I’ve never really broken anything before. The closest I got was cracking a wrist carpel during sophomore year soccer. And I’m a cautious downhiller. Cycling, snowboarding, you name it. If there’s a slope consider me the caboose and get ready to wait for me at the bottom. I don’t like falling because I’m ungraceful and accident prone. Unfortunately, Speedy Suzie decided it was her day to emerge and her time to bring Slow Suz to the front of the pack. And unfortunately that zealous confidence that only shows herself once in a million years is the reason I am out for a month with a busted collar bone and knees so skinned I side shuffle around this tiny Turkish town.
Let start with the beginning of the day though.
Simply put, it couldn’t have looked more promising. The day before our team spent conquering multiple 1400 meter climbs and charging up and up with little downhill in return. It took everything out of me. I had never climbed so many mountains in one day before. So this was the day our rewards were granted to us. We left our campsite—a scene out of a Patagonia ad—and cruised downhill to a gas station to clean our bikes from the ever attacking Turkish mud. We even had a dog enthusiastically abandon her puppies for miles to chase us downhill, wind at our backs. The gas station where we polished our metal steeds had clean restrooms and unusually delicious corn nuts (my favorite). If anything, this was our day to kill off some kilometers in sunny weather with an upbeat pace and a forgiving tailwind.
Then came the highway. Everyone was moving so fast. I—always being last—was excited for third and was pumped to see my two male teammates in sight. I can catch them! I thought. Just stay brave and hunch down, let the road take you. For once don’t be afraid! And I wasn’t. I listened to Speedy Suz and bombed faster than I ever had. No brakes. No fear. An open down more inviting than Christmas morning.
But then the side wind came and the ground underneath didn’t feel so smooth. My front tire began to shake, it seemed nervous. I tried to brake but my back brakes were too loose and did nothing to slow me down. Braking front only made my front tire shake more quickly. I will not crash, I promised. Just keep your wheel straight. Don’t be afraid. But my bike continued its violent head bang, like it wasn’t meant to go so fast and every screw, nut, and bolt was unwinding at the seams. I locked my elbows and pushed hard on the handlebars, trying to keep the front wheel straight and under control.
And then calmly, and perhaps even gracefully, my bike dismantled my forceful arm lock and sent me tumbling, first into the air and then on to pavement.
I don’t remember Katie dragging me from the middle of the lane, but I do remember howling and crying and pain, looking for Ski and not being able to remember what country I was in or how many days we had been cycling. “It’s my first day,” I told the pregnant Turkish woman who was calling the ambulance. (It was actually my sixth.) Then I remember being in an ambulance with two women in headscarfs casually discussing what sounded like their day while I screamed and cried as they cranked my shoulders and forced down my quivering body.
At the hospital they poured alcohol and hydrogen peroxide over my open wounds. Ski told me to quiet down, that I was yelling too loud but I didn’t know such pain existed. Now I understand why people give up so much under torcher. It really hurts to be hurt.
After some time in the hospital speaking with one paramedic who spoke English, he happily told me with the kindest smile to stop crying, as if I was crazy for doing so. At this point I demanded morphine and with the same happy face suggested it to the medic who administered it immediately. The morphine made me sleepy but didn’t subside the pain. (My newest theory is that morphine is a way to give doctors peace. A method of quieting patients, not quieting their pain.) Ski was trying to get my insurance through, but I think the staff was too bothered to process a foreigner’s paperwork so they let me go, cost free. All I had to pay for was antibiotics, antibiotic cream, and painkillers. It came out to under $20 USD.
I am so grateful to my team for helping me while on the road, in the hospital, and after the crash. I am also extremely grateful to the Turkish people, some of which loaded our four bikes into their non-commercial truck to transport everyone to the hospital safely and to the pregnant Turkish woman who translated for me. I hope she has the most beautiful and intelligent child on the planet.
And lastly, I am most grateful that I know now to trust my Suzie shuffle of a speed. Everyone should go at their own pace; they should maintain their level of personal safety and confidence whatever that may be. Even though I am off the bike for (hopefully only!) a month, I will still have an amazing time in Turkey with Ski while the others continue on. And, I’m still on target to complete 4,000 of the 5,000kms that I promised I would do. There is life on a bike after a horrible crash. And in no time I’ll be in Macedonia, the four of us continuing our adventure up even harder hills and in more beautiful campsites. I wish Katie and Sessions Godspeed and a big Thank You! to Ski for staying with me though he is able and capable to continue on.
Oh yeah, and my bike (Tink: because I never want to be a real girl!) is still in great condition! The fall didn’t hurt her too bad and with just a few tune ups she’ll be good as gold. Miracles, apparently, do happen.