Who Are We But Albatross?

As many of you know, two weeks ago, on June 23rd, I was hit by a car for the first time. Well, sort of hit anyway, the car just clipped the back wheel of my bike enough to send me careening into and over a guard rail, and landing in a lump on the shoulder of 490. The bike was a wreck, basically totaled, after having it for all of 10 minutes; I’d just bought it from Jason at a Euro 2012 soccer party. I didn’t know I was a wreck yet. It didn’t hurt *that* much for some reason, as I climbed back up to the crash site, where the damn driver of that SUV (a black Escalade with Ohio plates, if anyone cares) waited to ask me if I was all right. He didn’t even wait for my answer, just gunned it back onto 490 and told me to go fuck myself (stay classy, Cincinnati!) never to be seen again. I didn’t even call the cops, not sure why, part of it was I didn’t want to go to court, some of it was not wanting my parents to know I’d been hit, or even that I had a bike, and I really didn’t see the point I guess when I didn’t even remember the number on the Cadillac’s plates, and he was long gone anyways.

No, I just sat on the side of South Goodman for a while wondering what the fuck just happened, probably in shock, soaking up the June sunlight and bleeding into the sidewalk. I’m not quite sure how long I was there before Jake just happened to find me, still laying on the sidewalk next to three-quarters of a bike. As the evening went on, to a bit of shock I actually felt almost normal, and we even fixed the bike, gave it a new back wheel and built it into a single speed in his garage. That’s really the way it is around here, most of my friends are pretty much fearless I think, at least it seems that way to me… with the bike whole again, we rode around the city for a while, and I even managed to get back to my plans for the night, taking in Real Beer Week at the Old Toad, downing at least 40 little “tasters” in a night really adds up, but fuck it, I got hit by a car, I wasn’t about to let last call end my night. My friends were ready to go home so I just invited a group of buskers playing on Alexander out instead, said we could drink and jam some on the roof of my building, and I assume we did.

I woke up Sunday afternoon crumpled up on my roof in a torrential rain, not really wanting to or being able to move as the thunder crashed around me. Shit. I’d completely forgotten about being injured, all I realized was I was hungover as fuck, and this rain was cold.

Monday wasn’t much better… I’d started to figure out what was hurting, nothing was broken because it all moved after enough tries, but nothing really felt right either, my shoulder and hip were both half-locked in position and seemed like they were about to go giant and purple with swelling. I went to work anyway, mostly because I work at a hospital, and figured maybe one of the doctors I deliver the mail to might know what was wrong. I actually did see a doctor, and a very relevant one, a sports physician for the hockey team, who said all I had was bone bruises, and if I were on his team I’d be good to play that night, as long as I could get through the pain. Not really the answer I was looking for, I thought maybe something was dislocated or torn or something and there’d be a treatment, but I took it for what it was, and just started hoping I’d stop hurting in the next 5 days, so I could still finally make it to the Adirondacks.

By the time I made it to Lake Placid, I was convinced I was nearly cured, nothing really hurt at all anymore, and Christian thought I looked as good as ever, so we went on our hike anyway exactly as planned, or at least as our plans always evolve, starting right out the first night on some ungodly marathon.

Everything still seemed good through the night and morning up to Mt Marcy, in fact I even felt like I was in better shape than any other year I’d made that climb. We reached the summit just after sunrise, while the fog was just melting off the lower slopes


There really is no feeling quite like a successful climb, looking out at all below us

The fog stayed with us for most of the day, as we climbed Haystack, Skylight, Grey Peak (below) and Mt Redfield.
Grey Peak

The sixth peak of the day, Cliff, finally got the better of me, as my hip started acting up (predictably, probably) 28 miles and far too many vertical feet into the day, and I was stuck maybe 30 feet below the summit, on the final cliff, just on account of not being able to bend that far anymore… It was dark again by the time we made it to the Flowed Lands, but at least I was still in one piece.

For a while longer anyway… I finally took a fall, and an awful one, in a nasty section of Avalanche pass. It felt all too much like a repeat of the first one, landing right back on my bad shoulder and bad hip, and getting dinged in the head this time by a leftover falling rock just for good measure. Just like last time, it didn’t hurt so much right away. About the only thing that changed was my head filling up with weird music, and a constant chorus of “Who are we but albatross?”, a disembodied line from some song I can only assume hasn’t been written yet (upon further review, Google comes up with nothing).

We finally staggered back to our campsite just after (another) sunrise, covering 6 peaks and 43 miles in just over 30 hours (ouch!), falling just a bit short of our goal of going farther and higher than in 2010. I didn’t want to admit it yet, but after that fall, I could tell it would be a season ender. A few hours of sleep confirmed this (along with an awful sunburn from sleeping the day away on the beach!), and when I figured out that a shower had turned into giant raindrops made of pain, the trip was over for me. I was upset enough about the pain, but on top of it all the guilt was almost worse. I’d already decided in 2010 I was done with these mountains, I knew i’d probably never get the chance to go back (it was enough of a surprise this even happened), and I had to ruin it by not only showing up coming off an injury when I should probably have stayed home, but having to get dragged out of there too, I’ll be amazed if this isn’t my last climbing trip, certainly my last one with the one person who’s been willing to go with me all these times.

At least, if there’s any positive out of all this bullshit, it’s that I can still ride a bike without everything hurting. But I still can’t quite escape the feeling that I got exactly what I deserved on this one. Ouch!

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