Monday, January 20, 2014

Jan 20 (Day 20) - Accident alert!

As the title suggests, I had a bad accident today. I am 100% fine, please do not worry. My left ribs are a bit sore, but that's it. The bike needed some minor repairs, and I will describe these below. Minus the accident, today's ride was remarkably relaxing. The goal was to bike from South Plainfield, NJ to Levittown, PA, a distance of 41 miles. I found 1 new bird, pileated woodpecker (#116)

The first 5 miles of today were along standard commuter roads. However, the next 15 or so were along a beautiful bike path that runs along the D and R Canal. This part of the East Coast Greenway, unlike the more urban stretches I covered the last 2 days, is well-signed and very well-maintained. I wound along the canal and through the woods for the better part of 2 hours.

A perfect path!

Easy Coast Greenway kiosk along the path

I did spend a fair amount of time absorbing the scenery as I cruised along. It was so much prettier and rider-friendly than anywhere I had been riding the past few days. For comparison, here is a photo of an obstacle I encountered yesterday.

This was the first time on the trip when I really forgot about the distance that I needed to cover and instead just let my mind wander. I thought about what this whole year would ultimately mean to me once it concludes. More specifically, I wondered if I would ever have the sort of great personal revelation that seems to characterize journeys such as this one. What if I don't have some great breakthrough? Would the year be a failure without it? Could it be possible to observe 600 species and still feel personally unfulfilled by the experience? While I did not definitively answer any of these questions, I did realize that no amount of rationalization at this juncture is going to change anything that actually happens in the next 11 months. This year is going to be an unpredictable amalgamation of birds, experiences, and people; I have zero control over what the future value or perception of anything that happens to me today, tomorrow, or the next day will ultimately be. All I can do for the moment is pedal and see what happens.

I was jolted from my rumination when my front wheel locked. The bike stopped almost instantly. I was moving at about 13-14 mph at the time, and the bike decelerated to zero in about 5 feet. I was thrown over the handlebars. What was worse was the 30 pound bike and the 65 pounds of gear strapped to it came flying rear-end over front and landed right on top of me. It was like a 100lb brick getting dropped right on my chest. Remarkably, I bounced right up without injury. Thankfully, I wasn't clipped into my pedals as I'm still in hiking boots to keep my feet warm. The accident completely destroyed my front fender. I broke and cut away what plastic was left, and I managed to bend the stays in such a way that the bike was perfectly functional. I really dodged a bullet since the derailers and brakes survived. The handlebars were also out of alignment, but I figured this would be any easy fix for a bike shop.

I stopped this fast

Front fender, what was left of it

So what happened? Although it happened almost instantly, I immediately hypothesized that a rock from the road had become lodged between the tire and the front fender. This would have stopped the tire instantly and produced the accident that I described. There are actually special fenders that are designed to break away when this happens to prevent this sort of accident. I had trouble with the break away feature on this set of fenders, and I  opted to bypass it and have them connected directly to the frame instead. This was a miscalculation on my part, and when I had a new front fender put on at Knapp's Cyclery (Trenton) later in the afternoon, I made sure that this new one would break away if this ever happened again. The guys at the store were really helpful, and since they showed a great interest in the blog, I figured I would give them a plug for their help. 

Fortuitously, my friend Tom was in the neighborhood. He and I met while chasing a Northern hawk owl in Peru, New York around 5 years ago. Although he lives in New York, we still manage to bird together a few times a year. We had a quick lunch while my bike was getting repaired. It was great to see him today. Sorry ladies, he's taken....

Tomorrow the weather is going to get snowy. I will try to beat the worst of it to my family's home just outside Philadelphia where I will rest for the next 2-3 days before beginning the long run south.

Lastly, since I did not take any bird pics today, I will throw in some bonus Brown creeper and Fox sparrow shots from yesterday morning in Central Park (I stopped by the Evodia Field feeders before I left Manhattan). Also included is a shot of some new friends from Central Park yesterday morning!

***Click for bigger images***


  1. Don't expect any big revelations while you're on your trip. You won't realize how you've changed, if all, until afterwards.

  2. Glad you didn't take this kind of "spill" in NYC! Hope you're not sore, stiff, bruised and battered in the morning ,,,

  3. Aww, I can feel what happened to you! I think we could take it a miracle that you weren't badly hurt. It’s not easy to be thrown away from your bike, and have it tossed on you!

    Juliane Swoope

  4. Darian You are AWESOME!! I've been cycling for 60 years and can relate to the wonderful experiences you are having and will have along your journey. I've just become aware of your adventure from an email on carolina birds and am playing catchup on reading your blog. Be careful and be aware of sand on the road and angled railroad tracks as well as wet white rubberized lines on the edge of the road. They become slippery like ice. Also be aware of the mean people behind the wheel who hate cyclists and will try to force you off the road.Keep your head camera on to record any of these car incidents. Watch for wildflowers along the road as you get further south and get a wildflower book to add to your logs. .

  5. There’s no harm in letting your mind wander, but not while you’re on the road. You can always choose to stop and have more time to appreciate the wonders of nature. And even get to take snapshots of the scenery, if you have a camera with you, that is. Anyway, how are you now?

    Cheryl Bush

  6. I understand how hard it is to concentrate on the road when you are enjoying a beautiful scenery. However, you should prioritize your safety above everything else. Good thing you weren’t severely injured by the accident. Well, you better make sure that you’ll take extra precautions next time. :)

    Pat Turay