I remember the day I learned to ride a bicycle very clearly. I was in the front yard of my grandparent's house in Texas, sitting on my little black and white bike, pushing forward and trying to balance for 10 yards at a time. Training wheels just didn't cut it anymore. I wanted complete freedom to roam rough terrain, cut through neighbors' yards, pedal off into the uncharted distance (the end of the block).
10, 20, 50, 200 yards yards later, I didn't seem to be making much progress. Every 10 yards or so I'd bail out, put my feet on the grass, and try to go a little farther next time. Then suddenly, I got to 15 yards and didn't look back. Balancing is a tough act, but riding a bike is 80% confidence. Once you break through that safety range, you know you've made it. I must have rode around the house 50 times before stopping.
Since then, I've ridden a lot of bikes and probably done some stupid ass shit on a bike, particularly between the ages of 9 and 14. But I can't recall ever falling off one, and certainly not at high speeds or on any type of pavement.
All that changed earlier tonight on my way to a friend's house.
Tonight, I flew face first, horizontally, off the front of my bike at about 20 mph. No helmet.
You might be wondering, “Is he typing this from a hospital bed?” And the answer is no. Because I was saved by my dreams… my stuntman instincts… and most of all, irony.
A lot of things go through your mind when you're sailing through the air, unexpectedly, over the pavement:
1. What am I doing here?
2. Who drained the water out of the pool?
3. Man, this is pretty cool, in a slo-mo kinda way.
4. Whoa, I lost my bike.
5. I didn't even know this thing had an ejector button.
6. I'm floating!
7. Fuck, this isn't heaven.
8. Was it all a dream, I used to read Word Up magazine…
If you've never had the pleasure, let me assure you it's a weird feeling being propelled straight up and off your bike at high speed.
But it wasn't all a dream, even though I do have this eerie recurring dream where I'm either flying, or jumping off really tall buildings and stuff and I can somehow roll to a stop on the ground unharmed.
I also have extensive experience diving for volleys in tennis matches (on hard courts) on big points. Again, all in the roll.
So, when I finally hit the pavement my hands hit first (you know, to keep from smashing my face in), then my side, then my knees… then I literally tucked and rolled about 8 times on the pavement before I came to a stop. I paused for a moment, got up, realized I wasn't hurt, sat down and waited for the adrenaline to stop pumping so I could see what I REALLY broke, then realized I had nothing more than a few scrapes. It was straight out of a movie. I'm not gonna lie, I felt like a badass. In fact, the embarrassment wore off and I was hoping somebody would see me get up from that and just ride off unphased. Unfortunately, it was a neighborhood street at midnight, so no one was around.
This was my worst “injury”:
The street was pretty well-lit, so I looked back to see what happened. Sure enough there was a small pothole, obscured perfectly by the shadow of the one overhanging tree limb in sight. Plus, I was changing gears as it happened, so one hand wasn't on the handlebars and I lost it.
On my way home I made sure to ride back and forth through the pothole to regain the upper hand. Perhaps not the smartest move, but I'm always inspired by those stories of rock climbers or whatever who get trapped in the mountains and have to saw off an arm, and then return to the same mountain the next year to conquer it because “no mountain can hold them down from fulfilling their dreams,” even though they probably had to quit their job just to workout the other arm enough to pull their body weight up a rope.
But here's the real kicker, the reason this will forever be “The Night I Was Saved By Irony”–the shirt I was wearing in the crash:
You always have to have the last laugh don't you, Irony! I love your selfishness!