This Day in History
1990 — Tour de France. American Greg LeMond wins his third Tour. He called it the most enjoyable victory of the three, because unlike the first two, in 1990 he had the support of a strong team. LeMond is still the only American to have ever won the classic race without fueling his victory with banned drugs. He also won his final two tours after nearly losing his life from being riddled by an accidental shotgun blast while hunting.
After he was done racing LeMond became a Minnesotan. This about the time I became a serious bike rider. I never did but other riders I knew had encountered LeMond on the bike trails interwoven throughout the Twin Cities.
The Tour is being televised right now and in watching it, one witnesses some spectacular and gruesome falls. My July 18th blog post was about a bike accident and I am going to continue with that theme today. The story of my own most serious accident, eighteen years ago. It also fits more accurately under the category of stupid rather than spectacular. If I employed any common sense after Naomi’s accident, that quality was certainly missing after my own.
I was moving all of two miles an hour at the time of my fall. At the bottom of a S-shaped ramp leading up to a bridge over the Mississippi, I slowed to a near stop to let two bikers coming down ride past. They said thanks and just as they passed, one said with a smile “Beautiful day.” Good Minnesotan that I am, I thought I should acknowledge the friendliness. I looked back over my shoulder to reply as I turned onto the ramp. My front wheel caught a crack and in a moment I was down. My left arm instinctively shot out to break the fall. There was a jolt of pain in my wrist as I hit the cement.
My immediate thought was a broken bone. I lay there stunned for several seconds, and then took a cautious look at my wrist, fearful of what I might see. Everything looked okay so I slowly got to my feet, convincing myself nothing serious was wrong. The other bikers had kept going, not hearing my yelp of pain. I was wearing those old knit type of riding gloves and noticed blood was seeping through from my knuckles. I washed off the blood with water from my bottle and wanting to believe that was my only injury, decided to continue the ride.
About fifty yards later the pain in my wrist suggested I should reconsider my decision. Especially since I couldn’t even close my fingers to squeeze the brake. I decided the wisest course of action would be to head home. The problem was I didn’t exactly know how to get there. So far that day I had ridden for twenty-five miles in a circular route around the city, but was sure I was less than ten miles from home so backtracking made no sense.
No doubt I must have been experiencing some sort of shock for I made very few good decisions from that moment on. I took my right hand and squeezed the fingers of my left hand onto the front of my T-shirt. Gripping it that way hurt less. I coasted down a hill into North Mississippi Regional Park. At the bottom of a hill a squad car was parked. Two police officers inside watched me pass, perhaps noting the something didn’t seem right. I haughtily ignored them, as if nothing were wrong. Why? I haven’t a clue. All I know is I did not want help.
I took several wrong turns before finding my way out of the park. I got onto a road that passed through an industrial area populated with junkyards, warehouses, and lumber yards. A Sunday, there was little traffic on the road. I stopped at a red light and now another police car pulled up next to me. A woman officer was inside and I felt her long stare at me. I stared straight ahead, as if everything was fine. Again, why? There was a fear fluttering around deep inside me, maybe by asking for help I would be acknowledging that fear. She pulled away and I was relieved.
Next I got lost, meandered amongst a maze of warehouses, and had to backtrack. I had been looking for a shortcut. I reached Broadway Avenue and now knew where I was. I crossed the bridge over the Mississippi and pedaled onto Boom Island. Maybe five miles to my house now. I could make it. Next was Nicollet Island. I had a friend who lived there and I biked within two blocks of her house. My resolve was strong, I was holding it all together and I worried if I veered off to her place, and she wasn’t home, that resolve would crumple. Then what? This was before I owned a cell phone so I couldn’t call.
Near the University of Minnesota the road I wanted to take was closed for construction. I ignored the sign, thinking what, that they didn’t really mean it? I hit a muddy road and was unable to ride. Not wanting to retreat, I picked up my bike and carried it up a very long set of steps only to be greeted by a chain link fence at the top. What the hell do I do now? This whole thing had become so absurd I almost had to laugh. Except for the pain. Then I saw a gate locked with a chain, but it had enough play in it for me and the bike to squeeze through. I wasn’t quite sure where I was, somewhere on the edge of the U of M campus. I was walking my bike and something was off, like the planet was wobbly, not solid. It hadn’t felt that way when I was riding so with some difficulty I got back on my bike. I rode past a family of four on a sidewalk. They stopped walking and just watched me bike past. I must have looked pretty bad.
Then I saw the River Road and got my bearings. A mile from my house I became nauseous. I stopped, sat under a shade tree, wanted to take a nap but decided against it. I drank some water and poured the rest over my head. It helped and I got back on my bike and made it home. The ride home was thirteen miles and it had taken me two hours. A friend took me to the emergency room. Broken wrist, broken bone in my hand, dislocated finger and six weeks in a cast.
The next year I rode backed back to where I had fallen. It was only eight miles from my house. Shock, pain and bad decisions had added an additional, and certainly unneeded, five miles onto the ride. In the July 18th blog about Naomi’s accident, I noted how I’m never found much joy in embracing sensible. Stated another way, good sense seldom contributes to a good story.
Okay, enough with bike accidents, got that out of my system. The next This Day in History will follow the more traditional pattern.