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Location: Stevens Point, Wisconsin, United States

Thursday, June 07, 2007

PROVENCE & BUST

Provence, the fabled southern quadrant of France, deserves its reputation as a great place for cycling. We arrived on a Wednesday and took the TGV--Train Gran Vitesse, the high-speed French line--to Avignon, where we met friends, loaded the bikes onto the rental car, and headed for Vaison la Romaine.
We biked the "Dentelles" the first day, in preparation for the assault on Mt Ventoux, the major attraction of this region. I climbed it with Harry Duval, starting from Bedoin on the mountain's southern flank. We stopped to rest and refuel--in the form of tomate e fromage baguettes--on the deck of the chalet at 15kms, then headed up the final 7km, which rises 500meters at a rate over 12% to the peak at 1909meters. I stopped at the Simpson memorial, where a couple of strangers snapped this shot for me.
The next day we moved south to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and on Sunday rode through Fontaine Vaucluse, the town near the underground source of the River Sorgue. From there our route crested the ridge whose underbrush--maquis--gave its name to the guerillas of the French resistance who hid in its environs to harry the Nazi and Vichy troops during WWII. We arrived in Gordes in time for a pleasant lunch on the square. Jane fell back on a difficult turn riding out of Gordes on our way to Abbaye Senanque, so I decided to wait for her. Instead of going back down the hill I turned into the drive of the Domain de L'Enclos hotel. Fatal error. The drive was packed clay and gravel. Glancing about I turned around and so came nearly to a halt. Standing on my right pedal to accelerate, my rear wheel slipped off a very small shoulder under the gravel, dropping me instantly onto the trochanter bend of my left femur.
The blow was the most terrific I've experienced, not excluding getting hit by a car in London about 25yrs ago. The gendarmes who showed up to get the accident details were careful and sympathetic, as was the crew of the pompier who loaded me gently into the ambulance for the ride to the hospital in Cavaillon, a town that was not on our itinerary but was to be my home--and Jane's for the next seven days.The xrays showed that the fracture had not gone all the way through the trochanter, which meant that it would heal with less likelihood of the necrosis that is the greatest danger after such an injury. (Floyd Landis' hip replacement resulted from the more severe version of my broken femur.)
Memorial Day is a holiday in France, too, but because of the danger my fracture represented, Dr Laubenthal--a German female orthopedic surgeon--assembled a team to do the operation on Monday. Her work was pronounced good by my orthopedic surgeon after we returned. So I'm on my way through the six- to eight-week process of building bone around the titanium "dynamic screw" that now holds my femur together. Jane was saintly during my hospitalization, staying in a hotel alone, negotiating the daily tasks of living in a strange town, locating the Collines de St Jacques on one of her run workouts, buying fruits and vegetables to supplement the relatively meager and frequently unidentifiable food the hospital served, dealing with offices in two countries and materials faxed between hospital and U.S. insurance company. By day three I was able to get out of bed on crutches--also found and purchased by Jane--as well as lower myself into a ward wheelchair for outings to the front patio.
I was dreading the 7hrs of transatlantic flight, but they proved the most comfortable of my "medical repatriation"--as its' known--ensconced as I was in a first class "sleeper" seat, with my own DVD viewer and 20 movies to choose from. It was the three flights home from our east coast entry, as well as the crazy set of wheelchair "assistance" personnel, non-functioning elevators, and other airport obstacles that took a real toll. Next time you're enduring the indignities of airport "security," imagine doing in on crutches. And in pain.
Well, the sutures--actually a set of 26 stainless steel staples--are out now and I'm getting about much better. I've devised a way to bungee the crutches onto the bike rack on the roof of our VW since I found that by last weekend I could exert the required force to clutch our manual transmission. We're already planning to go back to Provence to complete our interrupted travels by bicycle. See you there...

1 Comments:

Blogger Kokopelli said...

Well, it is wonderfully ironic that an Ironman T-shirt is being worn. No doubt obstacles overcome in this ordeal are comparable and the rational for anyone choosing such a test of endurance just as random. I am really glad you got to challenge yourself on Mt. Vonteux before the fall - what an amazing climb. The xrays are a strange juxtaposition to the intense incision in the flesh. The sensation was the same for me as the heartsick feeling I had when I first glimpsed the destruction wrecked upon you hand by the circular saw. From the storytellers point of view there is a sense of sacrifice and protection given by these hardships to me. I am grateful.

11:59 AM  

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