Standing in the wound care aisle of the corner pharmacy trying to decide which antiseptic spray to get, which bandage is the biggest, and whether they have enough on the shelf is a pretty good indicator that your Euro bicycling vacation has taken one left turn too many.
An optimist would say, “Just another opportunity to use German in a very practical situation!”
A pessimist would say, “It’s all my fault.”
I, an optipess, would say both.
This is gonna hurt you a lot worse than it’s gonna hurt me
I walked back to the apartment where Yasuko was waiting. I hate the sight of blood, I hate cleaning wounds, I hate seeing other people in pain, and I hate having written a blog about how great she was riding only to follow it up with the recount of a pretty horrific bicycle-falling-off-incident.
I helped her clean the right elbow, which was a mass of tissue and blood, but which didn’t have any asphalt ground into it thanks to the armwarmers she’d been wearing. I shuddered with every swipe of the antiseptic towelette. She never flinched.
The giant bruise under her left eye, the swollen lip, and the contusion under her nose looked like something from a poster on how to spot domestic violence. Her right knee was shredded and took two massive bandages to cover.
“Does it hurt?” was only one of many stupid questions I’d asked so far this morning.
“No, it’s okay. It only hurt during the shower when I had to get it really clean.” She smiled brightly. “It could have been a lot worse!”
I shuddered some more. Don’t I fucking know it?
Get back on the horse
In the aftermath of the terrible fall I’d caused, we aborted our planned six-hour ride to Slovakia. “Let’s go home,” I said rather sensibly, after ascertaining that nothing was broken, as if you can actually ascertain such a thing without x-rays or a medical diagnosis.
“Okay,” she said.
We got back to the Donau bike path. “How are you?”
“I’m okay. Just sore. We can keep riding on the bike path if you want to.”
I considered the pros and cons and we kept riding. We were still both kind of in shock, her for real, and me as the bystander.
Other riders passing us stared in horror at her bloody leg and face.
We rode for a little longer. “This actually feels good to be riding,” she said.
“It can, if you’re not hurt too badly.” Then we went home.
We had left the apartment early, at 5:30, and in high spirits. It was going to be a brisk but fun adventure, and the reason behind the early departure was to beat the morning city traffic.
I don’t know exactly how fast I was going, but it was in the low 20’s. We had one short stretch, about three miles, that we had to share with the streetcars. The streetcars aren’t a problem, but the rails embedded in the concrete can be if you don’t know how to hit them at the right angle.
We had just turned onto Donaufelderstrasse and the normally busy thoroughfare was empty. The sunken rails run parallel to your wheel, and every now and again a curb will pop up, giving you about six inches between the rail trench on your left and the curb on your right. Rather than shoot that narrow gap I always cross the rail well in advance, clear the curb area, then move back over to the right edge.
The key, of course, is making sure your front wheel always crosses the rail at a sharp enough angle so that it doesn’t fall into the gap, just like railroad crossings.
I skated back and forth and at that very instant it occurred to me to turn back and say, “Honey, be sure to cross the rails at an angle like I’m doing.”
I really thought that. Those exact words. Then I thought, “No need, she’s already doing it.”
The next second I heard the horrible scrape of a rim rubbing against a rail, then the increasing dysphony of the crash, then the body thud and helmet smack, all heard, understood, and registered before she’d even stopped sliding.
What bikers say
I got her to the curb. I was shaking. A woman who saw the whole thing came running up, along with a newspaper delivery guy, also on a bike.
“Should I call the ambulance?” she asked.
“I’m okay,” Yasuko said, not possibly knowing if she was or not.
“Give us a minute,” I said.
The newspaper guy was irate. “A minute? She’s a woman! She could be dying! She’s not a guy! Call the ambulance!”
“I’m pretty sure she’s not dying,” I said as Yasuko looked over her scrapes.
The kind woman went to her car, got out a first aid kit, and helped us clean up the mess as best we could. Nothing “appeared” broken.
The newspaper guy left in disgust. “Fine way to treat a lady!” he said.
Yasuko looked at me. We were both really scared. Our eyes met, and she looked so deeply into mine.
“How,” she asked “is my bike?”
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