Some surprises are not pleasant. On Sunday, March 28, 1999, Ann and I decided to drive to the Pine Log Wildlife Management for a mountain bike ride. In the springtime we often ride a rough, 8-mile logging road loop that winds through some interesting environments and includes two lung-busting climbs.
In the first two miles we passed several turkey hunters in camouflage in four-wheel drive vehicles. Soon we were riding beside Stamp Creek, a beautiful and pure stream that is clean and cold enough to support trout. Suddenly the beauty ended — we came upon dozens of acres of bare hillside where a forest had been only a few months ago. I hate to see trees reduced to logs and I pity the creatures that had been living in that forest.
On the first steep hill we met two people on horseback. The woman was impressed that we were riding up the hill and complimented us by saying … "she had never seen a fat mountain biker." The second steep climb is too steep to ride due to substantial outcroppings of rock, which prevent passage by almost any type of vehicle. We pushed our bikes up the hill and started the mostly downhill ride back to our vehicle. This section of the logging road is very rough, with many gullies and rocks. I was going slow due to some trouble with my clip-in pedals — Ann was about a quarter of a mile ahead of me.
I topped a small hill and saw a frightening sight. About 200 yards ahead, Ann and her bike were down and she was not moving. As I rode up she showed no signs of life. After I jumped off my bike and got close to her, I could hear some muffled breathing. I was afraid to move her due to possible spinal damage so I said her name over and over. No response.
I was really having a hard time believing this was happening. We were 3 miles from the nearest road and accessible only to rugged 4-wheel drive vehicles. I was fighting panic and shock.
As I tried to compose myself and get my adrenaline under control, I kept pondering what to do if she didn’t wake up: Do I leave her lying here alone in the dirt on an isolated logging road and go for help? Or, do I wait with her and hope someone comes by?
After about 5 minutes, I saw her hand twitch. I held her hand and felt some movement. I started tapping her on the cheek and saying her name. Very slowly she regained consciousness. When she was finally able to talk I could see that she was badly disoriented. She didn’t know where we were or what had happened. She was very surprised to wake up in a place not knowing how she got there. I started asking questions to assess how much she remembered. I mentioned the horses and the conversation with the riders. Ann thought it was in a dream. After about ten minutes I helped her get to her feet. Ann had landed head first on some hardpan with several large rocks embedded. Her right shoulder was badly hurt. A large knot was bulging above her right temple, just below the deep dent in her helmet. She started showing some symptoms of shock.
Ann’s shoulder wouldn’t permit her to ride her bike. The rear tire on her bike was flat and the rim dented. We decided that I would bike out, get the vehicle, and come back for her. She started walking out, pushing her bike — she didn’t want to ditch her bike. I left her behind, trying to hurry … carefully. I got to my minivan after about 20 minutes and loaded my bike. I drove as close to Pine Log Mountain as I could and started running back to meet Ann. We connected after about 30 minutes and walked to the minivan. She wasn’t able to pull the door shut when she got in the minivan.
At home, we iced the shoulder but the pain continued to escalate. We went to a small walk-in medical facility; as soon as they found out she had been unconscious, they insisted we go to a hospital. At the emergency room at Wellstar Kennestone, Ann was x-rayed and cat-scanned; we waited hours for the results. The good news: no brain damage. The bad news: a broken collarbone.
The accident happened at about 2:00 pm. We left the emergency room at 11:15 pm. A BAD day! Ann has no recollection of the accident and what caused it.
In my mind I keep reliving those awful few minutes when Ann was unconscious — ten minutes that I’ll never forget and Ann can’t remember.