am
Don’t worry about your friends and readers’ expectations – we just want you both healthy, whole, and happy.
Huh, that wasn’t supposed to exhibit alliteration, but just worked out that way. Take your time and get well soon, Laura!
Casey May 18, 2011 at 6:06 am
I am SO glad you are going to be okay! How scary! As soon as I started reading I started to get weepy and whispered “oh no oh no!” Please don’t worry about letting your readers and supporters down. We are rooting for you to heal quickly and fully!
TamV May 18, 2011 at 7:06 am
Dear Russ and Laura,
Sending many positive thoughts and lots of good, healing energy your way. I fell with my bicycle in March, broke my elbow, and developed vertigo. This started two months of “one thing after another”. My take-away lesson was the same as yours: Appreciate Life. Those who truly love and value you will step in and hold you up. This, too, shall pass. Hope you take time to relax and reflect and heal up nice and strong.
Furious May 18, 2011 at 9:25 am
I believe the joke is:
“How do you make God laugh? — Make a plan.”
Hang in there guys. It’s just a little setback. All us readers will wait with you.
Robert Hickman May 18, 2011 at 11:38 am
Laura, let yourself recover before taking off on your adventure, the road won’t go anywhere, we will still be watching.
Ryan Good May 18, 2011 at 3:02 pm
I’m with Ev- sad to see you go, but looking forward to reading about your adventures. And of course, you eventual return. At least you’ve had a chance to experience a hint of Portland summer!
A random mediation on blessed bikes, Bike Week and the Ride of Silence « BikingInLA May 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm
[…] Long Beachers are invited to participate in a bike safety study. Long Beach’s biking expats get an unplanned delay in starting their latest cross county adventure. A bike cam catches a car speeding through the […]
April May 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm
I dunno how much you know about it, but I had an accident in October (hit an unmarked speed bump and endo’ed, I injured my liver and my face).
And as I’ve told people, I think the accident was worse for Shawn than me. I was behind him, and he hears me crash and then my wailing, and then had to see me all bloody and sobbing, and he had to be the one who called an ambulance and let our friends know what happened. And in the ER he had to call my parents and let them know I’d been hospitalized.
And in the hospital, I had nice opiate painkillers and a nurse call button for anything I needed. Shawn did come to see me every day though, and brought me yummy food. When people were sending me lots and lots of get-well wishes, I made sure they knew that they should give some thought to Shawn, too!
I can’t imagine how awful it must be to see a loved one in pain like that.
Christa May 18, 2011 at 9:11 pm
So sorry to hear about your injury! I can definitely relate to what you and Russ are are going through on some level. My BF and I live on our bikes at school. The week before finals this semester he fell on his bike and managed a compound fracture of his lower left leg. We had a spell of beautiful weather the week after, and instead of biking and hiking between studying, he was bedridden with me at his bedside. Still slowly recovering, but it is frustrating for both of us. I just try to think about how much sweeter getting back to our active lifestyle together will be once he is healed.
Enjoy your down time, and be sure to let Russ know how great he is for taking care of you. It’s rough, but I know you’ll both be fine.
Derek Ho May 19, 2011 at 6:36 am
Get well soon Laura! Hang in there Russ!
Vincent May 19, 2011 at 11:08 pm
Trust healing is in progress and you’ll soon be on (both) your feet again -metaphorically speaking too-.
Everything has its own time and may be this time is for physical healing, cherishing a long-held dream just a tad longer, nursing the bruised longings and eagerness put-on-hold and as you both put so wisely, be in the moment and in gratitude.
Healing hug from across the Pond!
Rebecca May 20, 2011 at 6:14 am
Please don’t feel you have to apologize for missing your start date. The important thing is that Laura is going to be fine. It’s so strange how our people worry about us getting struck by cars, when usually it’s the ordinary things like stairs cause the problems. I believe this happened for a reason, and it simply wasn’t the right day for you to begin this journey. The right day will happen soon. Looking forward to reading about your future adventures!
Seamus King May 20, 2011 at 3:53 pm
2005 I made all sorts of plans for the summer trip. Booked and paid for two ferrys and a holdiay. In June, looking forward to the CTC York Rally, I had a Stroke.
Rushed into hospispal for 16 weeks. When I came out I couldnt spell or write or do anytime right.
Your bad fall is really lucky ‘cos it could be worse.
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Am I the only reader who got misty eyed by the end of this post? Russ’s second to last paragraph is pretty romantic.
Get well soon Laura!