I'm still not quite sure what happened Saturday night. One minute I was cruising fast across the South Anchorage coastal flats trying to catch up with the group after I had stopped to shoot a couple of photos, and the next thing I knew, my face was meeting snow and ice. My brain didn't register anything in between.
It's not a good feeling to combine blinding pain with total confusion. Confusion as in, "What the hell just happened?" and "How bad is this going to be?" I pulled myself onto my hands and knees as best I could with my feet tangled in the frame of my Pugsley, and started watching the snow to determine how much blood was dripping onto it, and whether there were any teeth involved.
The next few minutes are a bit of a blur, but they involved quick cell-phone calls to the guys up ahead, and to my wife and daughter as I asked them to grab my 4Runner and meet me at a nearby road. Somehow I also managed to be concerned about littering, so I pick up my busted helmet visor and stuffed it into my fanny pack before pushing my bike up a bluff that I knew would take me to the road.
A quick stop at a 24-hour clinic involved a doctor shoving one end of a wooden swab stick from the inside of my lip out through the front of my chin so that she could tell me, "You've got a through-and-through," before she looked at her young assistant and asked, "Are you OK?"
The girl who was holding a light on my face then explained that she's generally OK with seeing blood, but has a problem dealing with bloody faces.
Me, too, when it's my face. Especially when someone's putting a stick in my mouth and then telling me it's popping out through the beard on my chin. And oh, by the way, my jaw might be broken.
(I thought the hole meant a tooth had penetrated my lip, but my wife, who is a nurse, corrected me today by explaining the angle was all wrong -- something pierced me from the outside in. Probably ice, or a rock.)
A little later, I was in Providence ER being told my beard would be shaved off for stitches, and a big, musical machine that sounded like an arcade video game was rotating around my head to scan my jaw.
The result: No breaks, but a damn sore jaw. My teeth are all still there. And stitches wouldn't have helped much, so the beard stayed on. I went home with a tetanus shot, and prescriptions for penicillin and fresh supply of Vicodin. I'm swollen from my neck to the top of my nose.
But every cloud has a silver lining, as they say.
The Pugsley's OK, and I have a license to get high and drink milkshakes.