Sunday, 16 June 2013


Last Sunday, Ira Birt, Rus Melanson, Kent Wood and I headed east on Route 4 toward Pooles Corner, intending to cross over on Baldwin Road to the 48 Road, and back into town.  The other members of our group, the Over the Hill Gang – John MacQuarrie and Richard Birt – were absent; fortunately for them.  I was on my third pull, feeling strong, when my front wheel slipped off the edge of the pavement.  The shoulder was quite wet and soggy, and I lost the front wheel right away.  The bike flipped and I slid along the pavement, falling on my left side.  Imagine jumping out of a car moving at 35 km./hr. and you’ll get the general idea!
As I came to a stop, I saw Rus flying through the air out of the corner of my eye.  He landed heavily and rolled in the middle of the road, coming to a stop on his right side.  I got up, cursing at myself for being so stupid, and ran over to where Rus was lying.  He was unconscious, and having trouble breathing.  Blood was dripping from a cut on his left cheek, just below the eye.

We looked back to see that a fire truck had been following us just as the crash happened.  Ira and I went up the road to make sure no traffic was coming while Kent, a certified first responder, stayed with Rus.  The fireman called an ambulance and the RCMP, and I knelt beside Rus, hoping like hell he wasn’t badly hurt.  Kent thought Rus had the wind knocked out of him.  Sure enough, after too many long minutes of laboured breathing, he started to come around and began responding to us.

Kent made sure Rus’ spine was OK, and asked him where he was hurting before we let him get up into a sitting position.  By this time the ambulance had arrived and the EMTs took over.  Another fire truck from the Cardigan Fire Department and an RCMP cruiser pulled up and did their bit to control traffic and take down the details of the crash.  Because Ira didn’t give the right answer to a question he was asked and because his helmet was cracked, it was thought best to take him to the Montague Hospital; so a second ambulance was called.

I called Elva to come get me.  Ira did the same with his wife, Liz.  I stayed on the scene with the Cardigan Fire Chief, waiting for Elva to arrive so that we could load Rus’ bike and mine into the car.  The Chief was a nice guy and very concerned about our well-being.  I knew I was in pretty bad shape from the fall but, at that point, the combination of adrenaline and shock prevented me from feeling much pain; that would come later.

Elva arrived and, not long after, Liz.  We piled the bikes into our vehicles, headed for the Montague Hospital.  Kent had decided to ride back into town by himself.  He was the only one who stayed upright, so his bike was OK.  When we got to the Emergency Department, Rus was lying on a bed with an ice pack on his left shoulder, a large cut on his cheek and a smile on his face.  The sight of him brought tears to my eyes, as I’d been so worried about him.

Ira had been checked out for a possible concussion and had been told he was OK.  Rus was taken away to have his shoulder and cheek X-rayed.  We talked over what had happened and waited for Rus’ wife, Sandy, to arrive.  When she did, I gave her a hug and told her I was sorry; that the crash had been my fault. 

We watched as the young nurse bandaged Rus’ skinned knuckles and spread a bit of Polysporin on my knee and ankle.  We left the hospital, the three of us thankful for being vertical at least, and our wives drove us back to Charlottetown.  Elva and I dropped Rus’ bike off at his house and I headed home, anxious to get out of my blood-soaked gear.

It wasn’t a pretty sight when I stood under the shower head and inventoried the many scrapes and bruises on my old carcass.  There were patches of skin missing from my left elbow, knee, calf, and ankle, plus my right thumb.  I had pain in my ribcage on the left side, probably a cracked rib.  But the worst was my left upper thigh.  There, the road rash covered an area about ten by fifteen centimetres.  All of the scrapes were leaking quite profusely but, fortunately, none was very deep.  I cleaned them as best I could and tried to get comfortable lying on my side on the couch.  I knew I was in for a rough night.

Monday morning, I had to haul myself out of bed and prepare for a full day’s work, with six cases to prepare for that afternoon and a desk-full of decisions to review and sign.  I soon noticed pain in my left hip, my left knee and the inside of my lower left leg.  My road rash was hurting like hell and the wound on my upper thigh leaked through my dress pants all day.  I had to keep pulling the pant leg away to keep it from sticking to the skin.  That evening, Elva got me some dressing material from the drugstore which I taped over the wound to keep it from leaking onto my pants.

As I write this account, I’m one week removed from the crash.  I’m still haunted by the image of my good friend and riding mate struggling for breath.  It scared the shit out of me.  I’m in some pain but my body is healing normally.  My bike was toast; the frame cracked, and the handlebars twisted.  Danny MacQueen, worker of miracles, managed to find me a slightly used S-Works frame and had the bike back to me on Thursday afternoon.

I didn’t think I’d be ready to ride, but the sight of the bike was a temptation too great to resist.  I had to give it a try; like a stiff drink of rum to cure a hangover I guess!  So off I went, out to Pownal and back on Friday morning, to get the bugs out.  I was a bit nervous starting out but was glad to be back in the saddle again.

Elva and spent Father’s Day weekend in Saint John with my daughter, Sylvie, her husband, Ghislain, and our two grand-children, Samuel and Natalie.  I’d hoped to get out with Ghislain to follow up on our excellent ride a couple of weekends ago.  We did 62 km. together up west while Sylvie and Elva were attending grand-nephew Grady Gibbs’ baby shower, and sister-in-law Rose’s 60th birthday celebration.  The day after, I participated in the Ride for Heart, finishing the 72-km. route with the first three riders.  Needless to say, I was getting into pretty good riding shape, and Elva and I had started going to hot yoga classes again.

I managed get in a 65 km. ride with Ghislain today.  Sylvie took this picture before we headed out.  He kicked my ass on the hilly roads around Saint John, but that’s OK.  At least I can still turn the pedals!
I know OTHG went out for a ride yesterday, minus Rus who is under doctor’s orders to stay off the bike for a couple of weeks.  We had a pretty bad crash two years ago after riding about 35,000 km. together incident-free.  I don’t know if it’s the law of averages catching up with us or if our reflexes are getting a bit slower as we age; I suspect it’s a bit of both.  Hopefully, we can overcome this setback and get back together again soon.

To her credit and to my great relief, Elva told me to get back on the bike as soon as I could.  I took her advice but, as for riding in a pace line with my buddies, that’s a hurdle that may prove harder to clear.  After all, this one was my fault...

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