Surprised By an Open Gate

Surprised By an Open Gate
Surprised By an Open Gate

Bicycle exploration, north of the Gerald Desmond Bridge.

Thinking back and checking the date, I realize this was about a half hour or so before the embarrassing crash that sent me limping home to nurse my wounds. From an email account I sent that night:

My friend and I have decided to concentrate on the Gerald Desmond Bridge (the old one just west of downtown Long Beach, on Ocean Boulevard; as a source of sound samples and images for his electronic music ( My idea was that as the replacement bridge is constructed, and the old one torn down, there will be lots of interesting stuff going on, providing material for future work, and helping us put a few things on our performance resume.
Early this year, I walked halfway over the bridge and back (on a frightening, shaky walkway, with water 160 feet or so below my feet and visible through the metal grating I walked on) and took pictures, but hadn’t been back since. I decided to do some prospecting last weekend.
Saturday, between other engagements, I drove around the area and shot a roll of film. (As I write, processed but not uploaded.) Unfortunately I got shunted into an unfamiliar area by construction workers involved with the new bridge, didn’t bring more film, lost a lens cap on the wrong side of a chain link fence I was hanging over to get photos of the bridge and an old power plant, and finally just had to go do other things.
Sunday I returned by bicycle (, with the idea that that’s a better way to explore an area and get to know the little side streets and openings and loopholes and so on. You move more slowly, and, well, you’re not enclosed in a protective steel bubble….
I was a little nervous because the boundaries between public and private property are not always clear, and the private property is filled with all kinds of exciting hazards. I clearly didn’t belong. I expected it was just a matter of time before a policeman or rent-a-cop advised me to beat it.
And there was the previous incident, not too far away, when a car full of guys pulled up next to me at a stop sign and asked for directions to the beach. Beach? Are you kidding? Somewhere between the Georgia Pacific wallboard factory and an oil refinery? That seemed so clueless, I suspected they were really more interested in figuring out how easily I could be mugged. (Fortunately I flunked this exam. Maybe it was the line about “well, when the other Marines and I run through here from our mixed martial arts class to the shooting range, we take Anaheim Street, which has lots of convenient wooden telephone poles for our knife-throwing practice.”) (Just kidding.) So when I saw other people around, I watched them more carefully than I watched the road.
And so it was that when I saw a slowly approaching truck, near the south end of Pier D Avenue West, I moved farther right, giving him plenty of room, while squinting to see if that was a police-style rotating light on top of the cab. That and his slow approach suggested that I was about to get some kind of lecture on trespassing, liability, and personal safety, possibly seasoned with threats of arrest, etc.
That’s when I hit the pot hole I would have seen if I’d been watching the road. [Later exploration showed it to be an embarrassingly trivial irregularity in the asphalt. It was the surprise that nailed me.] Feeling as if I’d been lifted off the saddle by a giant cartoon mallet to the groin, I realized I wouldn’t be able to simply slam back down on to the saddle (raising my voice another octave) and recover my balance, when I could tell that my center of gravity had floated above and in front of my front axle. As I saw the front axle approach and then recede behind me, just by a fraction of an inch, in slow motion, I knew I was going down and that nothing could stop me. Understand that my feet were cleated into the pedals, so this meant the rear wheel was not far behind.
I have no recollection of what happened during the next second. Memory resumes with a picture of asphalt pavement sliding past, inches from my right eye, while I think "I am now shredding $90 worth of bicycle clothing." [Later it turned out that the clothing was completely intact! I did the responsible thing and took all the damage with my own flesh.] The truck stopped, and I heard the driver yell "Gonna live?" I waited a second for a few nerve impulses to travel back and forth the entire length of my body, and was surprised to discover that they made it all the way to my fingers and toes before returning. I yelled "Yeah, I think I will," trying to express that this news surprised me as much as anyone.
Seems like I had my cleats out of the pedals and was up on my feet surveying the damage in a fraction of a second. I remember being pleased that each cleat popped loose from its pedal with a single twist; but I don’t recall how I got from being on my right side, on the ground, with one leg under my bike; to standing upright, on the left side of the bike. In my memory, I have the sense that this transition was instantaneous: as if I’d been beamed up, rearranged, and immediately beamed down again.
I scraped a brake lever hood, but didn’t even twist it out of alignment on the handlebars. I scuffed the saddle and roughed up my cork handlebar tape, but not to the point of it being unusable. (The tape’s expensive, but the world’s best compromise on handlebars: just enough padding, without too much bulk.) It just gained some personality. My shorts and jersey were miraculously intact. I don’t think my helmet ever hit the ground. A shoe might have gotten a little scuffed, but they’ve taken a beating already. Basically, most of the damage was to my own hide. And ego.
I might try to see if I can get the doctor to look me over and maybe pick some asphalt out of my elbow (which I didn’t have the gumption to do, with available tools, and no one else offered) and check the swelling. I doubt if I’ve got much more to deal with than road rash and bruising. (Although I didn’t really lose that kicked in the groin ache until halfway through Ironman 3, a couple of hours ago.)
After that, I rode home, rinsing off my bloody scrapes at red lights by gulping water from my hydration pack and spraying it on myself (because I don’t leave the house without plenty of water, right, David?); showered; and started bandaging myself. [The "plenty of water" remark is a reference to a running joke between me and 20-something whiz programmer / ex-Eagle Scout David M. about a couple that got lost and dehydrated in Trabuco Canyon a few months ago, and how clueless they must have been.] Janis would have helped, but was watching a play in LA with a co-worker.
Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch!


Posted by jjldickinson on 2013-11-17 00:38:00

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