Day 47 Thursday, August 25 Border Inn to Ely, NV 65 miles
I ended my post last night saying, “I am just where I need to be.” I had no idea how true those words would become for me today and for one very lucky young woman. This is hard to write tonight. I was 13 miles into the first climb of the day when I looked up and just caught an out of control car slip onto the soft shoulder in her lane, over-correct, slam into the embankment in front of me on my side of the road and then bounce over rocks until a boulder very abrubtly brought her vehicle to a frightening sudden stop. A cloud of dust engulfed me and I made my way to her car as it cleared.
Thank God, she was basically okay. No major injuries, just some cuts and scrapes and probably some bruises that are going to be very uncomfortable for her tomorrow. I am not a mechanic, but I am sure this one month old car was totaled.
Over the next few minutes as individual cars came by I asked them to make calls to 911 as soon as they had cell phone coverage. We had no coverage at the Border Inn 13 miles prior and Ely was still 50 miles away. Eventually a BLM truck came by 45 minutes after the accident and they were able to radio in a call for help. 75 minutes after the accident a sheriff finally arrived from Ely and was able to handle the situation from there.
I feel a lump in my throat as I think about my words from last night, “I am just where I need to be.” I am so glad that I was right there when it happened and immediately could step in and help her get calmed down so we could make decisions about how to get help. I also am aware that had she lost control 150 feet later or if that rock hadn’t stopped the car in front of me that this could have been a very different story.
After the sheriff had things under control and told me I could leave, she gave me a hug and said, “Thank you. You saved my life.” I thought that was a bit exaggerated as all I did was stay with her, directed passing vehicles how to help, and offered her some of my water. I responded by saying, “I was glad to sit with you until some help arrived.” That’s when she realized that I didn’t get what she was trying to say. She corrected me and said, “I really believe you saved my life. If you hadn’t been here with your connection (she pointed to the heavens) I don’t think I’d be alive.”
Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t consider my ordained status to be a sign of a privileged place in God’s eyes. If anything I think of my role as just helping others to see how much the God-presence is alive and active in each one of us. But, this was not the moment to try to clear up her perception. In fact, her belief was the root of her gratitude that she knew she was lucky to be alive. Her expression was not really about me, but about feeling deeply thankful that she had survived what must have been a terrifying few seconds for her.
I don’t know what to make of this all tonight. I find it interesting that yesterday the theme of acceptance was beginning to color my thoughts. This acceptance is rooted in an erosion of trying to make the world in my image and beginning to accept life for what it is. As my new friend in Three Forks, Montana said, “The greatest lesson of all is learning to accept life on life’s terms.” With the losses I have sustained over recent years I find myself allowing for greater acceptance of the tragic and sad side of life. And then this–a driver loses control of her car and I find myself doing what I have done for years as a minister and hospice employee–just being present with those who are in one form of crisis or another.
The rest of day was just plain tough. A viscious headwind made a 10 mile climb much more challenging than I had anticipated. And because I had given up some of my water at the crash I was nervous about making it all the way to Ely well-hydrated. With the two hour delay from the crash it put my ride later into the heat of the day. I was spent when I finally arrived in Ely at 5:30 p.m. Even before I arrived, I made the decision to take tomorrow off from riding. The last three days have been difficult from the heat and I could tell that I wasn’t going to get enough recovery tonight to be confident about the 80 mile ride tomorrow over three passes. In fact, I think it might have broken me. I think the crash has something to do with that. I need the time to get myself settled back down again and actually take the time to feel what happened today. I went from handling that to immediately concentrating on getting into Ely safely–no time to let down from all the intensity of the day.
I do believe that I am just where I need to be. But, I am shaken a bit. I am not sure if I was in the right place at the right time today or if I was nearly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Life is very fragile. This is just the way it is. I just am not big enough and strong enough to control every situation. It’s a lesson I am slowly learning to accept.