This is a 5-Wednesday month. I’m obliged to post 4 times a month. I’m on vacation this week, but I’m going to do a vanity piece to autopost rather than simply post that I’m taking the week off. It’s relevant, I promise.
I’m taking another bike trip to Free Spirit Spheres. Those of you who have read my book know it’s my happy place, and my rehab reward. While lying on a respirator, in and out of consciousness with lungs too damaged to breathe on my own, I promised myself if I was ever able to get there on my bike, I could go to my dream destination, I could go to the exotic and spendy Free Spirit Spheres on Vancouver Island. I made it there in less than a year.
Every year after, I took a little more challenging trip, working up to 14 days out on the road. I scheduled about every third day as a rest day so as not to burn out, but I was away from home, living out of my panniers, solo bike touring for 2 weeks. I did a lot of shorter trips each summer as well—at least one weekend in Victoria and many 2-and-3-day stays in Vancouver.
The trips I took would have been challenging for someone who hadn’t shattered her upper body. Looking forward to them was what kept me going the rest of the year.
Two years ago I took a part-time job doing food delivery when my regular work hit a dry spell. Getting in and out of the car many times an hour, combined with city driving guided by GPS with a distracting stream of orders coming in, proved too hard on my spine and neck.
For the first 5 years after I was hit, I’d had a rib head that kept sliding out of place, pinching a nerve and causing excruciating pain. It took a visit to the chiropractor to get it back in place. I was told surgery wasn’t an option; the rib head needs to be able to move normally, and if I froze it in place, the pain would be far worse than what I had when it went out.
When I started the delivery job, my rib head had been stable for 2 years. After just 8 days on the job, restricting myself to 4-hour shifts, my rib went out in mid-shift. It happened 2 more times in 2 months. I figured I’d be fine on my bike trip, away from the cause of the problem, but on my 10th day out, I reached for the shoulder strap of my pannier bag to carry it downstairs for a ride, and my rib slid out hard. So hard I literally could not get up off the bed for 2 hours to go get help.
It took 2 days of being confined to my bed, waited on by my hosts, to recover enough to be able to cycle out of there and make my painful way home. A month later, while on a delivery, I was tripped by a heaved pavement block on a customer’s front walkway and landed on my face. It took a month to notice that my knee had been badly damaged too—the corner of the pavement took a bite out of the cartilage. The injury grew steadily worse over the next 9 months. I reluctantly planned to use my car to visit my friends on the Island.
This was a huge deal for me; the whole magic of the trip was about getting there on my own power. To bring a car would neuter the Island for me. My self-image included a giant “cone of shame.” To make matters even worse, I fell in my bathroom the night before I left, landing squarely on my injured knee. It was the size of a cantaloupe and I stowed a cane in the trunk of my car. I don’t know why I even put my bike on the car’s rack; the only action Silver saw that trip was to be parked outside Eve, my beloved rental treehouse.
It was still good to see my friends, and I found a tiny house I dearly wanted, in the perfect location, and made an offer on it. I began my application for Canadian residency and discovered in a few weeks that it was not going to happen. https://blogs.psychcentral.com/hidden-disabilities/2018/12/canada-were-watching/ I entered some of the darkest months of my life.
You’ve all been following my tiny house journey; you know I’m heading back today on my bike, bearing photos of my new house. It’s a celebration in every way.
What’s blowing my mind as I leave in my car today, to park it at the ferry and ride onto the boat, is how I used to take the train or bus to Vancouver, and bus across the city to make my connections. The extra energy that took astounds me—that I ever had it. I’m taking this trip to say “I’m back, baby,” but I realize there’s still a long way to go to get back to where I was 3 years ago. My recovery has regressed a lot, and I finally understand the extent of it.
I’ll get back there; the rustic tiny house life ensures a daily dose of toughening, and I’m grateful for how far I’ve come already.
Next trip to the Island will be to see a friend farther north, and I’ll have to drive the car in order to make it there and back in the short time I have available. This trip I have to do by bike, because I have something to prove to myself. On that note, I have to be out of here in 20 minutes. Have a great week, and if you feel like chatting, I’m checking comments on the road. Tell me about your big summer challenge and how you’re (I hope) crushing it.