Torrential rain came at 3am and continued for hours until it became normal rain. I woke at 6 and packed in the tent, which always takes much longer. I left at 7 for a rainy ride - had it been good weather, I would have taken the longer coastal road, but in this weather there would be no views, so instead I rode 6k inland. It probably took as long, starting with 3k uphill and having to go slowly on the slippery downhill to Saint Hellier. Lots of morning traffic, so I took small streets whenever possible. I had 45 minutes waiting time at the ferry, so I took cover from the cold/rain in the terminal, where I charged batteries and checked my email.
After an uneventful ferry ride, we arrived in Saint Malo late morning, which was very touristic despite the bad weather. So I skipped sightseeing and moved on taking only a few pictures on my way out of town. I normally don't use town bike paths, because they are poor quality and passing side roads there's no right-of-way and big curbs to navigate. However, the traffic was dense and the street narrow with big puddles, so I made an exception taking a paved path shared with pedestrians. At some point the path was divided by what looked like a line, and too late I realised it was a round concrete divider. When my front wheel hit the divider, I lost my balance on the wet slippery surface. When losing balance on a heavy bike, there is nothing to do but let the bike fall at the same time stepping off it. However, when I put my right foot down, it slipped out of the wet sandal and skin peeled of three toes also bending backwards. It felt like slow motion, but it only took a split second before I hit the pavement with the entire 185 kg of bike and myself. A big open wound and an immediate massive swelling above the knee. A passer-by helped me get the bike up against a wall and I sat down to rest a minutes feeling slightly dizzy.
I assumed it was just a big blow requiring some days’ rest, so I planned to ride 11k out of town to what looked like a small forest. First, I needed to stock up, so I rode 5k to a supermarket buying food for 4-5 days. I couldn’t put any weight on the injured leg, and biking with one leg was quite difficult especially on a heavy bike – having to jump on the bike and getting it going in the same movement with the other leg dangling loose; even worse in a town with heavy traffic and having to stop at several lights. At the supermarket, I was limping around clinging to the trolley for support – a pitiful sight attracting lots of attention from kind, concerned people suggesting I should go to the hospital. I refused convinced I only needed some rest.
Now on a 10 kg heavier bike, I rode 5k over rolling hills to a village just short of the forest where I needed to get a lot of water. It seemed abandoned and knocking on two doors nobody opened. Coming out from the second house, I woman pulled over five metres away so I asked her for water. She was visiting a friend, and kindly offered to go fill up all my bottles. Five minutes later she came back with her friend Christie limping on crutches. She (surprisingly) spoke English, so I told her what had happened and my plan to rest in a nearby forest. She immediately offered I could camp in her backyard, which I happily accepted. It took over a painstaking hour to get the tent up, falling over several times when I lost my balance.
I limped (like hopscotch) to the house to have coffee, and Christie told me she was on her way to the hospital to have a check-up on her broken ankle (her friend was visiting to take her). She suggested, I came along which I first refused, repeating it was just a big blow requiring rest. When she insisted, I gave it a second thought. What were the odds, knocking on the door of an English-speaking Frenchwoman who is going to the hospital shortly after? It seemed like a sign from the Universe, so I went along. After hours of waiting I had x-rays taken and the doctor told me, the leg was likely broken. However, as the fracture was only visible on one of five x-rays they decided to keep me overnight and do a CT scanning in the morning. It confirmed the broken leg and since the fracture was less than 10mm, I fortunately didn’t need a surgery – no cast either because of the wound. In the afternoon, I took a taxi to Christie’s, packed my stuff, thanked her immensely and went back to the hospital ready to go to Denmark.
After 63,500k (88,500k including three trial runs) my trip was over from one minute to the next – a reminder to live life every moment and not postpone the things that really matters; it can be over before we know it. It was of course a sad ending to a great adventure, but there was nothing special I wanted to do the last 2,000k except visiting friends, which I can always do another time. I’ve always said, I would stop if the bike was stolen/damaged (beyond repair) or I got seriously sick/injured, so it only took a minute to push my ego aside and accept my fate (dismiss the idea of later resuming the trip).
I’ve had a travel insurance the whole trip, because of the potential huge expenses should something happen in the USA or one of the countless very remote areas, I rode through. Being back in Europe where public health care covers most cost, I considered cancelling and getting a refund for the remaining period - luckily I didn’t thinking it’s like an umbrella and rain – the day I didn’t have it, I would need it. I don’t know the total price but it must have been very expensive though mostly because of the extremely unprofessional and inefficient SOS International handling my home transport for my insurance company. The biggest problem was change of personnel every eight hours without updating the person taking over – and nobody taking responsibility, as they knew they could pass on all unsolved problems when leaving.
The first available plane was a week later, so I suggested land transport e.g. train or a big taxi. The didn’t listen, nor did they when I told them to solve the challenge of bike transport - a special tool to turn the handlebar (mine was broken) and a big bike box. Despite mentioning it to at least 10 different people for 4 days, it was not until the day before departure, it was taken seriously but then it was too late and they had to make a special arrangement with a cargo plane. Nobody kept me or the hospital informed on what was going on, so I constantly had to call the current caseworker to make sure she had all information (never did). Despite countless promises, I was only called back two times, while I called them about 30 times. I ended up 5 days in hospital (could have left on day two) and 2 days in a hotel, 400k taxi ride to Paris + taxis to/from airports, 4 seats on the plane (to unnecessarily have my leg up) and the cargo flight for the bike. 4-5 days and several thousand Euro could have been saved, had they put me on a fixed price taxi. Anyway, I got home and 10 days later, I got the bike.
In Denmark, I was on crutches for four weeks before I slowly began walking. At the same time, I had follow-up x-ray taken but my GP couldn’t interpret the report and had no answers to when I could start biking. So she referred me to the hospital where a week later an orthopaedic (based on new x-rays) told me it the leg looked fine and could begin biking – actually he recommended it. An embarrassingly inefficient public system (box thinking), and no wonder they constantly scream for additional funds. Instead of the old-fashioned department (“box”) mindset, they should optimise the cross-functional processes saving money as well as improving patient experiences and staff satisfaction. Anyway, I began biking the following day and 8 weeks after the accident, I took off on a bike trip around Denmark - around 1,000-1,300k depending on where I go and for how long – more to get back in shape than for the trip itself (not the best time of year), so I decided not to blog about it.