Kenny Uses His Head…As a Brake

I’ve got a bunch of pictures to show you today, but I’m not sure you want to see them.

Oh sure, the fact that I just said you may not want to see them probably makes you want to see them, even if you wouldn’t have otherwise cared if you had seen them.

But seriously, if you don’t want the image of a nasty road crash stuck in your skull — and very likely turning you into an incredibly tentative descender for the next several weeks — there’s going to be a point in today’s post when you might want to just bail out.

I will try to give you ample warning.

And for those of you who like this sort of thing, well, thanks to the miracle of cameraphones, today’s your lucky day.

The Backstory
We were going to ride the Mt. Nebo loop last Saturday, but a couple of things got in the way. First of all, not everyone had the freedom to do an 8-10 hour ride. Second of all, Mt. Nebo is on fire (it’s a rare mountain in Utah that isn’t on fire right now).

So we decided to do the Gauntlet again. In deference to the folks who needed to get home by noon, we decided to do a “Good Bits” version — just do all the major hills, skipping anything that didn’t have at least 1800 feet of vertical gain.

So we started at 5:30am, to give us as much time as possible in the cool part of the day.

There were a few interesting factors in this ride:

  • Fast Cyclist Rides With The Fat Cyclist: Robert Lofgran of Lofgran Coaching — who has been coaching both Brad and me this season, came along for the ride. Slumming it, I guess. His style of riding is to say, “I’m not really feeling fast today,” and then drop you so hard you get whiplash. Nobody could hang with him when he felt like going. Not Kenny, not Brad, nobody. It was an interesting dose of perspective.
  • Kenny Makes The Ride A Little Harder: Evidently thinking that 10,000 feet of climbing in about 80 miles isn’t difficult enough, Kenny brought his track bike — modified to have a freewheel and a front brake — as his ride of choice. We thought he’d be walking most of the hard parts of the climbs. Instead, he dropped us like he usually does.
  • Many of Us Wish We Could Ride Like a Girl: Lisa joined us for the ride, and showed us what strong looks like. Mark my words: she’s going to turn in a sub-10 hour time at Leadville in a few weeks.

The Main Event
Frankly, I didn’t plan to mention this ride in the blog. It was, after all, a ride very much like a ride I did earlier in the year, and had already discussed. It was a great group of guys and the ride was fun, but not especially eventful. What’s to write about?

And then came the descent from Squaw Peak.

Squaw Peak (which is not officially named Squaw Peak anymore due to political correctness considerations, but which is nevertheless universally known as Squaw Peak) is a 4.3-mile road with 1800 feet of climbing. It has several blind corners, and several hairpin turns. You can take it fast, but it’s a good idea to keep your speed in check.

Once I got chased by a wild turkey while descending Squaw Peak. Freaked me out. But that’s neither here nor there.

On this particular day, there was a little something different about the road. See if you can spot it:

Yes, yes, there’s Sheriff’s truck coming up the road, but that’s not what’s different. What’s different is that very dark streak hugging the yellow line. I don’t know what substance made that dark streak, but I suspect it’s motor oil. Or WD-40. Or butter.

Something slippery, in any case.

Kenny was one of the first people going down Squaw Peak, and so was one of the first to hit this slick stripe.

Remember how I mentioned that Kenny was riding a modified track bike? With a front brake (i.e., no rear brake)? Well, I honestly don’t whether that contributed to what came next. Kenny, to tell the truth, doesn’t remember whether he ever even touched his brakes.

Oh yes, one more thing: For years, many of us have badgered Kenny about wearing a helmet when road riding.

Without success.

This is About to Get Ugly
I was just far enough behind Kenny — maybe 10-15 seconds — that I didn’t see him go down. I, along with everyone else behind him, pulled over — some of us skidding dangerously on that black stripe. Kenny and his bike were laying in the gravelly shoulder.

Kenny was a bloody mess, with a big flap of skin hanging off the top of his head.

“I think I’m OK to ride,” said Kenny, staggering to his feet.

Everyone shouted at him to sit down.

Rick Sunderlage (not his real name) made a call to 911. Dug got out his iPhone and started taking pictures (I’m really impressed with how good of pictures that phone takes, by the way).

And now, I’m going to show you those pictures. But first, in case you’ve read to this point, but aren’t really all that interested in seeing some gore, here are a couple of buffer images so that nobody who doesn’t want to will see anything gross.

Here’s Coach Lofgran. He’s not wearing his jersey here because he kindly gave it up to Kenny to use as a head compress. Also, I’m including this photo because I’m really pleased with how thin I’m looking these days.

The sheriff arrived before the ambulance, bringing a first aid kit. Always a man of action, Brad ran to help:

Hmm. What else can I use as a buffer between the this story and the pictures of the aftermath? Oh, I know. How about some pictures my sister Kellene recently took of my family? Here’s Susan and the boys:

And here are my twin daughters.

OK, that was your last chance. Everything that follows is going to be considerably less charming.

How To Use Your Head as A Brake
Once Rick Sunderlage had calmly (I’m not kidding; Rick sounded as calm and patient with the 911 dispatcher as if he were ordering a pizza), we had a few minutes to wait. At first, somberness reigned. And then we started making jokes. Oddly, I can’t remember what any of them were, but Kenny must’ve thought at least one of them was funny:

It’s too bad the left half of his face is in shadow; you can hardly see the way his left eye is swollen shut, nor the way the left half of his face is covered in blood.

Once the sheriff arrived, he pulled Coach Lofgran’s blood-soaked jersey off Kenny’s head and we all got an early look at the damage:

Ugh. I’m going to need a minute. I get queasy looking at that one.

OK, I’m all right now.

Here’s Robert’s jersey, having been used to stop the blood flow on Kenny’s head.

Do you think that’ll come out in the wash?

Once the ambulance arrived, they got a neck brace around Kenny — in spite of Kenny’s arguments that he was fine and that he just wanted to finish the ride — and started cutting off his jersey.

That’s a lotta hamburger.

The EMTs strapped Kenny down good and tight and took him away. Bill — the Ben and Jerry’s franchise owner and neighbor of Kenny — was left with the task of taking Kenny’s stuff home and telling his wife what happened.

And the rest of us finished the ride.

But Wait! There’s More!
That would be the end of the story, except Kenny’s wife Natalie also has a cameraphone. So she got some great shots of Kenny at the hospital. Here’s Kenny, shortly after arriving:

And here’s Kenny giving what I think we can all agree is the most terrifiying two-thumbs up ever given:

This one shows you exactly what the damage looks like once the blood’s been cleaned out:

OK, I need to put my head between my knees for a few minutes again. I’ll be right back.

I can continue now.

Here’s Kenny, now all bandaged up.

Kenny Got Lucky
In spite of his osteoporosis, Kenny didn’t break any bones. Just got a bunch of stitches in the top of his head — like getting a free facelift — and some stitches under his left eye.

The square mile or two of road rash will heal on its own, over time.

And best of all, Kenny has finally conceded that helmets are a good idea, even on road bikes.

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