I stood at the top of the key with a basketball in my hands. I wanted to pass but nobody was open. It had been some time since I last drove the lane with a soccer injury sidelining me for over a year. I now wore a blue, bulky brace on my left leg. It made running problematic. Still, it was time to test my limits.
I darted right; then feinted left. The person guarding me took the bait. So I slipped past and went in for an easy layup. That is until the lane went dark.
Tim, a former high school football player, switched off his man and moved towards me like a floating farmhouse. He had no intention of blocking my shot. He was going to block me. He raised his hands, puffed out his chest and I glanced off one of his triceps.
My teammates said the spill looked like a disaster for I almost landed upside down.
Tim lifted me off the parquet floor and profusely apologized. “Are you alright,” He kept asking.
“Are you kidding,” I replied. “That was fun.”
My life has always been an episode of falls. Any collision sent me flying in the other direction. What else could I do? Collide. Fall. Get up. Not only was it a process. Sometimes it was a blast. I liked sailing through the air. I got pretty good negotiating tumbles. That’s why I couldn’t understand why someone was yelling at me…
Everything was far away. Nothing felt lucid. Was I asleep? Was it all a dream? There was swaying, but separate from my body.
“Are you with me?”
I opened my eyes. Someone was perched over me. “What’s my name?”
Why would I know his name? This was my dream. If anyone has the right to ask questions, it was me. But like any dream where you push for answers, you are already onto the next scene…
I’m not sure why I was biking at night. I never liked how potholes lay in shadow. But I just got back from a long vacation with the majority of the time spent in the car. I was oozing energy. So I jumped on my bike and headed for the parkway that went around Lake of the Isles. Being one direction and recently paved, I held a belief that conditions would be favorable. I should have gone for a jog, but the wheels on my bike translated well from the ones on the car. It was the even glide over smooth terrain I craved as I picked up my pace, moving into higher gears, hugging the ever-bending lake until I saw two cyclists crossing the parkway.
The first cyclist dashed across. The second did not.
I should have slammed on my brakes, but I decided to point my bike at the cyclist’s rear tire. It was my intention to swoop from behind. The problem was the cyclist jerked his bike flush with the curb.
In our effort to avoid each other we both picked the same spot.
I’m not sure what part of my bike clipped his as I landed in the grass. I immediately got up for I was worried about the guy I just hit. He merely dropped to the ground and appeared all right. I quickly apologized and asked if he could continue. He said he could. So I picked up my bike and that was it. It was the first time I collided with another cyclist and it was like it never happened.
I don’t know if it was necessarily a good thing…
Voices collided, pronounced and hurried. Slowly, I opened my eyes as a harsh flood of light poured in. Someone asked a question: “Can we cut your shirt?”
“Sure,” I replied. I felt no reason to be disagreeable.
A pair of scissors cut through the fabric while someone grabbed my elastic shorts and ripped them from me. Before I knew it I was completely naked.
How did I go from allowing a shirt removal to complete nudity?
A blanket was placed over my body. I looked around and saw movement. Everything was a blur. In the background lay two still figures. I recognized one of them as the person who asked if I knew his name. I still didn’t know, but that didn’t prevent me from waving. Neither he nor his partner waved back. They looked anxious like parents bracing for bad news…
I sailed down the bluff like a gale wind. My bike held underneath me. It should have. A few days before, I traded a light road bike for a more substantial mountain model. My friend, Dave, suggested I test my new wheels by joining him on the trails that wove through the Missouri River bluffs near Gavin’s Point Dam.
Before the purchase it was smooth pavement and steady grades. Now it was bumpy trails that went straight up and down. I had 21 gears and I worked furiously to find the right one.
Eventually, we reached the top and had a fine view of the lake.
Dave looked at his watch. “Gotta get to work.”
“What? We just got off our bikes.”
David smiled. “At least it’s downhill.”
Working our way down the bluff, I noticed the trail emptying into a small meadow.
Although narrow, the trail was smooth and straight. So I released the brakes for I felt confident in my skills as a cyclist because I had learned so much from previous crashes. For example:
- Do not apply the front brakes if you need to come to an immediate halt.
- Do not quickly turn or lean in either direction.
- Wet pavement and loose gravel are not the same as smooth cement.
- Do not get off your bike while it’s still moving.
- If you are going to “pop a wheelie” make sure it’s the front one.
So many accidents, so many lessons to be learned. It was experience that caused me to carry a healthy amount of caution going up the bluff, but it was time to loosen the reins. There was no reason not to fly through this meadow. No downed trees, no prairie gophers, nothing remotely dangerous about sailing all the way to the parking lot. But as I reached the end, I noticed lurking in the tall prairie grass, wooden stumps spread every six feet. And connecting the stumps was a long, heavy cable, a low-hanging fence to demarcate the parking lot from the meadow. The fence was also going to prevent my new bike from entering the parking lot. Me, on the other hand?
I should have known. No matter how innocuous, a pitched slope always welcomes trouble…