In the middle of the Covid-19 crisis while most people – actually only about 30% of our workforce have jobs to allow this – work remotely from home, I took three days off one week. Working from home was not a unique thing for me, for I have been doing so twice a week for a year now, and have the full setup, the dual monitors, the separate phone line, a dedicated laptop, all the remote connectivity software, token and security apparatus provided by the firm. I did not skip a beat work or productivity wise during this crisis as the firm scrambled to get 11,000 workers set up at home, 3500 laptops distributed and the network capacity doubled all in 1 week. As astounding logistical feat. (I wish my feat were that astounding.)
This little work related sidebar is highlighting the fact I was working hard without a beat through all of this worldly calamity, work days extending longer into the night and beginning early and early each day. Everyone is canceling vacations, everyone is plugged in. My firm provided 10 extra personal days for Covid-19 related time, but no one has used any. But I took three days off. Fuck it, I need my time away from the office. The true definition of a staycation, but I took them, I am justified in doing so, someone had to be the first to do it, so be it. But I was guilty as hell over it. And I transformed this guilt into the motivation to make the days all they could be!
I kayaked and fished all the first day. Weather was perfect. Greenwood Lake was full of tiny whitecaps due to the wind, but I crossed it and found a outlet to a river that was nice and calm.. and loaded with bass. I did not catch a single one, but I know they were there. The second day, because the weather said it would rain a bit, was for biking.
I considered hitting Waywayana but was not sure I could remember the trails and not sure if I were up for a long ride. So, Ringwood it was.
It was my third trip to Ringwood this season. Parked in Lot C, for Shepard’s Lake is Covid-closed. Its a different loop starting in lot C, with a different and new White Trail, and one I have not yet pieced together completely. But, after making the connection between two sections we all know and love on a previous ride, I was ready to do it again and make a great loop and day of it.
It did not rain. It was sunny and 85 degrees. Halfway through the loop I was feeling good, balanced. I was even thinking that if the new connection worked out I would attempt a second loop. Why not? I was feeling good, I had nothing to get home to, and had taken the day for a reason so why the fuck not make the most of it!
So let me tell you where the moment happened. I know you both know the precise spot well. When we ride Ringwood and park at Shepard’s Lake, we ride in the country road around the lake for a bit then take the first upload of the day. That rocky climb that Johnny and I never make (although I get farther than Johnny!), but one that Jamie’s grapefruits drive him up and through without slowing down. After the climb – picture it boys – there is a nice trail that still heads up a bit, but very rideable. Then it peaks, and its a straight downhill, the first downhill of the ride. We bomb it. Its rocky, sometimes like a stream after a rain and we tear down it. At the end is a 90 degree hairpin turn to the left onto the fire road and into an even rockier “S” turn. We still got speed as we navigate these turns and rocks and get through these turns. The road then straightens out.. and gets sandy. You know this stretch of trail. Long, flat ride along which we think we can rest after the wonderful down, but we cannot relax too much due to the sand and the slight include we have to peddle through. Then immediately after this sandy section.. come one you know what’s next.. is the short “Y” in the trail. Continuing straight through the “Y”is a very steep, sandy berm that you’d have to launch into to make: straight up then a shrap right. To the right at the “Y” its an easier ride up a dry stream bed. Either way, the trails meet and then we continue the climb. You know the spot I mean? I know you both do! Its at this spot it happened. Although, I was heading the opposite direction.
You see, starting at Lot C you have to climb all the way up. Then there is a very nice and new White Trail that weaves down and down some more to the little pond. You know, the pond with the tall weeds and the large boulder you must scooch around? From there its a short climb, then a long, glorious down. Last time I took this down all the way down, crossing the pipeline and all the way down to a fire road. I was spent, so took the fire road – unsure where it was going to lead me (knowing I had to get back to Lot C somehow) – until I saw the steep switchbacks that ultimately leads us out out.. past wavy rock and back to Shepard’s Lake. I bailed, went that way then road bike from Shepard’s Lake parking lot to Lot C… on the paved road. Forgive me.
I wanted to do this long downhill again, but not bail to Shepard’s Lake. I was going to continue down the fire road to what I was hoping would the White Trail trail head then head out. Or so I had planned.
Back to the long downhill. I was feeling good and I bombed it. The rocky road.. down… crossing the pipeline into the single track. Then down the twists and turns and the long rock lined sections of trail… then approaching the “Y” from behind. I was coming down the berm at high speed. I used the berm, leverage the g-force I was carrying to take me up the side, then back down onto the trail. My mistake was not realizing just how much sand was on the trail at this point.
I rolled down the berm into the line of the trail but both wheels instantly got swallowed by sand and they slid left fast. I instinctively threw my clipless right foot out to stop me from falling – as I do a million times a ride – but I was not completely off the berm and maybe the ground was closer than I thought? or maybe my foot landed on a rock? It was something, but I miscalculated. My foot planted, my knee locked and the top of my body continued forward and down. I felt my leg bend the entirely opposite way. As I type this now, with ice wrapped around my knee, I am cringing, squirming in my seat.
I felt the pain, in my mind’s eye my knee was shattered and the lower part of my leg was dangling uselessly. I did not scream. I was also still falling. I righted the bike, momentarily but could not get my leg back on the pedal so it was not long before I lost all control and went down. I lay flat on my back. . I rolled over to my side, then to the other, pain consuming me. I was nauseous, light headed still unsure of what I was going to find when I looked down.
I threw my helmet off, wriggled out of my water pack and lay back down. I tried to move my leg and a bolt of pain shocked me, like a large nail being driven through up my knee and into my thigh. Then I screamed. I settled down, fighting back the bile threatening to spill. I rocked back and forth on the ground and the moment played out in my head again. Wheels sliding, foot down – POP – , yes I heard a pop, and then before I fell I heard a “SSSSSSS” of all air leaving my tire. I lay there thinking “great, even if I shake this off I am still walking out of the woods”.
I lay there on my back rocking back and forth, my mind racing with questions to distract me from my pain. “Why is there a stabbing pain in my side?” I was laying on the remnants of a thorn bush. “Why does my toe hurt?” Later at home, I observed that the nail on my big toe was horizontally creased at its midpoint, apparently jammed up in my shoe. I’ll probably lose that nail. “Will Evonne ever let me bike again?” This one I do not have an answer to yet.
I eventually sat up and surveyed my leg. The knee was not shattered, I was able to wiggle my toes. I was able to bend slightly, but the pain prevented full bending. Other than my throbbing toe, no other pain. Slowly, carefully, I got to my feet. I put some weight on the knee and the nail was driven further up my thigh. I nearly vomited. Fucking A this was going to be a long walk out.
Ultimately, I surveyed the bike and discovered no damage, nor any source of the POP sound. It was my knee? Maybe. But what explains the “SSSSSS” sound? Probably it was the sound of my dream of biking Plattekill again deflating like a covid-infected lung.
As I started the long walk out I realized something. Many, many years ago I suffered a crash in the woods that resulted not only in a nice little story, but of a long walk out. This was the exact trail I was on and the exact same walk out. At least twenty years separate these two events. Its the very same trail I walked out, yet somehow different: a bit eroded, less vibrant, yet still existing. The very same woods and forest, yet somehow different: a bit eroded, less vibrant, yet still existing. The very same man, yet somehow different: a bit eroded, less vibrant, yet still existing.