Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Worst Case Scenario

Day: 363
N 46° 42', E 10° 5' 60

Even though what happened was one of the worst things that could happen; the resulting generosity, and circumstance are some of the best things that could happen.

Let me back up and tell you about the worst part. Yesterday Leslie and I had been going along pretty good climbing some steep roads. We had one pass under our belt and had just finished another smaller point. We were descending into the valley of Zernez and were in the mix with some cars. The road was under construction in spots and traffic control had squeezed it down to one lane, so we would group in with cars, ride to the next section, wait for the oncoming to pass and then proceed. At the second stop area Leslie and I became separated by a few vehicles. I think I must have been in a wide spot ahead of her, and a couple squeezed in front of her. We entered a gallery (a tunnel with one side open to the valley) at a pretty good clip. I had just rounded a blind corner when BOOM!! My front tube exploded and blew my tire completely off the rim. That is possibly one of the nastiest things that can happen to a person on a bike. Front flats, especially blow outs like the one I had, don’t allow for any control of the bike. My rim, void of a tire now, hit the asphalt and squirted out to my left. That threw me down on my right side where I impacted with my right knee and right hand. From there the bike skidded on its right side wearing holes in panniers, wearing metal off the front rim, and somehow putting a dent in the top tube on the left side (I can’t figure that one out). I, meanwhile, bounced off of my right hand and knee and slid on my left hip and elbow before rolling to my back and sliding a bit more. When I stopped sliding I was quite a ways from the bike. The traffic we were riding in all came to an immediate stop and before I made it to the curb trying to get out of the way there were bystanders stopping traffic, helping me, getting my bike out of the way and talking with Leslie about what to do. Needless to say I was a little shaken up and after a couple of minutes in some pretty good pain. I figure I was doing 40-45 kmh (25-30 mph). An ex-pro cyclist named Jonathan Vaughters equates crashing on a bicycle to ‘stripping down to your underwear and jumping out of a car doing 50 mph’. That about sums it up. I was lucky because it was pretty cold on the descent so I had put on an extra fleece shirt, my rain gear, and some long finger gloves. My only injuries are strawberry burns on my left hip, left elbow, and right knee; as well as bruised right palm, torn up thumb, bruised left arm and bruised ego. My helmet survived intact and there were no scrapes on it so I am pretty sure that I didn’t hit my head, although Leslie would argue that one.
The town of Zernez is pretty small and when the helpful bystanders got us down they took us to the train station. There more people appeared and our bikes were taken to a nearby hotel and put in the garage and Leslie and I were taken to the doctor. Just to show you how small of a town it is; the guy who drove us down and took us to the doctor is the math teacher for the doctor’s children at the local school. The doctor gave me the skeletal once over, cleaned and dressed my wounds and gave me some pain medication. I asked her where the pharmacy was, and she smiled and said that she was the pharmacy and made us a little package of extra bandages. She said she would just mail us a bill and not to worry about getting it to her until we got home in November. She showed us out of her office/home and we walked a couple of blocks to the hotel where our bikes were. Our cup runeth over with the good luck we had with the relatively minor damage from the crash and all the help and guidance we received following it. We now are staying here for a couple of days, resting and recuperating. Even though the town doesn’t have a pharmacy they do have a bike shop ran by an Irishman. I took my wheel over to have it rebuilt with a new rim and it should be ready by Wednesday. The bike shop owner is a whole other story in itself. I now have to patch my rain gear and panniers, as well find some new gloves before heading off. I think we will be taking a train to the flatter parts of Switzerland (flatter being relative) where I can get back into the groove a bit. Meanwhile, Leslie gets to play nurse and help me with my dressings and we get to hang out on our deck taking in the breathtaking scenery.
Licking my wounds in one of the most beautiful valleys around.


Perry said...

Glad you are OK! Any idea what caused the blowout? Glass/debris? Or perhaps just bad luck & circumstance?

JennSean said...

The "Chris look" at the end of the video is awesome!!! Definitely proves that he is OK and functional!