Saved by the light of a bright LED bike light
I was down! Lying in a ditch with my bike a few feet away. My front rim was mangled. Twisted badly — and so was my leg. I couldn’t be sure, but it felt broken.
I had been riding down a trail in the Santa Teresa Hills during the sunset. I stopped to take a couple quick pictures with my phone and an uploaded them to Facebook with the caption, “Fabulous ride, fabulous sky, bet you wish you were here 😛 ” Exactly like that. I used an emoticon to stick my tongue at the list of friends, family, and acquaintances who might see the picture. Karma is a bitch.
Just after the posting photos, I got back on the trail, now with my Xtreme Bright LED bike light illuminating the trail. The bike light arrived that morning after two days of free shipping. It’s listed as the “#1 LED Bike Light on Amazon” and it came with a free taillight. This was the bike light’s maiden voyage.
The bumpy trail caused the light to bounce around madly. For long moments the trail before me was black with darkness. The sun had set swiftly and I was riding a good twenty miles an hour when suddenly the bike light revealed a large rock in my path. I pulled hard to the left to try and dodge it, but I wasn’t fast enough. My front wheel clipped it. Then me and the bike tumbled off the trail into a deep ditch.
I lay on my back for a minute watching the stars grow brighter while I tried to get control of my breathing. I was breathing hard and I could feel the blood pulsing in my temples. I held off panic by taking slow, deep breaths. I kept my thoughts rational and evaluated my situation.
I knew I was in trouble. My bike was busted; my leg was in bad shape; and I needed to get out of the ditch and back on the trail. I also knew it wasn’t late yet. The park was still open or had just closed. Hopefully someone was still out there, finishing their ride.
First, I tried to call 9-1-1 and tell them where I was. I felt my pocket for my phone. It wasn’t there.
Carefully, I raised myself up with my arms. Sharp pain surged through my twisted leg as the weight of my thighs shifted. I looked around. The ditch was dark-chocolate-black. I could see shapes, but could not distinguish rocks from the soil. If my phone was nearby, it was just a bump in the continuous silhouette of the landscape.
The Xtreme Bright bike light was still attached to my handlebars. It’s sturdy clamp held on, fast. The light was pointed down and lit a small circle of dirt under the bike. I needed the light to find my phone.
Rolling onto my side, I slid my good leg under my bad leg and crawled slowly towards my bike. Dragging my leg hurt like hell so I muttered to myself as I crawled, trying to ease the pain:
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck….”
It didn’t help, but I continued the litany of swearing until I could reach the handlebars of the bike. I grabbed them and pulled the bike to me. Then, rested a few seconds before releasing the light from its mount.
With bike light in hand, I held it above my head and slowly scanned the area, first twisting left, then twisting right. My phone was nowhere to be seen. Its black protective case hid it quite adeptly.
I continued to rove the ditch with the light’s beam for a few minutes, hoping the phone would be found. I could only guess how long I searched, but I gave up after about fifteen minutes. Time for Plan B.
I needed to get back up to the trail and make my way down to my car parked on the side of the road, near to where the trail met the street. Hopefully I could still drive. The only way someone would know where I was, is if they recognize the vista I had gloated about on Facebook.
I stopped looking for my phone and looked for a branch that I could use to support my leg. The ditch was bare of anything that would be useful. Other than dirt, grass and rocks, there was an old Red Bull can and faded Kashi Snack Crackers box. I forgot about my predicament for a moment and wondered, “Who the hell still litters on bike and hiking trails?”
My arm was tired from being used as a monopod for the light so I rested my hand and the light on my hip as I tried to come up with Plan C. The moon was rising and the insects were becoming loud. Something ran through the ditch some bit away. I imagined it was probably a rabbit or a raccoon or some other harmless creature. There was no point in thinking about mountain lions.
I gave up on finding a branch. The ditch and hillside were incredibly bare of any lengths of wood.
The new plan was to simply to climb the hill. I turned over and rose to my hands and good leg and began a three-legged-turtle-walk-crawl up the hill. I stopped every five feet to rest. The hill was steep and the movement stabbed my leg with pain. Just a yard or two below the trail I heard noise. Another bike!
With relief, I switched the light to flashing mode and raised it as high as possible and pointed it at the trail. I yelled, “Hey! Down here! Down here!”
The bike on the trail came to a loud and abrupt stop. Gravel and dust few over the edge of the ditch. A figure dipped into the radius of my flashing bike light, holding a hand up to protect their eyes.
“‘Sup? You need help or something?”