I wrote this for Dirt Rag and submitted it last year, but I never heard back. I’m posting it here so more than one person can read it.
The Camry hit my back wheel, sending me on to the pavement face first. My bike snapped in half, sending bits of carbon in all directions. That moment when you realize you are not going to make it–that feeling doesn’t go away. Neither does the realization of how bad it would have been if the car had hit me at 35 miles per hour straight on and not just my back wheel.
As if being hit by a car wasn’t bad enough, it was my second helmet damaging face plant in one week. I crashed hard on my mountain bike a few days earlier. I took a week off the bike. Since the only things not working properly were a few teeth and one finger, I started riding again. I avoided scary road crossings and tentatively hid out in the woods on my mountain bike or rode back and forth on a portion of bike trail with no street crossings.
Shortly after my own accidents, a slew of other accidents seemed to follow. A friend of mine fractured his skull riding on the bike path near my house when he intersected with a pedestrian pushing a stroller. There wasn’t even a car involved and he was worse off than I was! Now I had to add people and strollers to my list of items to avoid. Staying in the woods riding slowly on the mountain bike was the obvious solution. Soon after that, another friend broke his neck at a downhill bike park. He later passed away due to complications from his injuries. His accident sent ripples, or more like waves, through the entire community.
It was now clear to me that no forms of riding were safe. But it didn’t end there. I even had problems driving after my incident with the Camry. Every car was obviously coming straight at me whether I was in the car, on my bike, on foot, or nowhere even near a car. I suspected that malicious Camrys were lurking in the bushes ready to hunt me down and run me over. I even debated the likelihood of getting hit by a car while I was on my trainer in my basement; it was definitely possible.
Potential dangers were everywhere. I considered not leaving my house, but what is to stop me from slipping in the shower, falling down our rickety basement steps, or tripping and hitting my head on just about any object? Bobby Leach, one of the few people to make it over Niagara Falls alive, slipped on an orange peel and died. True story. He made it over Niagara Falls in a steel barrel, and an orange peel killed him. I considered padding the entire house with foam and wearing a full-face helmet on a daily basis.
The next day, while applying foam padding to the sharp edges of our coffee table and throwing away all of our oranges, I learned that a family member had brain cancer. It was bad. He was in his early 50’s with three brain tumors. He was father of three, one child with downs syndrome. Even though his daughter is only 5 month younger than I am, she will never be able to live on her own.
He wasn’t dodging cars on his commute to work, racing mountain bikes, or descending mountains. His life had been spent supporting his family so his wife could take care of their daughter, which she will continue to need to do, but she will now be doing it on her own.
This started putting things in perspective for me. No amount of foam padding on the sharp edges of furniture would keep me from getting brain cancer. I thought about quietly crying my life away in fear and apprehension, but instead, I dropped my foam padding and decided to put my very real fears behind me.
There is no hiding from things like brain cancer. Something is going to get each and every one of us in the end. So until then, I might as well be riding my bike.