My Story: Bike Wreck 2012

May 3, 2014 at 1:40 PM | Posted in (All Posts) | Leave a comment
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‘Thought I’d try something a little different from just a typical blog post.

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^ My 1999 Jeep Wrangler (Rocky), my bike, and me — in the summer of 2012. Keep reading. :)

I feel proud to say that I’ve had a lot of travels and experiences in my lifetime, especially in the past few years. From the first time I came to Korea as an exchange student, it just seemed like I had this new-found bravery that I put to test. I started spending money on traveling over buying things like video games, started to take pictures everywhere I went — being outside my hometown and especially outside the US made me realize that there’s more out there to see and do.

It also gave me a new-found appreciation for my hometown and all of it has to offer. I grew up in Bristol, Virginia — a smaller city in the southwestern part of VA. What makes Bristol especially unique is that the city is divided into two across state borders, so there is also a (slightly larger) Bristol, Tennessee. Being in that area of the country, the economy isn’t particularly perfect. Well educated people have problems finding jobs, thus making full-time positions at places like Target and Office Depot competitive. But there are good jobs there — and it’s well noted as being a good place to raise a family. Crime is quite low and the cost of living is quite cheap. People are friendly and the weather is diverse and often very nice.

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^ “Rocky” and my bike parked at a bike trail near my home in the US.

Thus — the mountain trails around my hometown are really beautiful. My house was just a 10 minute car ride away from a bike trail. The spring and summer of 2012 before I departed for Korea for graduate school, I started to make good use of my bike. I got a new set of tires, had it tuned, and threw it in the back of my ’99 Jeep Wrangler and every day for months I seemed to be riding miles and miles. It was great. I felt great, and I was thinning the body fat (which I didn’t really NEED to) to the point where I a size 29 or 30 waist was feeling loose.

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^ My brother and I riding during the summer before I left for grad school in Korea.

As I approached my graduation for my undergrad, I put in a notice at my job. I had saved up enough money to last through the summer, and my focus was just having fun with friends and taking care of myself. In some ways, I can say that was the happiest time of my life (as far as being in my own hometown). Having money to spend, using my spare time to visit friends as often as I could, biking every day — getting my first tattoo (that’s a story for another post). I imagine it’s what retired people must feel like. Being outdoors and having this great scholarship approaching me, I basically had zero stress in my life.

While a lot of my friends had to work quite often, one friend in particular would use whatever free time he had to be super active. He and I were close in middle school and high school, but had a bit of falling apart in the early years of our college. But after he graduated and as I approached mine, we really reattached and started taking crazy trips all summer. On a whim — we drove to New York and did everything we set out to do, then drove back (all around 24 hours), we went to Atlanta to visit a friend of mine from Korea and introduce him to Korean BBQ, and took a trip to the beach (right after my bike wreck).

But yeah — the bike wreck. Where does that fit in? Well, there’s a famous bike trail in the area called “The Creeper Trail” which runs through a few small towns in the area. To ride the entire trail by bike takes quite some time. It’s mostly downhill (which is how we chose to ride it), but we expected it to take some time. We had planned a proper trip on the trail and set it for a day when he wasn’t working. We left sometime in the early afternoon, taking two separate cars. I parked my Jeep at the foot of the trail in the town of Abingdon, while myself, my friend and his girlfriend drove his Jeep up to the start of the trail (it took at least 40 minutes…maybe an hour to drive up there).

Once we got to the top, we unloaded the bikes and prepared our backpacks, making sure everything was there. I had only brought a few bottles of water, some snacks, my cell phone and wallet, camera — and a beach towel. We had planned on riding down the trail into one of the towns below and grabbing lunch or dinner, taking a few breaks to rest and swim at the creeks we saw — then when we got back down to Abingdon, we’d throw the bikes in my Jeep and ride back up to where my friend had parked his car.

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^ The Creeper Trail…

We set off and everything was great. It was maybe 3 at the latest when we first stopped to take our first rest. I can’t tell you just how fun this ride was. Going straight downhill on a trail (mostly to ourselves) in this gorgeous nature, occasional seeing a friendly biker pass by. I began to get daring at one point and even turned my camera one while riding, recording the ride in front of me. But as time went on, I got more cocky. My friend began to hit these jumps, thrusting his bike into the air — which looked so awesome. I gave it a try many times as well, catching so much air and landing in the gravel below, spreading dirt everywhere while the tires of my bike kept trekking through.

We had ridden maybe 45 minutes to an hour when I had gotten far ahead of my friend and his girlfriend. I wanted to ride ahead and find a good rest spot, so I kept trying to gain speed. If you can’t tell…I wasn’t being very careful, despite feeling like I had full control. I was just having fun — and I thought nothing would seriously go wrong.

But then I hit an awkward jump. Time froze in midair. I. Was. So. High.

I don’t know how, but I had somehow turned my bike slightly while in the air, and I was struggling to get it straightened out for the landing. Momentum wasn’t enough. I corrected it, but the tire dug sideways into the gravel. In a blink of an eye I went flipping over my bike, still clinching the handle bars and sliding on the ground. For a brief moment there was no pain…and then the soreness kicked in. I started to get up and could see blood on my blue bike. My shirt was torn, and even the tank-top I had on under it had torn as well. I felt this incredible pain on the outside of my right arm just below my elbow. I could barely turn it, but I managed to arch it enough to see a giant gaping wound.

(And of course later on I had my friend take a picture of it.)

For those who have weak stomachs, you can do a Ctrl+F search and time in “SafetyZone”

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SafetyZone

Hopefully that worked.

Wow. Did you get a look at it?

Anyways, it hurt, and my arm was basically immobile. If I kept it at my side the pain doubled, so holding it at my chest level seemed to be the only thing that helped.

In those first moments, I sat on the ground, opened my backpack and wrapped a towel around my arm (I was originally going to use it to dry off from swimming). I got myself up, pulled my bike up as well and started walking backwards, up the trail. Strangely enough, I almost immediately saw another biker pass by … and he did nothing. He just looked at me and kept going. Maybe he was in just as much shock as I was, but how could you see someone hurt and bleeding…and just ride on? Regardless, I kept walking up the trail for what felt like an hour, but in reality was 15 minutes or less. The next site I finally saw was both something I wanted to see…and something I didn’t.

There was my friend…carrying his bike…with a destroyed front tire. He was riding and felt the front tire began to slosh around, but before immediately realizing what happened, the tire had lost all air, and he nearly wrecked himself riding on a dead tire.

So here we were — one injured rider, and one useless bike. We couldn’t get any reception on the trail so our phones were also useless. In that moment, I realized how bad things could get. Even though we still had sunlight, the tall trees were making it seem darker than it truly was. I couldn’t ride, and I was bleeding. Not badly, but still. Someone had to stay with me, and someone would have to ride for help. My friend’s girlfriend took off upwards on the trail for any help. My friend and I just stayed put near a creek just off the trail, enough to see any oncoming riders. Minutes passed. Then an hour. We started to walk off course to try to find help, but we were worried someone might come looking for us.

Finally, my friend’s girlfriend returned — out of breath and with no help. She had found a few houses off the trail, but no one came to the door. The trail was considered safe…people rode it all the time, but just years before there was some sort of crime that took place — I can’t recall it exactly so I don’t want to say for sure, but I think it involved someone trying to kidnap someone…? My point is, some violent crime took place and I suppose the locals would rather just play it safe by not helping every passerby.

Then my friend took off while his girlfriend stayed behind. The trail divided into two paths just below where we stopped, so he went one way. Again…minutes of waiting, then an hour. He came back. Nothing. This time his girlfriend took off while he and I stayed behind. We agreed that if she couldn’t find help along the way, she would just ride into the town below. If it got too dark, my friend and I would eventually just walk back up to his car. Either way, we realized if we didn’t find help soon, it would be dark before we got out.

More and more waiting. For whatever reason on this summer day, the trail didn’t get many riders — we literally saw no one else.

Finally, after it became dark…we unwrapped my bloody arm — which had thankfully stopped bleeding — spread it on the ground, and started to write out in pebbles, “GONE TO JEEP” in case anyone came looking for us.

As we placed one of the last pebbles on the towel, we heard someone shouting off the distance. I looked up to see headlights approaching from what we could barely make out to be a four-wheeler. I heard a gruff voice shout, “There they are!”

Moments later, we were surrounded by park rangers asking who we were — confirming who we were. They said that a girl had ridden down to the town below (which serves as a halfway point on the whole trail) and gone straight to the medical center. Some park rangers took off our way, and here we were. Right around that time, a bike rental van pulled up to speak to the rangers and myself. The rangers said I could ride down the trail with them, but considering I wasn’t sure I had medical insurance at the time, I decided if my arm had suffered for a few hours this long, another hour probably wouldn’t be detrimental. The bike rental driver gave us a lift to my friend’s car and gave us some rough directions on how to get down the trail.

We thought we had it figured out, but missed a turn — started to rely on his GPS (which barely got any signal in this mountainous region). Long story short — we finally got down the trail and went straight to the local hospital. His girlfriend had met a couple who was also riding on the trail and heard her story. They offered give both her and her bike a lift so she could meet us at the hospital. Once we got to the emergency room, I staggered in — bloodied and muddied up, shirt torn completely on the sleeve — basically shirtless — looking like a skinny stunt double walking off a Rambo set.

This was about 1 in the morning when we finally got all set into the hospital. After dealing with a rather rude nurse, the doctor finally came in and began to clean my wound. Surprising to me and my friend’s girlfriend (who is studying to be a nurse), he decided to stretch my skin from one end of the forearm to the other.

I can’t really express what a mess this hospital procedure turned out to be. The didn’t clean all the debris out from my arm, the doctor and the nurses in the room constantly argued back and forth in front of myself and my friends — and eventually my mother who arrived. After stitching my arm up, I instantly had sharp pains in my elbow. He seemed baffled, and sent me off for an X-ray. My arm was filled with bits of debris, but he insisted since the Creeper Trail used to be a railroad track, most of the dirt in my arm was organic — so it would eventually spit itself out. Which did happen — but I don’t see how those two things really relate together. But I’m no doctor.

Nonetheless — I was dead tired and sore, with my arm wrapped up in a terrible cast. My friends headed off while my mom stayed with me by my side, then eventually she left with me sometime around 3 in the morning. The only thing was…they didn’t give me an antibiotic. At the time I didn’t think anything about it, but it ended up being a huge mess later.

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^ Bike Wreck Selfie. The best kind. Safe to say I was a little drugged up at this moment. And if you notice — I’m in a Walmart parking lot. My mom stopped by the store after we left the hospital to run in and grab some bandages — and lots of peanut butter crackers and beef jerky. :)

Well, the first day or so everyone seemed okay. In the shower I had to keep my arm elevated, and I could press on my elbow and see this brown mucus pour out. I thought it seemed normal…until I woke up the second night. My arm was so swollen I could barely move it. I tried to take another shower, but the mucus just wouldn’t stop pouring out.

It was around 5 in the morning, so I didn’t want to wake anyone in my family. I knew my mother and brother were working, so I drove myself to my local hospital (different from the first one) and checked myself into the emergency room. The nurses and doctors there were so kind, and so shocked at how my arm was treated. Many of the doctors that came in all agreed they should have left the wound open, and of course cleaned it out more, AND of course given me an antibiotic.

They actually removed all the stitches, pushed out some of the remaining ooze, cleaned out quite a lot more of the rocks and pebbles and dirt built up in there, and sent me on my way — telling me to just take my medicine and keep it wrapped — but also to let it breathe sometimes. Oh — but to never submerge it in water. Like…don’t let it get in a pool or the ocean or anything.

A few days later, I was driving to the beach with the same friend who I had this bike adventure with. I tapped my arm up in medical tape, wrapped it in a plastic bag, then another plastic bag — and taped it again — and went body boarding for a week straight.

In conclusion — I really should have been smarter before this bike trip and a lot of trouble could have been avoided. We didn’t bring any spare tires, or any way to fix a flat — or even a first aid kit. Plus, we should have planned more in case we did get stranded, but at the time it just seemed so unlikely.

Even thought it was a scary moment, and I still carry a large scar on my elbow from the bike wreck to this day, and there is STILL some debris in my arm, the doctors say it’s not worth to pursue surgery since it’s such a tiny amount, and the debris isn’t causing any problems with nerves or anything.

Now I’m not quite sure how to end this post. Again — I certainly could have been smarter and better prepared, but this event did mold me in quite a few ways and the scar is something I’ll proudly carry with me as long as it sticks around.

Just like this great line from one of my favorite songs (12 Stones – We Are One)

Our sacred scars show who we are. They tell the stories of our memories.

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