I’m sure you won't be surprised to learn that when I say "last Monday," I actually mean “sometime late last October.” I wrote this post then, but didn’t edit or publish until, well, now. Par for the course, eh?
Last Monday, Pilot and Guy and I set out on a fine Eating on Two Wheels expedition to Patagonia, AZ via some four wheel drive roads. Our food destination was inspired by the 2014 Downtown Lecture Series (2014 topic: Food!). We were off to visit the Native Seed/SEARCH Conservation Farm, and possibly pop in on Gary Nabhan , presenter of the October 22nd lecture, and his farm, as well.
Of all the possible riding scenarios I’ve prepared for, by wearing all manner of safety gear, carrying tools and knowing (mostly) how to use them in a pinch, owning a SPOT device, carrying Pilot Guy’s satellite phone, not riding off-road alone (I break that rule on occasion, though I may not again for a long time), telling people of my plan and when to expect me, carrying extra food and water, etc., etc., there’s one scenario that never, ever occurred to me. And that is that I might have a low speed fall on a technical hill, and, despite the Shoei full face helmet strapped firmly to my cabeza, knock myself completely out and wake up with amnesia.
Yup, I had my very first motorcycle induced temporary amnesia event. And I am here to tell you it is fascinating, hilarious, freaky-weird, - pardon me - shit.
I think I’m about to write a coherent post, but in recollecting my usual run-on sentence style of writing, which I happen to be exhibiting right now in a spectacular fashion, I admit that anyone could fairly argue that I’ve never actually done so. Consequently, I take that back.
To call this little incident a “crash,” or even an “accident,” would be assigning it far too much glory than it deserves. It was more like a low speed throw down during my ascent of a challenging ( i.e. rocky, rutted, steep, loose, sandy, but not out of the realm of possibility) bit of 4WD road. The short story is that we (Li’l Burro and I, that is), got tossed to the ground by a narrow rut. The long story was something like: “Christ, I should stick to hang gliding… Scary Hill!! Okay, we got this. Deep breath and go! [commence motorcycle noises] Oof, needed more time to get set up*… Aieeee, this is not pretty, but we’re almost theeerrrre… [poor form, too much clutch, compensated for by too much throttle; engine revving.] Don’t go in the rut! Avoid the rut! Whooop whooop! Okay, we’re in the rut. We can work with this. Ohhh, falling isn’t so bad, is it?” Thump.
And then… nothing. Not even crickets. It seems I conked myself right on out of consciousness**.
Pilot Guy said by the time he got to me, I was just coming back. “I’m kind of dizzy.” (I do remember saying that much at some point.) But for the next hour, my little blonde flute brain completely lost its capability to glue together any information at all. I had, quite simply, the memory capacity of a goldfish***. Or worse. Pilot Guy and I had the same conversation over and over starting with, “I fell. Ooh, that’s not good. Did I get up by myself?” I would loop back every minute or so, not realizing we had just been over this. Did I know who I was? (I did!) And then, “I fell. Ooh, that’s not good. Did I get up by myself?” Did I know who he was? “Why, you’re my lovie!,” I said, cheerfully pleased with myself, before turning back to the beginning. “Did I get up by myself?” Finally, Pilot Guy started drawing a line in the dirt next to Li’l Burro each time we started again. “See this?” I’d see it, believe, and understand what he explained for a brief moment, and then, in 3, 2, 1… “I fell. Ooh, that’s not good. Did I get up by myself?” Always with the same inflection, but never with any recollection. I knew who I was, knew who he was, but had no idea where I was, why I was there, what year it was (evidently I cheated by looking at my license plate, admitted as much, and promptly forgot again), and then… “I fell. Ooh, that’s not good. Did I get up by myself?” Another line in the dirt. By the time my ability to write neuro-data started to reappear, there were a lot of lines in the dirt. I do remember those moments when my circuits first started reconnecting. I remember having to work really hard for the date: was it 2013, 2014, or 2015? Hmm… And the names of the dogs, I had to dig deep for that, and I felt bad about it. And, aha! - we’re near Amado, aren’t we? But I couldn’t place Amado anywhere on a mental map of AZ, and I found myself praying I hadn’t permanently scrambled myself. Surely we must be here on a food adventure, right? I got the details after a hint. Finally. I can only imagine Pilot Guy’s relief.
The whole way back to Tucson (desert extraction courtesy of Bohemian Bicycle Dave), we laughed at the bizarreness of it all, marveled at the weirdness of it all. “I said that??” We mused over my compliant, cheerful demeanor each time Pilot Guy suggested we go over all of it again, to make sure “we’ve got a lock on it.” We puzzled at how I could seemingly be so normal and so not, all at the same time. “You did all that??” I had absolutely no memory at all of the battery of first aid diagnostic tests Pilot Guy had performed on me before letting me get up and before taking my helmet off. Those lines in the dirt - that moment of realization was the stuff of freaky movies! We wondered what I would have done had I been alone. Sat down and eaten my grilled chicken, roasted pepper, and chipotle sandwich? (I did eat it, and it was delicious, by the way.) Wandered off into the desert? Would I have remembered I had various communication devices with me, or even realized I needed help at all? What would an interaction with a stranger have been like? How long would it have taken before he or she realized I was, er, a bit “touched.” I simply have no idea.
As it turns out, recovery from a concussion is much less fascinatingly weird and interesting than recovery from transient global amnesia. It’s more like being locked in a spa against your will. I guess there are worse things, but I can’t say I’ve had a good week. The prescription I was given was anti-inflammatory medication, to keep my brain from swelling out of my skull, and “brain rest.” Mostly, I lay in the deliciousness of Pilot Guy’s Temper-Pedic mattress, listening to the soothing soundscape of his dated Brookstone clock radio. Its processor was a bit scrambled, too, occasionally mixing up the loon sounds with the ocean waves, the babbling brook with seagulls, but I forgave it. I took soothing baths enriched with almond oil, and learned that a slippery tub is terrifying when you’ve just sustained a head injury. Things that I might have been able to do with a broken ankle felt nearly impossible. One simple rehearsal left me dazed and exhausted. I came home and slept for nearly 36 hours straight. Sorting silverware felt like a challenging Facebook brain quiz, and required a restorative nap afterwards. I caught myself putting my dirty cereal bowl in the oven instead of the dishwasher. Writing an email required every last bit of my mental and physical energy. Driving a car was completely out of the question. But the recovery process was mercifully quick, and for this I was, and am, unspeakably grateful.
I’ve always been one to wear my helmet even if I’m just moving my bike a few feet from here to there. After this incident, I won’t stop that practice any time soon. I don't like to imagine the damage that would have occurred had I not been wearing it. Surprisingly, my helmet looks completely untouched, although it has certainly been retired from service. And I think it will be a while before I break the “don’t ride off-road alone” rule. This one goes against my grain more than a little. I like to ride alone. Finally, politics aside, I’m very grateful for my healthcare.gov insurance policy.
Good Heavens, no one tell my mom.
*Turns out, at my skill level, I could not get set up before meeting the challenge. I need a few feet of flat rolling distance to comfortably get the bike in the appropriate gear and my body in the proper position. Consequently, my weight wasn’t where it should have been, which forced me to sacrifice a bit of control. Lesson: I should have moved the bike back a bit to give me a little space before the actual hill. (Pilot Guy and I had stopped to assess and recollect after a mechanical issue he was having with his own wheels.)
**Li’l Burro got his noggin banged up a bit, too, but I think he’ll be straightened out pretty easily. Still, I feel bad about it. Poor faithful little guy. I sat on him a bit later in the week, patting his side, promising he’ll be okay, and that we’ll win the next round.
***Goldfish have a memory span of three seconds, or so the story goes. Evidently that’s a myth, though. Either way, any goldfish had me beat.