Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Perils of Not Riding Your Bike

The good news is that no bones were broken and it looks like Louise will be very sore for a while but probably fully recover in time.  The bad news is that Louise was hit by the right-side mirror of a large pickup truck, a Chevy Silverado (not actually the one below, but darned similar), passing at 30-40 mph.  While she was not riding our bike.

We had come to a steep rise on a back road, perhaps an 8-10% grade.  We dismounted and started walking.  Since it was only a quarter mile and there was more space to get off the road on that side, we stayed on the right side of the road.  Visibility was good as the road was straight for a ways back.  Several cars moved all the way across the road to pass us.

Jeff usually walks faster pushing the bike up a hill then stops to wipe the sweat off while waiting for Louise, and that's what happened this time.  He had just stopped at a driveway so they could remount from a point off the road when he noticed a pickup pull over behind him and the driver jump out and run backwards.  As he looked back, Louise was on the ground, about halfway between the pickup and the clump of trees in the photo.  His heart was in his throat.

Louise was stunned and in pain, and shocked that she had been hit.  She had looked back at 3 or 4 cars coming from behind, and all had passed her far across the road.  With cars having a straight view of her bright red jersey, it never occurred to her that a driver wouldn't see her.

Unfortunately, a friend of the pickup driver had recently painted a barn that's just off camera to the left in that picture.  The driver focused on looking at the barn and tuned out Louise as she walked along, one foot on the edge of the pavement, one foot on the uneven gravel, and struck her back just below the left shoulder blade with his mirror.  It broke the mirror.  This photo is from an online car parts distributor, but it gives you a good idea of what hit her.

Apart from whacking Louise, the driver has been great, and his genuine concern for Louise has definitely helped the healing process.  He ran back to assist her, he whipped out his driver's license and insurance card for Jeff, and when Louise said she didn't need an ambulance he helped Jeff load the bike and bags into the pickup and drove us to the resort motel we were headed to.  On the way we looked wistfully at the long downhill on the back road and the wide shoulder on the next road we would have taken.

At the motel we put our things in a storeroom, switched from drenched bike clothes (it had rained lightly earlier) to dry off-the-bike outfits. The pickup driver then brought us to the hospital two miles from the resort motel.  While we were at the hospital Jeff received a call from a state trooper -- the driver had already reported the accident.  The next morning we got a call from Progressive Insurance -- the driver had taken care of that too.

As for Louise, the x-rays show no fractures, though they can't rule out the possibility of a hair-line fracture too small to show up.  Either way, however, the treatment is the same, ibuprofen plus lidocaine-soaked pads that attach to her back over the point of impact, and take it easy for a while.  For an Energizer Bunny like Louise that is hard, but pain has a way of grabbing one's attention, and it has been holding hers pretty well.

Her biggest problem, besides the pain of course, is the difficulty of taking a deep breath.  Biking is definitely out for the time being, particularly given how hilly it is in northern New England.  Here's a shot we took three days earlier. 

We were lucky in that the day this happened was the day we were to meet up with daughter Lisa plus her husband Ray and grandkids Elise and Issei at the aforementioned resort motel.  They picked us up at the hospital and have provided some much-appreciated grandchild therapy, plus some of Lisa's always great cooking.  And the motel provided us with a local tourist magazine with an amazingly, maybe even creepily prescient ad for the hospital we had just spent two hours at:

The accident was almost a week after we left the coast, so let's take a quick look back at that week before giving you a preview of how we're going to roll with the punch, so to speak.

We eased our transition from the coast to inland with a night at Alamoosook Lakeside Inn.  They have canoes and kayaks for the guests, and we took one paddle before supper, one after, and one the next morning before breakfast!  Here are the inn, a derelict home on an island, and some loons, among other things that delighted us as we paddled away.

 We had chosen an inland route in part to see another bit of Maine, in part to visit three more art museums.  In actuality, we saw little art of interest.  At the University of Maine Museum of Art in Bangor we were actually blown away by one item however, an enormous (4 or 5 feet wide, as we recall) print by Richard Estes entitled "D Train," showing the Brooklyn Bridge from a D-line subway car crossing the nearby Manhattan Bridge.  It was done in 1988, while the twin towers were still standing of course.  His style has been called super-realist, but any New Yorker knows it's a pretty unrealistic "realism" that depicts New York subway cars as having clean windows! 

Our next art museum was the one at Colby College.  Alas, they are in a 15-month building frenzy to put up a new wing, and the bulk of the museum is closed.  The handful of galleries that were open were filled with stuff that, to put it politely, is not "our thing."

Our third visit was to the Bates College Art Museum, and they had all the good stuff either put away or loaned out for the summer!  But the campus was pretty . . .

Something just like this happened to us 2 years ago when we visited Oberlin College, only to find the art museum in the hands of building contractors.  To our surprise a few months later, we bumped into a dozen of their best paintings on loan to a museum in Washington DC during their museum reconstruction, so who knows, maybe as we explore the art world in NYC we'll find the art we missed at Bowdoin, Colby and Bates.

We also encountered four touring cyclists in as many days, the first we've seen this summer.  One woman riding alone got away before we got her photo, but another solo cyclist stopped for her portrait as she headed to the far end of Maine and on to New Brunswick.  Then we caught up with a heavily-laden couple who were on a camping trip.  And we thought we were having trouble with the hills between Bangor and Waterville!  We've done the camping thing, but now it's "been there, done that."  We like staying at B&Bs, like the Fiddlehead Inn in Brewer, just across the Penobscot from Bangor, where owner Marsha gave us a warm welcome.  Not to mention travelling with less than half the luggage that the camping couple had.  Come to think of it, we have less than half the luggage that single cyclist has, too!

So . . .  how are we doing now?

The day following the accident had been planned for family visiting, and it was indeed a restful day watching the grandkids have a blast on Highland Lake.  Elise even filled in for Louise on the canoeing and had fun with her granddad while grandma watched from a chair on the beach, glad for a change that she wasn't paddling.  

The next day Lisa and family squeezed Jeff in between the grandkids and the week's laundry for a 35-mile drive to Portland ME.  They continued on their merry way home to upstate NY and Jeff drove a rental car back to Louise.  We partially disassembled the bike into the trunk of the rental car and plan to spend a week continuing on our itinerary, but by car.  If all goes well we plan to remount the bike 8 days from now.  If Louise is still too sore, we'll drive a few more days, and if that doesn't do the trick we'll drive the rental car right into NYC where we have our one month rental starting on Aug. 31.  Louise is certainly having intermittent pain, but hoping for the best.  It's all you can do.

So we leave you with two lessons learned:

- don't base your actions on what a car will probably do, but what it possibly may do

- and bicycle with traffic (it's the law, and a good one), but walk facing traffic. 

We'll try to update you soon.  In the meantime, if you would like to send your best to Louise, please feel free to write to her at

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