January 29, 2013
This was supposed to be a post about cycling. It was specifically supposed to be about cycling in snow; a video about how to make your own studded tires. And I'll get that to you (I promise), but with the current events of my life, I want to talk about a broader desire for adventure.
My bearded manfriend surprised me with a trip to Bozeman for Martin Luther King Day weekend to do some skiing. When we went up the Challenger lift at Big Sky, the "Expert Only" sign gave me chills. With assurance from my ski partners and eventually myself, I cautiously took turns down steep, rocky, terrain. It wasn't until the fifth run down the slopes that I felt very confident.
And it was during that fifth run, making my turns sandwiched between a dear friend in front of me and my bearded manfriend behind me, that it happened. I caught an edge and went down. The terrain was too steep; I couldn't gain control, and I didn't. The slope funneled me to a steeper edge of the run and I was soon faced with the fact that I would hit a tree.
And I did.
Hard. (Be forewarned, that link leads you to a pretty bloody photo.)
The next twelve hours consisted of three ambulance rides, many tears, almost 40 stitches, two CT scans, a broken nose, a broken cheekbone, bad news, good news, scary news, and one emergency life-flight to the Missoula hospital.
There are some parts of that day that I have to be reminded of because I lost consciousness for a bit and was in some major shock. There are other parts I don't want to be reminded of. And there are parts of that traumatic day that I never want to forget.
They figured out they wanted to fly me to Missoula to get a specialist to look over a second CT scan. On the runway in Bozeman, they opened the ambulance door and the cold took me over. After wheeling me out, I could instantly see the fog of my thick breath. But beyond that were the beautiful stars. So gorgeous in their perfect, comforting placement. It was like they were the only ones really looking at me, understanding. We stared at each other with a pumping vein of tenderness and then I was lifted into the small plane.
The plane ride was almost miserable. I couldn’t move any part of me and every part of me hurt. Claustrophobia set in quick. But the whole thing was over in 45 minutes and you can't complain about the medical advancements of being flown across the state so someone can take a look inside your head.
We landed in Missoula. As they opened the plane door, the cold consumed me again. When they lowered me down and started rolling me to the ambulance, there they were, the stars. In the same exact place, the same exact pattern, like they had waited to make sure I arrived safely. And I realized that this was the same sky, these were the same stars that shine on everything, everyone that I love. Everyone can look up at these stars and find encouragement, love, hope, and beauty.
This huge world is filled with so much that I love, so much that I don’t even know yet, and it can all be united under this gorgeous blanket of stars. As they put me in the ambulance, my third ride of the day, I realized I want to be a part of that world.
Life, something I’ve never had to worry about wanting before, something I’ve never had to question, something I’ve had the privilege of being given, suddenly became a question. And I answered with a feverishly adamant, “YES.” I want to be in this world.
Even though skiing might be replaced with hours of working on an old Schwinn Varsity and mountain biking might be replaced with a more stationary craft, I'm so happy to be a part of it all and continue adventuring in this world.
Whatever your adventure, please be safe. Whatever your world, please be happy to be a part of it.
Thank you for excusing my lack of brevity and letting me share a skiing story on a cycling blog.
Photo 1: A selfy on the lift at Big Sky Resort, right before the accident.
Photo 2: Ol' Blurry-Arm Stevens takes her dad's old Schwinn Varsity for a spin around the block, circa 2010. Photo by Evan Smith.
ART. ADVENTURE. AWESOMENESS. has been moved to every other Tuesday. This column is written by Rachel Stevens, a graphic designer at Adventure Cycling Association.
I did emerge mostly unscathed. I had to switch to a recumbent bicycle due to a crushed vertebra and some residual pain, but have successfully ridden centuries and even toured on my recumbent.
And, as I always say, I'm not having this conversation from my wheelchair. Not bad, all things considered.
Eek. I can't imagine my flight being twice as long. Never would I have guessed just how miserable a backboard is.
I hope you made it out of your accident unscathed. Mine is proving to be a very lucky event for what it was; I'm healing up extremely well!
Your description of the medical flight brought me back to 2001 and an ambulance ride from Concord, NH to a hospital in Boston. 1.5 hours of strapped-down torture, nausea, and fear. I hope you mend quickly and well.
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I feel the same way. All things considered, I'm very lucky!
And recumbents aren't slowin' anyone down. We have tons of members constantly touring with their laid-back rides.
Best wishes for your future adventures!