A One-Handed Bicycle Jump to the Moon That Went Horribly Wrong

One-Handed life on a bicycle. From childhood to adulthood it has been quite the ride. For me the freedom and joy of bicycling is a huge long standing part of my life. But the one-handed thing and the bicycle thing together can be a recipe for grandeur and disaster. Riding with one hand is sometimes challenging, often dangerous, and certainly the stuff of stories. In my sixth blog of my “40 Blogs in 40 Days of my first 40 Podcasts” campaign I share the story of my One Hand Speaks Storytelling Podcast Episode OHS021. This is a funny story with a painful overtone. It is about when I was a child taking a huge bicycle jump and my artificial arm broke apart in mid flight.

Growing in South Bend, Indiana I played a lot of organized baseball and I rode my bicycle like there was no tomorrow. For many years I rode by BMX bike to all my games. In fact, I was always riding my bike. That is how we got around. That was my first set of wheels. My first feeling of freedom. That was when my life really started at expand. We rode our bikes so much on a daily basis it felt at times like we rode around the world. I love bicycling. In fact, I pretty much grew up on a bicycle. I rode a bicycle all through college. When I transferred from Indiana University to the University of Washington in the city of Seattle, my love of bicycling came with me. Living in Seattle in the early 1990s was a great time to be there for so many reasons. The music scene, the lifestyle and culture, and also for bicycling and bicycle commuting. I worked in the Pike Place Market, I rode my bicycle everyday, and I went to a lot of concerts. It was in Seattle I acquired my deep appreciation for the bicycling lifestyle. I became a devoted bicycle commuter.

Up to that point I really did not own a car. My uncle gave me one for a short time. But the engine blew-up on a rode trip to Portland, Oregon and I had a decision to make. I decided on the magic of two wheels. I did five solid years of commuting all year around in Seattle, Washington. I then rode my bicycle from Seattle to my hometown of South Bend, Indiana. After returning to Seattle for six months I moved to Boise, Idaho where I did another five years with no car as a devoted bicycle commuter. At that time not owing a car in Boise was a bit misunderstood and the winters were much more extreme. I even started a small grass-roots bicycling publication called “Spoke”N”Word” after my room mate was hit by a car on his bicycle.

I guess what I am really trying to share with you is how much I love bicycling. I basically did not own a car until I was 33 years old. I spend most of my life on a bicycle. One day my parents came home with bicycles for my brothers and me as gifts. I got on a bicycle when I was a kid and I never got off. It truly shaped the first half of my life. I have so many grand memories of that feeling of freedom I had with my bicycle when I was a child. Though many of those memories were grand they were not always on the positive side of life. I have come close to dying a number of times as a bicycle commuter and have taken many bad falls as a child and an adult. Once I broke my collar bone in two places from hitting the ground so hard crashing my bicycle as an adult.

Doing the bicycle thing with one hand does have it’s quarks to say the least. Especially with a prosthetic arm. Most of the time as an adult I do not wear a prosthetic arm. However, when I ride my bicycle I do. It “evens me out” when holding the handlebars and steering. As I have mentioned it has been the cause of many bad falls as an adult. But it also caused a lot of issues for me as a child. I was always trying to see how far I could push myself in my one-handed body. I guess I did not always think about the limits of my prosthetic arm. And sometimes the “limits’ of my prosthetic arm let me know when I pushed too hard.

Like the other kids from our neighborhood we all spent a lot of time riding our bikes. BMX racing and bikes became very popular. And as we all started to get our own bikes we started racing and building ramps and doing jumps. We would ride around outside the city limits looking for cool places to ride, take jumps, and build ramps. Some of us were very good at big air jumps and others of us were not. I was in the not-so-good category. It certainly was not due to any lack of desire or courage on my part. Some of it was my prosthetic arm and it’s limitations. But I did not let it stop me.

Behind Wendy’s fast food restaurant was a legendary natural dirt jump. Kids from all around would gather to dazzle and be dazzled by the big air skills some would display. Then one day we added an extension to this already huge jump. When I saw it I thought to myself, “with enough speed I am sure I could break the gravitational pull of the earth and land on the moon.” Maybe not the best thought to have at that time. But it was the thought I thought, and the next thing I know I am looking for the highest nearest point. When I got to the top of the hill at the end of the street I stopped and turned around to face the path to the jump. I took a deep breath, “dropped-in,” and pedaled as fast and as hard as I could toward the jump and the excited onlookers. I hit the jump at top speed. At the end of the ramp I pulled up as hard as I could. I knew I was pushing my own limits by taking this jump at this speed. But I did not think I would be pushing the limits of my prosthetic arm. As soon as I left the jump and was flying to the moon my prosthetic arm broke apart in the air. All I could think was, “this landing is going to suck!”

To find out what happens next and to hear the full story I invite you to listen to my Podcast Episode OHS021. Please feel free to share this blog or my podcast and I ask you to offer a comment with your opinion and feedback! Thanks!

One Hand Speaks Storytelling Podcast Episode OHS021

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