Here’s the whole, unedited story of a very nasty mountain biking accident…

On a sunny–but very windy–Sunday afternoon I was taking a route I’ve taken before.  Initially there’s a lot of uphill trails, so I really enjoy the downhill part when I come to it.  I was going through fields filled with bright sunshine and wearing my safety sunglasses.  When I reached the top of the downhill section I gratefully got up some speed and felt the wind in my face.  The best part of mountain biking!

About two thirds of the way down this hill, the trail enters some woods and turns a little to the right.  Plunging into the heavy shadow of the trees, I experienced about 5 seconds of blindness (very bright to very dark instantly–with sunglasses).  I kept going fast because I knew the trail–or so I thought.  As my eyes were adjusting, I noticed a dark shape ahead of me.

What is that?  Something in the path? I wondered, squinting.

Yep.  A little bit closer and I realized a tree had come down and it was blocking the path.  I hit the brakes, but I was still going downhill and still going fast.  In my mind’s eye I can see that tree rushing towards me, and I can see my hands squeezing the brakes even tighter.  Almost there, the thought went through my head: I’m not going to be able to stop in time.  Oh man, this is going to be bad.

Just before I hit the tree I could feel my back tire lifting off the ground–stopping so suddenly while speeding down a hill caused my bike to go into a somersault.  The front tire crashed into the tree trunk and I was catapulted over the handle bars head first.  I was wearing a helmet, but still turned my head to the right to avoid landing directly on it. 

So I landed on my left shoulder instead, followed quickly by my left knee touching down.  Then I think I bounced, came down again (God knows where), and slid along the rutted, dirt and rock trail.  

You know how sometimes when you fall it takes a minute to figure out how badly hurt you are?  You sort of take a physical inventory.  No need this time–the crash landing was unmistakably hard and the pain was immediate.  I knew I wouldn’t just get up, brush myself off, and ride on.  In fact, my initial reaction was to writhe on the ground moaning (not very original, I know, but I wasn’t thinking clearly). 

I looked behind me at the tree and saw that my bike had followed me over it.  The downed tree was unable to stop our forward momentum, so we both flipped over it.  I guess I’m lucky my bike didn’t land on top of me. 

I tried to get up but got dizzy right away so I sat back down.  I noticed that not only did my left shoulder hurt a lot, but it felt lower than the right one.  I also noticed my left knee was pretty torn up and bleeding a lot.  Then I heard another biker coming.  Please God, I thought, don’t let him duplicate my actions and end up on top of me.

He didn’t.  He stopped in time, then came around to check on me.  I tried to stand again but still couldn’t.  He rode off to the ranger station for help, while I dug out my undamaged cell phone and called my daughter for a ride. 

The third attempt to stand up–about 10 minutes after the accident–worked, and I started walking my bike in the direction of help.

I went into the emergency room a few hours later, and ended up spending 3 days in the hospital.  The ground had been very unkind to me: separating my shoulder, bruising and gashing my knee, partially collapsing a lung, and slightly spraining my right wrist.  Without my bike helmet it would’ve been even unkinder, since the helmet was dented and cracked.   

I’ll spare you more detail and end here.  I’m mending, but still have a ways to go, although my doctor thinks I can be back up on a bike before the summer’s over.

Do I still like mountain biking?  You bet.

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Short answer: deep in the wild, then in the hospital. 

I spent 5 days in the Boundary Water Canoe Area (in northern Minnesota along the Canadian border–“boundary” waters, get it?).  Me and my son and one of my sons-in-law went hiking and camping–the most rugged such trip I’ve ever been on.  Of course, carrying a 50 lb backpack through real wilderness can do that….

Then a few days after returning I went mountain biking and was one of the first to discover a tree had come down across one of the trails.  I noticed it when my bike crashed into it and I was thrown over it.  I landed very hard on my left shoulder, then ended up in the emergency room, then was admitted into the hospital with a partially collapsed lung.  Not to mention a very sore and stiff left shoulder and knee.  Spent 3 days in the hospital, and now I’ve spent a few days hobbling around the house with a cane.  I still can’t get out of bed without help, I’m like a beetle on its back–except I can’t wiggle my arms and legs because it’s too painful.

A lot of sympathy would be nice…