I had my first real accident of any consequence last night on my commute home. I was heading to our cabin for the weekend. It started with a short ride to the Sounder Train heading north to Mukilteo. From there, a quick ferry crossing to the island set me on my way. The climb up the hill from the landing was great, and when the land leveled out, I found myself speeding along the fast route home – Hwy 525. I was going to take the route all the way to Freeland, but decided to take the more hilly passage over Lancaster Rd, as I was trying to get away from the sporadic traffic, and it offers a nearly car-free alternative. It also offers a nice climb with a great descent to Mutiny Bay Rd very near my destination. The last part is a nice ride along the coastline.
The climb was good, but the descent was better! I love that hill – there is a second climb up to a false summit on the west side, so I tucked and hit max speed. On the other side of the second summit, there is another nice drop, and I recalled it turning right near the bottom. It had started a light sprinkle, but the roads weren’t wet yet. The bigger problem was that I was outpacing the throw of my light. As I neared the bend, I started to brake, but the wheels slid, so I let off and started pumping the levers. I quickly realized I was going too fast to make the corner, so I started picking my line while trying more brakes. As I went off the road still going about 20mph per my cyclemeter app, my bike and I pitched into a dense blackberry thicket, with me going in head first over the bike.
I remember a fast deceleration and my head tucking under my body. I heard and felt a loud spine crunching sound as I came to rest in a panic. I immediately thought I had damaged my neck or spine somehow – no head trauma, but my limbs were still there, and I could move. I fished the phone out of my pocket as well as I could – I was quite entangled in the vines. I called my wife and told her the bad news and asked for a pickup, giving her the rough directions to where I was. After hanging up, I started trying to get up, but it took several minutes of untangling myself from the bike and the vines. I remember looking out of what seemed like a briar tunnel. I was able to get up, but my neck was very sore, and I was worried about spine damage, so I just stood there. After a minute or two, Jan called me, and I saw her car lights. She got me in the car, and tried to hide my bike in the ditch, and we made our way to the ER for 4 hrs of waiting, x-rays, and worry.
Long story short, I was just fine. No broken bones, and a couple tylenol for the road. Unfortunately, when we returned for the bike, it was gone. Lessons (re)learned:
- Slow down when you know a bend is coming – don’t wait until you can see it.
- Don’t rely on your lights to help – especially when they are not projecting far enough based on your speed.
- Don’t bomb a hill at night even when you have been down it several times before with no incident – if the conditions are not perfect – no sense in the extra danger – could have been a car or a deer in the way.
- Don’t leave a perfectly good bike in the ditch for more than a few minutes…
- Don’t let it stop you from what you enjoy – went out for a short ride today. Still feels great to be on a bike!
P.S. if you see a white Velo Routier (Cycles Toussaint) on Whidbey Island, please drop me a line… Link to Bike Index