My 4th of July Bike Accident

It was the 4th of July weekend in 1994. My boyfriend Richard and I had taken the ferry from San Francisco to Larkspur, then ridden our bikes up to my friend Annie’s place in Forest Knolls.

Annie and I had worked together at Baobab Safari company down on Post St. I’d only met her about six months before, when I moved to San Francisco from a summer spent in Yellowstone, after a few years in San Diego. At the time we met, Annie had just found out that her husband had been having an affair with her friend. She had three kids, all in their teens at the time. I’m pretty sure she was also going through her second (or third?) bout of cancer. That woman has nine lives, honestly. Anyhow, she’d invited us up for the weekend to BBQ, hang out with her and the kids, and be outside in beautiful Marin county. San Francisco was always foggy in the summer and as we’d moved from Southern California, we were happy for the warm break.

After two relaxing days, we packed up our bikes to head home. Richard was a strong cyclist. He was a bike messenger at the time and always in better shape than me. I could carry my own, though, and I loved being out on those windy roads. About twenty minutes out from Annie’s house, Richard was quite a bit ahead of me. I lost sight of him at the curve, before the Loma Alta preserve, so I started going faster. It was a gorgeous day and I felt carefree and happy, pedaling like a child racing to catch up with friends. As I turned the bend, hoping to see him ahead of me, I caught the edge of the pavement and ended up off the shoulder, out of control.

The next thing I remember is staring up at the sky, watching the trees sway, the clouds pass, slowly, peacefully, and then the echo of someone saying, “Are you ok? Can you hear me?” Apparently, I’d ridden right into the side of the hill, and was thrown from my bike. My entire right side was scraped up and my helmet had a solid two inch crack in it. The man who was helping me had a cooler in his car (it was the 4th of July, after all,) and an enormous brick car phone. He was just getting on the phone when a volunteer fire engine came upon us. All of this memory is hazy – I vaguely remember the EMT talking to me and I thought he was the cutest thing. Then an ambulance came. And I remember trying to explain that I wasn’t alone but because I was, in fact, alone, they didn’t believe me.

Richard had apparently barreled down the hill (probably also enjoying the feeling of wind in his hair and not a care in the world,) and it took him a while before he realized I was no longer with him. By the time he rode back up the hill to find me, they were putting me in the ambulance. I believe he used that man’s car phone to call Annie and she came to get him and the bikes. I ended up at Marin General where I had a CT scan (and consequently spent the next year begging them to forgive my hospital bill because I was a college student with no insurance.) I was told how lucky I was that I’d been wearing a helmet. I don’t remember much until being rolled back into the room after the tests, then I really came to. Apparently, while in my post-traumatic haze, I had asked the EMT to marry me. He came by to check on me and make sure my offer still stood. It was embarrassing but also adorable.

After a night of being woken up every two hours (to be sure my minor concussion wasn’t more serious,) I woke up the next morning covered in hives. It turned out that I had fallen off my bike into a patch of poison oak. I ended up back at the ER, as I have a terrible allergy and I was a mess. First, they gave me a shot of Benadryl and then a shot of epinephrine. The poison oak symptoms started to subside soon after but my heart felt like it was stopping and starting. Turns out I have benign heart arrhythmias called PVC’s. I’d always suspected something was a little funky but it took a bike accident and some poison oak to figure it out.