Monday, April 13, 2009

Sternoclavicular Tale--



I've never broken a bone, but I've done my fair share of spraining and straining.

Muscles and tendons strain when you pull on them too quick or too far or too much in the wrong direction.

Ligaments sprain.

You sprain an ankle but strain a calve.

For those of you who know from experience, sprains usually hurt more and take longer to heal than strains, and can have stories of woe and mishap attached to them that act to chronicle your life.

My sternoclavicular joint in my right shoulder is such an injury. The fact that it hurts two weeks after falling gently on my head and shoulder while trying to step down a large step with my bike, reminds me I have done things to it before.

You see, my sternoclavicular joint and I have a very sprained relationship...

While still in junior high school, my Pops came home with the news that he signed us all up in a motorcycle riding club that owned property just outside of Armstrong Woods and the very cool (and preposterously gay)town of Guerneville. The club members were a bunch of reasonable folks who wanted a safe and hassle free place to ride their noisy, destructive dirt bikes away from other folks who objected to such a pastime and called the cops on them all the time. They pooled their resources and bought the side of a mountain, put up a gate and got donated a few fun pieces of heavy equipment for maintaining trails and making berms and jumps and fun stuff for motorcycling enthusiasts.

You paid a membership which paid for it all, and you were given orange number plates to go on your motorcycle that said you belonged there, and keys to the lock.

We had a big old red trailer Pops used for taking yard waste to the dump, and on many a weekend we filled this with motorcycles and cans of oil and gas and a cooler full of food and headed out.

Some of those who rode there took the whole affair seriously. They were the families with the new machines, all the stickers and a Pops who had National Motocross Championship dreams every night- sometimes including his non-beer-gutted son in them-with properly folding chairs and beer coolers and wives who looked like Mamas.

We weren't like that at all. Pops would pull in in our monstrous family station wagon pulling a beat up red gardening trailer. In the back, we had a collection of motorcycles, all bought used, of various sorts and in various condition. My Pops bought a Montessa 300 trial (not trail) bike for 300 bucks, we had a Yamaha trial 175, my YZ 250, a Suzuki RM125, our old and faithful Honda XR75, a Honda 250 enduro that a friend of Pops' had imported from Japan (it had a speedometer in Kilometers), and occasionally friends' other dubious and eyebrow raising machines.

We were just there for the land. Not to be the newest and the coolest. We showed up, unloaded, and spent the day raising hell the way kids on motorcycles could.

The part with the shoulder takes another bit of explaining to do. I was riding a YZ 250 I just bought. The bike was big and powerful and it scared me some at that age. This w

as right at the beginning of Japanese superior engineering, where some guy in a factory in Japan figured out how to tweak a reed valve and make a monster.

It was tiring to ride this beast of mine, as much as it was thrilling.

So later in the day I would put it away and putter on something gentler. On the day of the shoulder, I asked Pops if I could ride his Montessa 300 trial bike, and off I rode up a fire road and over the mountain to "the other side".

Montessa is made in Spain. They put their brake and gear shift lever on opposite sides to Japanese motorcycles. We used to call these "bogus" bikes, and it would take some effort to remember to downshift with your right foot and slow down or stop with your left. This didn't matter much on the Montessa, as a trial bike has a tiny seat, a lightweight frame and is designed to be ridden standing up, slowly, with much thought given to your terrain. They were designed to creep over logs, climb steep embankments, navigate through boulder-strewn creeks- all perfect amusements after riding "the beast" for half a day.

The YZ 250 had thrown me over its handle bars and flipped me off the back more times than I cared to count. I had never gotten hurt (very) during any of these encounters with gravity. I never expected to get hurt riding at 5 miles an hour on a "puttering" bike but that's what happened. All I was doing was puttering around a creek. In the creek, out the other side, up the embankment...

I got on a little deer trail and was puttering along in high grass, knocking the grass out of the way with my gloved knuckles when all of a sudden the trail ended where the creek had washed out badly on a sharp curve. When the grass parted I could see that the trail had ended and I slammed on my... gear shift lever... and simply rode over the small cliff in a very ungraceful fashion. I suppose I fell about 15 feet down to where there was about a foot of water. I fell head first with the bike following soon after. I landed on my helmet and right shoulder and the bike landed on my sprawling legs, driving me further toward the center of the earth. The force of impact drove my collar bone inward and sprained all of the ligaments strapping it down to the sternum, hence the term "sprained sternoclavicular joint". For the moment I just assumed I broke something, screamed in pain, then got up to access the situation.

Something broken in my shoulder... a motorcycle laying underwater... in a creek with high embankments surrounded by trees and on the other side of the mountain from where everybody was...

(to be continued...)

6 comments:

meno said...

Glad you were wearing a helmet!

Jeannie said...

I could picture me there...

Cheesy said...

One word....

crap~

D-Man said...

Ouchy!

JamieSmitten said...

Tease! Hurry up and write how you got out. Probably some McGyver type pulley system improvised with braided grass and a hook you fashioned out of a belt buckle.....

citizen of the world said...

Yikes. One of my bother's broke his collar bone as a very young boy jumping off a nukbed and again as a teen playing rugby. He has a big knot there now.