Page 1 of 3
“Shut up and get me some f---ing’ water!” Those were my first words and the first thing I remember upon awakening. My sister was just droning on and on about stuff that I had absolutely no interest in, and I was tired and just wanted to sleep. So, me being me, just told her to shut up. I had no idea what my sister was doing near me in bed. Plus, I was thirsty and couldn’t get up for a drink. My other sisters, yes there were more than one, and my mom were there also, and they were all elated that I had spoken. That was my first clue that something was amiss, because normally I won’t shut up. A young adult woman then came in to the room; when told what I had said, she seemed genuinely happy. Shortly thereafter an adult male was told of my utterances and he seemed relieved. I thought, What the hell is going on? I couldn’t understand why everyone was so happy about what I had said. Speaking of everyone, who were all these people? What was my Mom doing here, and why didn’t she frown upon me for using the “f” word? What were all my sisters doing here?
I don’t really know what happened next or how much time elapsed before it happened. I just remember lying in bed and hearing my brother-in-law tell me I was in a bike (bicycle) accident. I thought, Gee, must have been a doozy.” I didn’t quite get the gravity of the situation. I didn’t even realize where I was.
I must have crashed my mountain bike. I’m pretty good at doing silly stuff on that bike. I figured I had jumped off something or hit something and broken a few bones, it couldn’t be worse than that. Boy, was I wrong! The reason I thought that, was because I consider myself a competent and capable rider. I had been riding bikes since I was little kid. I rode my Western Flyer everywhere, all the time. As I grew older and more mature (no laughing) I replaced my beat-up ol’ Western Flyer with a twenty-four-speed mountain bike. Now I could ride faster, jump higher, and just generally do more testosterone-induced silly stuff.
I had recently discovered NORBA (National Off Road Bicycle Association) and racing mountain bikes. I loved it! Like everything else I enjoy, I dove into it full bore. I raced in NORBA as a beginner until I had won enough races to qualify to race for the Sport class (the next class after being a beginner). Having made it to this class in a relatively short period of time, I was getting cocky.
The season for mountain-bike racing is only a few months a year. I couldn’t get enough of going fast on my bike and I wanted to get a lot better at racing, so I decided to ride-year round. I lived in the Napa Valley where you needed to drive in order to get to some good biking trails. Putting my bike on the car, getting all my stuff together, driving to and from the trails, and wallowing in the mud got old after a while. I then decided I could at least stay in good physical riding shape if I rode my road bicycle, during the fall and winter. So I did...a lot.
I started doing criteriums (a short, fast, multiple-lap race around a short course) in Santa Rosa one night a week during the summer. In order to win criteriums, or crits, you need to ride fast. So, logically, I decided I needed to practice riding fast…all the time. Uphill, downhill, flatlands, mud, pavement, it didn’t matter to me; I just wanted to go fast. Maybe it’s just some male thing, I don’t really know.
One warm, beautiful day in the wine country (I lived in St. Helena, California) I decided to ride my road bicycle, a Bianchi, up to Angwin and back. My parents live in Angwin and I was raised there. Angwin is located at 1667 ft. on top of Howell Mountain, which helps form the eastern side of the Napa Valley. About halfway to the top, I looked ahead and saw what just about every unattached biker dreams of; some long, tan, smooth, well-toned legs, attached to a woman. Well, I managed to ride even faster! I caught up with her, and since she was not wearing a helmet, I had a good excuse to talk with her and tell her she should be wearing one.
It turned out that the girl’s father was my science teacher in junior high school. I rode with her all the way to her house, talking all the way, and talked with her some more once we got there.
In the right situations, I could talk for hours. Once, while in high school, two of my friends and I went skiing at Squaw Valley. The parking lot, highway, and everything else was totally packed, it was pretty slow going. It took us about three hours to get back to St. Helena. I told jokes the entire way home. As soon as I would start a joke, I would remember another, and so on. My two friends probably said only twenty words for the entire trip home. I don’t talk much anymore.
Anyway, I became friends with this girl, whose name was Cerise. At the time, I was twenty-five years old and I think she was only nineteen. I grew up with three older sisters and one twin sister, and one thing I learned is that one doesn’t come out and ask a woman her age. It’s a “no win” situation.
Cerise expressed an interest in bicycle riding and wanted to take it up. She didn’t want to race, just ride for enjoyment and exercise. That sounds oxymoronic but when it comes to bicycle riding, it isn’t. I, of course, was more than happy to help in any way possible. The first bit of advice I gave her was to get a bicycle helmet.
I had agreed to go on a ride with her after I got off work on September 15, 1995. I got off work around 4:00 P.M. I went home, changed into my biking clothes, jumped on my bike, and rode up to Cerise’s house. We went on a ride until just about dusk. The day was a Friday. Angwin is a Seventh Day Adventist Community and church is a very important to them. Their Sabbath is from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. I am not an Adventist, but Cerise and her family are devout Adventists and recognizing the Sabbath is important to them. We returned from our ride that Friday and Cerise wanted to go to Vespers, (which is a Seventh Day Adventist meeting). She did, however, offer to give me a ride home, as the sun was sinking fast and it was becoming bicycle unfriendly.
Trying to be a stud and impress the girl, I declined and said I’d ride home. I should mention now, that for reasons the reader will discern later, I don’t remember any of this. I’m just guessing based on what I’ve been told and what I know of myself.
Excerpted from TBI Hell: A Traumatic Brain Injury Really Sucks by Geo Gosling. © 2006, Geo Gosling. Used with permission. For more information on TBI Hell, go to www.amazon.com.