Last year, I wiped out on my bike.

It was autumn, and the route that I took to work involved a couple wooden bridges. One of the bridges consisted of pressure-treated planks running under a road, and over a section of the river that’s dry 75% of the year. But it’s still close enough to the water to get damp, and icy, especially in the early morning. I turned on that bridge, and slid out.

The result was some bruising and a moment of shock, but I rode the rest of the way to work, about a half mile. It wasn’t a big deal, and I felt good about being able to walk away from it.

This year, I’ve got a different route home. Instead of taking the Green Belt by the river, I ride entirely on streets. I thought that my biggest threat would be from vehicles, but, it turns out, I was wrong.

It’s gravel.

Okay, a vehicle had some influence, but it wasn’t the primary cause, more of a motivation. On Wednesday August 14th on the way home from work, while turning left from Lincoln onto Beacon, I could hear that there was a car behind me, so I tried to go out as fast as I could, to be polite. I also swung wide, to get to the right lane as quickly as possible, and that lane happened to have a bit of gravel lurking on it.

Between one pedal push and the next, I lost the ground. It was like my feet slipped, even though they stayed on the pedals, and the next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground, nestled up against the curb with several spots on my body beginning to burn wetly. Part of my body felt numb, and part of my brain did too.

I thought to myself, gosh, I hope no one runs me over while I’m lying in the street.

Then I tried to drag myself and my backpack, still hooked onto my arms, to the sidewalk. I couldn’t stand up right away, and my left hand felt like I’d hit my funny bone so hard it impacted the whole arm and palm. I scooted over to the sidewalk, then managed to stand up. A car in the left turn lane going west on Beacon stopped and the driver asked if a car had hit me. I told her no, that I’d be okay, I was going to call my husband.

I dragged my bike over to the sidewalk and stood it up. The headlight had been popped off its housing, and I picked it up from the street and wasted a few moments trying to put it back on, before I realized that my hands were not cooperating enough to try that.

Another car pulled up next to me and a window rolled down for another inquiry, this time to know if I wanted them to call 911. Again, I assured them I would be fine, I was going to call my husband.

Then I dug my phone out of my pack and texted Ambrose with an urgent request for pick up. I was about a mile from home, maybe a mile and a quarter, but there was no way I was going to get back on my bike that day. Large patches of skin were missing from the top of my right ankle, my right palm, my right forearm near the elbow and my right shoulder. My right knee was protected by my long pants (the same pants I was wearing for last year’s wipe out, I might need to get rid of them), but I could feel it was scraped and bruised.

I stood on the street, crying, partly in pain and partly in frustration, that I’d managed to mess up so spectacularly. Then I’d laugh at myself for a moment before the stinging pains became too intense and the tears would start up again. It seemed to take Ambrose forever to come and get me, and when I finally saw the car, he drove right past me, leaving me yelling at him, “Come back, I’m over here, turn around!”

He came back, and I walked the bike to an alley where he could pull in. I let him know that I needed him to load the bike, but I don’t think he really understood just how much skin I’d managed to lose until I got to the shower and began to scrub.

Some might call it screaming; I prefer to say that I sang – mostly – while I tried to get the road dirt out of my skin in the shower. For the first couple days, even a puff of wind hurt against the stripped areas of my skin, but by now everything has scabbed over, so it just hurts to move and stretch the scabs. And when I brush against the bruises. And when other areas protest, where I must have pulled muscles, like my left hamstring and the left side of my neck…

When I posted to Facebook that I’d gotten road rash, my dad later told me he thought that I meant I’d gotten a rash on my hiking trip, like poison ivy. When I explained what happened, he said that my injuries were called strawberries. Click the ‘Read More’ link below to take a peek and decide for yourself.

Road rash, or strawberries?

Right ankle and right knee, scraped and swollen 

Right palm

Right shoulder – easily the least of my worries

Right forearm near the elbow – ow

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