Postcard from Maine

~ Not Eli ~

Eli crashed hard. I assume. I didn’t see it, he speeded ahead when the terrain got dicey. Or really, I slowed down and he didn’t. I rounded a bend and saw him flat on his back in the middle of the path, his bike in the brush. I could tell he was OK. His head was up, looking around.

I pulled up next to him. “How bad is it?”

“Stupid, I was being stupid.”

Sophie rode up a minute later. I still poked and prodded Eli. As a mountain bike coach, I took a first aid course last winter. I was astounded at how badly I assessed my training partner. My brain froze up, I couldn’t remember what to ask. I found it easier there on the mountain, my son wracked with pain.

Sophie went down the hill to get help.

Eli landed on his hip, and then apparently bounced and skidded to a stop. He scuffed both hips, his belly, his elbows and his face. His bike shorts tore. He must have rolled onto his back after the crash. Nothing back there was scraped or bleeding.

Other riders pulled up, checked in. “You guys need help?”

We planned the ride at Mount Abram bike park as our first activity on vacation. It’s a small resort. Six runs, two green, three blue, one black. Oh, and one more trail, uphill traffic only. The downhill trails, accessed by a chair lift, feature huge banked turns and various jumps, small to large. The smooth, groomed trails, are the complete opposite of Pennsylvania riding. At home, it’s all jagged rocks jutting out of the ground at odd angles. We need to pick our way slowly through the trails. I rarely hit the speeds we traveled at Mount Abram.

When the EMT showed up, he repeated my head-to-toe examination of Eli. Good for me to watch, I missed most of the steps. He strapped Eli to a backboard and took him down the hill on an ATV. Eli couldn’t bend his leg or sit up at all. Getting him in our truck seemed unlikely. We opted for an ambulance.

The stretch of trail where Eli crashed is the one section of the park I didn’t like. It seemed incomplete, as though they haven’t finished building the trail. It abruptly switched from the smooth, groomed surface to a rocky, sandy path. My first time through, I caught air on a large table-top jump and came down the back side into a rough, steep gravel patch. Completely out of control, I frantically tried to slow down, skidding out every time I touched my brakes. The next hundred yards was more of the same. Inviting jumps with a terrible landing surface.

On our next run, when I got to the table-top jump, I slowed way down and called the run complete. Eli barreled ahead trying to nail the string of straight jumps down the rest of the hill. One of those jumps did him in.

Eli sustained an avulsion fracture. His muscle pulled away from his pelvis taking a chunk of bone with it. It will heal without surgery after six to eight weeks on crutches. No bicycling, no hiking, no walking. Essentially what we planned to do on this vacation.

After a tense, boring day yesterday at Stephens Memorial Hospital, we took a slow start this morning. We ate breakfast at a bakery, went to an awesome meteorite exhibit at the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum, and ate amazing Lao food (food from Laos) for dinner. In the late afternoon, Susan, Sophie and I went on a beautiful and challenging hike while Eli rested up from too much time on his feet. We even dropped by Mount Abram for their Saturday night beer garden concert.

We plan to adapt. Our vacation will be different but, I think, still great. We all feel horrible for Eli. He’s in pain and the rest of his summer—his job and his mountain biking season—will be seriously disrupted. But his spirits are high and we’ve all remained rather upbeat. Tomorrow, we move on to Bar Harbor on the Atlantic coast. We hadn’t planned to hang out on the beach this week, but that just might be a relaxing activity we can all enjoy.

26 thoughts on “Postcard from Maine

    • Thanks. The ER told us there was no rush to see an orthopedic doctor and when we do we’ll be following their instructions. It’s a little weird having so few specifics about recovery three days later.

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    • I think we’ve all been helped by Eli’s positive attitude. My first thought was we were going to have to bail altogether but no one has gone that direction. As the pain reduces all is getting better.

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  1. So happy to hear how well your family adapted Jeff! The hike with Susan, the beach, the Lao food…good on you for rolling with it, so to speak. I remember the one mountaineering accident I had that was really bad, how surprising it was the way adrenaline can mask an injury. Crazy, sounds like that’s a bit of what happened when you found him.

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  2. Whoa, talk about resilience! Not just Eli’s attitude post-accident, but your entire family’s, switching gears (pun intended) and modifying your vacation plans to accommodate the “Uh oh” moment with its resulting hospital visit and restrictions on activities (for Eli).

    I can only imagine how difficult it was to come upon Eli on his back on the dirt, hurt. Every parent’s nightmare.

    All in all, a great example of going with the flow. You can’t predict this stuff, you can only manage your reaction to it when it happens. I hope the rest of your vacation is uneventful, but still loads of fun 🙂

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  3. Ah, the fearlessness of youth. I’m glad no surgery is required and that his outlook is positive. Hopefully you will discover many unplanned and unexpected spots and activities on the trip.

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  4. Remember when we used to just shake off injuries? I still try to do that and wonder why things hurt longer, and seem to take longer to heal.
    Older daughter reminds me “Cuz you’re old, Mom” Gee thanks🤦🏼‍♀️

    Have you learned to say Bar Harbor like the locals? 😂

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    • I was definitely in the ‘shake it off’ camp with Eli. I was sure he had a hip pointer bruise and the more he moved around, the better it would feel. He was positive that something was quite wrong, plus he couldn’t walk. Now he’s all like “Dad, remember how you wanted me to walk it off??”

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      • I’m like that. I hate ERs…the expense even with insurance and the wait…I’m always telling the girls to take some ibuprofen and ice it… wait and see.🤦🏼‍♀️ I’m a bad, bad parent.
        When I saw that Ben had nearly amputated his finger in a bike chain when he was 2, I immediately got ready to drive to the Children’s ER. I *am* occasionally good.😂

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  5. I winced and gasped reading the entire thing. I am now ridiculously angry and whoever designed the course with such a dramatically bad section of incomplete transition. And I have never gone biking for any reason other than to get somewhere. But, if a course is built for the purpose of being an energetic and fun ride, it should at least be marginally safe–or come with ‘Black Diamond’ notices for the difficult stretches like they do at ski slopes. *ends rant, gets off soap box*

    Hope you are all recovering from such a nasty turn your vacation took!

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    • Well, I suppose all’s fair in mountain bike course building. He’d already been through it twice, so he can really only blame himself. There is a rating system for the trails and this one wasn’t black. We were working our way up to that trail. I, of course, can’t wait to go to another park. I was really enjoying the jumping which is something we rarely get enough speed for here. I’m sure I’ll be next on his crutches.

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