Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Testing My Faith

Its been one of those weeks.  Mostly a week of bad news in my Bike World.  It puts me in a contentious frame of mind and when I get in this state I question the meaning of things.  So I am going to write in a stream of consciousness way what's up in Flashworld.

First up was Cathy's aka Flashette's third major bike crash last week.  We were taking a ride with our student Egor in SF, showing him the Golden Gate bridge, which he has not visited before.  It was all going well, the day was beautiful in an Indian Summer way, we crossed over to Marin and stopped along with all the tourists to watch the overturned wreck of the Oracle racing yacht float by, under the bridge and out to sea.  We rode back to SF, stopped at the Warming Hut for afternoon coffees, then, in the golden glow of the afternoon proceeded to ride to North Beach for foccachia sandwiches.  We never made it.

We were descending the slightly downhill path to Aquatic Park, and a roadie was riding briskly toward us.  As he passed me (I was leading) I heard the sickening sound of body and bike hitting the pavement.  My first thought was that this guy had collided with Flashette.  I stopped and threw down my bike, and she was on the pavement on her back, the roadie had stopped and looked stunned.  He said she just went down.  You see, there are embedded parallel railroad tracks in this path that were never paved over completely---the rails protrude slightly and I think Flashette veered right to give the roadie space and her front tire caught on the parallel rail.

The first thing out of my mouth was a pained shout: NO!  NOT AGAIN!  A perfect afternoon had suddenly turned into an instant waking nightmare.  I went into ride leader mode and started to assess her injuries.  She was talking and asked what happened---she had no recollection.  Then she said she thought her collarbone and wrist were broken.  I put a jacket under her head, then she asked what happened, then repeated the broken bone comment, then a minute later, she repeated those two comments again, then again.  She said she was woozy.  Alarmed, I phoned 911.  I got a dispatcher in Richmond, who tried to transfer me to SF.  After a long time, a ringing sound, then a woman who said she was not 911 and would try to transfer me.  I hung up.  Dialed again, and this time it worked.

Because of her repetition, the paramedics feared a head injury so they wanted to take her to SF General which has the best trauma unit.  I said fine.  Her helmet was broken over the left temple.  But...I had our bikes I had to somehow take care of.  I had to make a lot of fast decisions.  I told Egor to ride himself to BART and take that home.  The firefighters offered to take our bikes to their fire station for storage, then I could go with Cathy to the hospital, so I said yes, and scribbled their contact info on a scrap of paper, and we were off to the hospital.

Long story short at this point is that we were there for 9 hours--until 3am.  They took X-rays, CAT scans, and reset her arm in that time.  I had free roaming of the trauma unit, no one tried to restrict me.  People lying in gurneys in the hallway, holding bloody towels to fingers or heads.  Others unconscious, one guy with a blanket covering him over his head.  Sheriffs, SFPD officers watching over suspects, all kinds of medical personnel.  Heart attacks, old people, indigents, drunks, people in fights, I saw a lot and it was not a boring 9 hours.  No dinner, eating out of the vending machine.  By the way, Cathy accurately predicted her injuries: broken left clavicle at the sternum, broken right wrist, no head injuries, gash on hip and back.  Thank god her previously twice injured left shoulder was ok save for some road rash, a silver lining.

When it was time to go, Egor drove over to get us, Cathy could barely walk she was so hurting and drugged up.  It was a rough night, even after I got her into bed, we woke up several times to address pain or other issues.  I can't recall ever being so tired.  It seemed like a bad dream I desperately wanted to wake up from but that wasn't going to happen.

I stayed home Wed. and nursed her and she was comfortable once I got the heavy duty pain meds from the pharmacy.  I worked Thurs/Fri. and nursed her in the evening, and we had friends helping which is great.  So weary, I needed a ride and really looked forward to riding Saturday.

Not the best ride ever:

On Saturday, it took me 3 hours to get her properly fed, medicated, dressed, washed and put back to bed, so I got out of the house to ride around 11:30am.  I rode up Tunnel Road, then up to Grizzly Peak, spending much of my time processing what had happened that week.  I descended South Park and Wildcat, then rode to Orinda.  I stopped at Peet's for a coffee and scone.  It was already around 2pm and way past my usual lunch time, but I wasn't that hungry.  I then rode to Moraga where it was very windy, then up Pinehurst.  My neck was starting to ache on the right side, which hasn't happened in a long time.  The neck ache soon turned into a headache, and riding back into the glare of a 4pm sun made it worse.  When I got back after 46 miles, I felt bad, worse than when I had left.  However not riding eased up on my head pain and after a few hours I started to think it wasn't a half bad ride after all.  I rode by myself, no encounters with other cyclists except the one guy below, at the least, it was good to get out.

One thing that happened on this ride that is new and a bit concerning for me is that I verbally confronted another cyclist for his bad riding.  This young hipster guy ran red light after red light in front of me so I easily caught him and told him if he expected to get any respect from motorists then he should ride seriously and stop for red lights and thereby set a good example for all of us.  He looked at me and said "cool.  thanks".  The next red light he came to he blew right through it.  Ok, Fuck Me then.  See you in the trauma unit dude.

Sunday Cathy felt good enough to go to church, so I took another ride.  This time a little earlier, about 10am, shorter, up through Piedmont and Montclair for 20 miles or so.  My legs felt enervated, and my neck started aching, although less than the day before.  I suddenly felt like the ride was too harsh so I let some air out of my tires, then some more.  I was acting out of sorts.  This short ride felt like enough.  I was tired.

On Lance et.all:

I've been devouring many articles and affidavits the last week on the whole LanceGate mess.  His is a glorious bloody fall from grace, the likes we haven't seen in a long time.  His tour wins gone, his endorsements and income cut off, no longer part of his beloved Livestrong organization.  That must really hurt.  If he has a soul or conscious.  I've never been a Lance fan.  As you know by my writings, I'm a Lemond fan, and it stuck in my craw that Lance leveraged Trek to discontinue the Lemond line back in 2008.  Lance did this because Lemond was one of the few voices in the wilderness questioning Lance's performance and basically calling him a doper, and Lance in turn tried to destroy Lemond.  The press lashed out at Lemond calling him a crackpot, jealous of Lance, a loose cannon.  Greg must feel vindicated by all this but I've not read any statements from him in the last week, he is remaining curiously silent.  I wonder why?  When the dust settles Lemond will stand alone as an honest American champion.

The last 10 years are basically rotten to the core in pro cycling.  Hincapie, Leipheimer, Landis, Zabriski, Hamilton, and other American Heros have all fallen.  I understand why they had to do it.  But there is more, much more, to uncover and I think the UCI's current regime has to fall, McQuaid is complicit and has to go down.  He covered up for Lance, took bribes.  Dr. Ferrari, Johan Brunyeel, they have to pay.  Doping at this magnitude is like an insect infestation in your home---if you don't kill every last pest they will breed and the problem resurfaces yet again.  You have to put a big bag over your house, get out, and gas it, killing everything in it.  I for one don't know what the answer is.  I don't know if I can follow pro cycling after this.  Its been gutted for me, there is little left of interest.  Its sad, and it makes me a little upset.

I'm becoming a Bike Nazi? :

Today I ran a messenger errand by bike over to Emeryville to obtain some meds for Cathy.  I needed an excuse to get out and it was a nice afternoon.  I got into regular ride kit and chose the Lemond-R.  The 8 miles there went smoothly and felt good.  I got the meds, then rode to Aquatic Park in Berkeley to use the bathroom.  After that, I decided to ride up to Telegraph, then head south to Alameda.  Soon enough I stumbled on the Actual Cafe, on Alcatraz.  This is a cafe that features indoor vertical bike parking, so on a whim I decided to give it a try.  I ordered a cappucino and gazed upon the twenty-somethings with laptops all intent on doing things online.  I seemed the only person without a device.  The bikes on the wall were all pretty ordinary, except for one which was festooned with all kinds of junk, including a 5 gallon bucket on the front handlebars.  The java was ok, but certainly not good.  Overall, not too impressed.

Resuming, traffic was heavy on Alcatraz and I soon realized that Telegraph was going to be bad, its  a major artery as people funnel towards the freeway.  At the corner of Alcatraz and Telegraph, three cars were lined up to turn right, signals blinking, waiting for the light.  I stopped behind them.  I spied in my mirror another cyclists coming up behind me, something large on his back, a big box or something.  He rode by me on the right and stopped on the corner, effectively blocking the cars turning right.  The first car in line was looking left at the stream of cars coming, and when the light turned green, started to go, then had to abruptly stop as the cyclist wobbled out into the street but suddenly saw the car was turning, so veered back and bounced off the curb, then saw the car had spared him from being run over, so wobbled back into the street, made almost a U-turn, and proceeded across the intersection.

I hated this moron.  What a fucking idiot.  It really made me mad, but I was turning on Telegraph.  Soon enough I encountered another Fucking Moron on a bicycle.  Another twenty something, no helmet but yes on the U-lock swinging on the handlebars, who was having some trouble with his bike and weaving all over the bike lane, so I had to shout ON YOUR LEFT when I passed him so as not have him veer into me.  A couple blocks passed and I seemed to hit all the red lights, traffic was heavy, not pleasant.  Then I see this same guy ahead of me... how did that happen?  The only way for him to get ahead was somehow run the red lights and I didn't notice it.  I followed him and sure enough, come the next red, he stopped half way out into the intersection, looked around, then rode through it.  That was it, I was pissed off at this guy.

I caught up to him easily, and knowing I only had a moment, turned to him and loudly stated HEY DUDE, I HAVE A QUESTION FOR YOU---WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO GET SERIOUS?  He said "what does that mean?"   IT MEANS NOT RUNNING RED LIGHTS.  WHEN YOU RUN A RED LIGHT IT MAKES MOTORISTS THINK WE ARE IDIOTS. IF YOU WANT RESPECT FROM MOTORISTS THEN YOU NEED TO STOP FOR LIGHTS AND SHOW THEM WE TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY.  I was half shouting I think, the wind noise, traffic and caffeine  all amping me up.  All he said was "yeah, ok".
The next intersection he came to, he blew through the red light.  Fuck Me again I guess.

I saw guys like him in the trauma unit last week.  They live in a self constructed reality where nothing bad will happen to them, until it does.  Cathy's crash again shows just how fast things happen, how your life can change in literally 1 second.  Riding poorly, without a helmet, taking risks assuming drivers will stop in time, its suicidal. And it seems to be endemic among young people on bikes these days.  At least from what I am seeing on the streets.

And the risk to myself seems more raw, more omnipresent since last week.  We are so precariously balanced on our bikes, two small squares of rubber the only thing holding us up from the merciless combination of gravity, g-forces, and hard pavement upon our fragile bodies.  The emotion rising up from all this is anger.  I'm angry that my ride world has to include self-entitled people in their cars, many of them ignorant of what cycling is or what we as cyclists have to put up with.  Idiots threatening me, getting in my way, polluting the very air I breath.  I'm angry at cyclists who are equally ignorant, who don't care, make no effort to be effective, efficient parts of the traffic flow.  I'm angry they're so cavalier with their young lives.  I'm mad as hell that my sport has been vilified as corrupt when many other sports are equally as bad, but testing is poorer in them so the whole mess is well concealed.  I'm mad that life is not fair, and some people like Flashette, who is a trained and safety conscious cyclist,  have much worse luck than foolhardy others and have to sustain recurring injuries.

So my faith is tested again.  Somedays I wonder why I still ride.  I ask myself is it worth it.  And the answer is always the same.  I live to ride.  Without riding I am just a shell, a dried husk.   Cycling is my religion wherein I find Oneness with the universe.  I will not stop riding until I can no longer do it.  You have my word on that.


1 comment:

  1. Just pointed out by the Chronicle: