My wife, Meryl, and I were on a cruise a few years ago around the British Isles. One of the last stops was to the island of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, located midway between England and France.
Even though at the time we were well into our 60s, I still like to think of us as adventurous travelers. To take advantage of the interesting historic WWII sites on Guernsey, I decided to arrange for bike rentals so that we could leisurely explore the small island. Since the terrain is hilly, I decided to splurge for the electric bikes that the agency was offering.
Everything was arranged online in advance, including the lengthy disclaimers which we had to sign before our payment was accepted. When we arrived at the port, the bikes were waiting for us in a locked area and we only had to unlock them using a code they had sent us with the confirmation.
Getting used to on an electric bike takes some time since the battery is built into the frame, making it considerably heavier than a regular bicycle. The power-assist feature easily switches on when you need to go up one of the steep hills.
Soon after I thought I was comfortable with my bike, I saw something that I wanted to photograph, so I slowed down and gradually attempted to dismount as I would do on a regular bicycle. Unfortunately, since the center of gravity of the bike is different, I fell over and the bike landed on top of me. My wife, following me about 50 feet behind, saw me fall but she couldn’t tell if I had injured myself since the bike was obscuring her view.
She raced up to me as I was still lying on the ground.
“Are you all right?” she screamed.
“I think so,” I answered as I quickly surveyed my body parts for any signs of a broken bones. From the abrasions on both hands, there was a little blood on my shirt and my knees were skinned. Otherwise, I felt lucky that my helmet was intact, and I hadn’t fallen in the middle of the street traffic.
“This is the last time we’re renting bikes!” she yelled, obviously referring to our last trip when I had fallen on a path a year before in Málaga, Spain.
I picked myself up and concluded that I wasn’t hurt badly enough to need any medical attention or to have to return immediately to the ship. Since I was feeling a little bit defeated, I decided to change our itinerary and stay within the central district not too far from the port.
As we proceeded along the bike paths, we stopped to admire the beautiful view across the English Channel. A French mother and her two teenage children were standing in the same location so we started to talk. Noticing that I had blood on my shirt from where I had fallen onto my hands, she proceeded to tell me that her husband had fallen the day before on a bike trip and had injured his shoulder, severely enough to require an ER visit. The doctor had suggested that they return to France that evening for possible surgery.
As we continued our ride, we saw a man on a park bench with his arm in a sling. Figuring that he was the injured French husband, I stopped to say hello to him.
He was amused that I had heard the whole story from his wife. I could see that he was in considerable pain. He told us that he was looking forward to their ferry back to the French mainland in a few hours.
My wife took the opportunity to remind me again that I wasn’t 35 years old and that we should possibly stop doing things while we’re traveling that could get us even more severely injured.
“This could have ruined our whole trip if you had hurt yourself worse,” she said. “Imagine if we had to miss the rest of the cruise because you had to have surgery!”
I agreed with her that I was very lucky not be any more seriously injured.
Only a few hours later while safely back on the ship, we were standing in line waiting to have dinner and couple behind us was talking about what had happened to them a few days before at a previous cruise stop.
The woman, in her mid-60s like us, was sitting in a wheelchair pushed by her husband. She told us that she had fallen off an electric bike and fractured her pelvis.
At the next stop, they were disembarking prematurely so that she could return to the United States where she might need to have surgery.
I looked down at my hands, both with only small bandages covering my minor wounds. I realized how fortunate I was. Even though I had initially felt bad that our excursion had been cut short, after seeing the French man with the injured shoulder and the woman in the wheelchair, I easily admitted to my wife that I have to be much more sensible in our travel planning.
She couldn’t resist the opportunity. “It could have been much worse!”.