The road to hell is not paved with good intentions. The road to hell is actually paved with pretty decent asphalt with the odd inconspicuous patch of loose gravel strewn here and there like marbles on the dance floor. And it was just such a patch that caused the bike to slide out and fall over and dump me into perdition.
That type of sudden traumatic mishap is just the price you pay for being a road racer. It just goes with the territory. Or so they say. But the sad fact here is that not only was I not racing, I was barely rolling, making a turn into the parking lot of a country store and traveling at a blistering 5 mph, give or take, and that type of lollygagging shouldn’t come at a price of any kind.
It all happened in a split second, a real Arte Johnson tricycle-style of collapse, and didn’t actually seem like much of a spill at all until I started to pick myself up off the pavement and realized something was terribly awry.
At the emergency room, the radiologist—who we’ll call Mr. Sunshine—took a couple pictures of the problem area, examined the result, and made his assessment. And I quote: “I’ve been in the ER for 40 years and that’s the worst clavicle fracture I’ve ever seen.”
I’m sure he was just trying to cheer me up, and it did to some extent since I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to screw up anyway, you might as well do so in epic fashion and get a story out of it.
Mr. Sunshine showed me the X-rays, and they were indeed pretty darned impressive. Where once there had been a collarbone, there were now three—and no two of them were aimed in the same direction. It looked like the mark of Zorro.
The next day I went to my orthopedist, who’s a sports medicine specialist and fanatical rugby player who’s not so easily impressed. He allowed that it was, indeed, a pretty ugly picture, but he was much more chipper about the situation. He laid out a pair of options for dealing with Zorro.
Option one was to knock me out, cut me open, pull out the power tools and spend a couple of hours under the hood slapping the whole mess back together with plates and pins and screws and such. That sounded pretty awesome to me, but I also figured that I already attract too much of the wrong kind of attention at TSA screening points as it is, and since I fly a lot, the last thing I needed was a bunch of metal riveted to my skeleton.
Then there was option two, which was to basically let nature take its course and let the bones knit back together in their own zigzag way. The only downside to this approach was that I would end up with a gnarly bony protrusion at the base of my neck and look, essentially, like a freak show oddity.
That possibility didn’t faze me, particularly, since my once-precious aspirations as a wife-beater underwear model have ebbed away over the years like all my dreams.
And so with those options presented and explained and a final decision a matter of some urgency, since surgery would have to be performed pronto if I went that way, I began my deliberations. And they all came down to WWEKD?—as in, What Would Evel Knievel Do?
I decided Evel would have just walked it off. So that’s what I’m going to do.
It was only after I’d made my decision that the full indignity of what had befallen me began to sink in. After 42 years in the saddle, I’d finally broken a bone, and it was a collarbone. A collarbone, for crying out loud. In the hierarchy of awe-inspiring, cringe-inducing bone breaks, a busted clavicle is way down the list. Babies break those, that’s who breaks collarbones. So despite the grim severity of the exact way I’d shattered the bastard, the sympathy level amongst friends and family has been tepid at best. Even laying it on thick, like I am right now, and employing the most gruesome adjectives I could muster in recounting the tragedy, has failed to elicit more than a casual, “Oh, Terry. Poor baby. Your collarbone. I busted mine when I was three.”
The worst part of all of this carnage and inconvenience is that now, here on the very threshold of the summer riding season, I am a Down Bro. All of my friends will be out riding the highways and byways in the sun, knees in the breeze, feeling the freedom of the open road and laughing and drinking beer at lively roadhouses and—in my bitter imagination—having more fun than I’ve ever had in my whole life.
Meanwhile, I will be at home, under the porch licking my new bony protrusion like a wounded animal. And that’s my own personal vision of hell.
It’s all right here in the diaries.