HWY 96, MM 21

Nearly 5 weeks have passed since I was run off the road in the Rockies.  I am currently recovering in Nashville, as Doctors confirmed it would be months before my knee is strong enough to ride safely in the mountains.  The day before leaving Colorado, we drove down Hwy 96 and found my crash site: Highway 96, Mile Marker 21.  Even after three weeks and rainfall, my tire tracks were still embedded in the sand.  Being there was eerie and frustrating and sad, but I choose to smile anyway because I am grateful and fortunate to be alive.  This isn’t the first time death has tipped its hat at me, and thankfully I got to wink back once again.

As I ran my fingertips along the indentations, I realized: If I hadn’t been watching my mirror or had done anything differently, I might not be here.  I picked a flower growing by my tire marks, which will serve as a reminder that Spring will indeed bring me back to this very spot.  I will be seeing #HWY96MM21 in my rearview mirror.  And I WILL finish what I started.

I stayed with Ruth in Wetmore that night. She’s an EMT who was working nearby with Team Rubicon the day my accident occurred.  Ruth actually heard the driver’s tires screech as they swerved around me from their worksite that day and had been checking in on me since.  It’s been truly eye-opening, the amount of generosity I’ve encountered.  ‘Thankful’ doesn’t even make a dent in defining it…

On September 11th, I flew Southeast to Nashville on Southwest Airlines.  All remaining gear arrived shortly after my plane landed.  I spent the day unloading an impeccably fine-tuned loadout from cardboard boxes and padded envelopes.  After washing and drying my sun-bleached clothing, I smelled each shirt in search of a specific ‘scent’, but it was now gone.  It’s not a bad smell or a good one – not even a human one.  It’s this distinct scent from being on the road.  From being ‘out there’…  I miss ending each day having breathed air I’d never breathed before.  I miss sleeping in a new place each night and waking up not knowing where I’ll end up.

My Kona Sutra was delivered safely via Fed Ex.  Tom was awesome and was all about our selfie, haha…  After having a private moment with my bicycle, I opened the box to check out the packing job.  Wow, Great Divide Bike Shop does not mess around with their quality – inside the box looked like the most successful game of Tetris ever played.  So impressive, and not a single scratch anywhere!  Many thanks again to Lee & his staff!!

I immediately took my disassembled bicycle to Halcyon Bike Shop.  We had all grown pretty close in the months leading up to this journey and I was looking forward to seeing them.  I hadn’t even ridden a bicycle since middle school, so this was all new to me.  Halcyon taught me everything I know about my Kona – they are a solid shop.

They rebuilt my bike on the spot, then the amazing Stephannie did a full tune up and got him ready to (as she says), “Get back into the wild”. It was a bit surreal being back at the shop before completing my journey, but this will be an awesome place to come and reminisce with other cyclists during this hiatus.  It’s pretty great now that I have all this literal street cred under my belt too, lol.  Nashville cyclists, seriously: Halcyon Bike Shop.

Operating a car felt brand new at first but came back quickly. “Just like riding a bike”, ha, I wish…  Some days, I’ll take my car through the country roads of northern Nashville, which are a lot like the roads were on route.  When there are no cars around, I’ll slow down to 15-18 mph, put all 4 windows down, and use my imagination.  It reminds me of riding, just a little.  Just enough.  There are also many spots downtown that few people know about; and they can be peaceful, even in a big city environment.  Nashville is very easy to love.

After bringing my bike home from the shop, I set up my Bike Trainer.  It allows me to mount and suspend my actual steel frame bicycle and uses a magnetic wheel, making the resistance of the different gears feel realistic.  The trainer is set up inside, so I can use it all winter long.  It’s truly the best possible way to safely strengthen my knee and properly prepare for this spring.   I’m so grateful…

There is a noticeable improvement in my knee and I’m very close to walking with no limp at all.  The inflammation has officially gone down enough to get an MRI.  It was good to be back at my assigned VA in Murfreesboro, just south of Nashville.  My PAC team genuinely goes above and beyond.  My physician ordered the MRI and it was completed the same day.  Sometime between now and Monday, Sep. 25th, I will finally know the exact extent of my knee injury!

I began this journey with 11 paper maps, 100 lbs in bike and gear, and absolutely zero cycling experience whatsoever.  So far, I’ve pedaled 2,200 miles, in spite of 14 years of daily chronic neck pain, despite a major recent surgery and two bad knees.  My personal limitations have been either rediscovered or redefined, both physically and mentally.  It’s about pushing back when the odds are against you.  Falling then standing back up, and taking a stand against your self-misconceptions and the limitations others put on you.  I’ll be counting the days until I continue, and you can count on me to fight and finish.  I was really on to something out there, and whatever it is, it’s still waiting for me…  #HWY96MM21 #FinishWhatYouStart