Rider on the swarm

 

I’ve mentioned a few times on here that I’m focused on getting back into shape after a bad riding accident last year. So maybe it’s time I told you what happened.

It was one of those perfect L.A. days. The kind people back east think we have everyday, and we hardly ever get in real life. I was just relaxing with an easy spin along the coast, when something zipped past my face. Then another…and another.

And I realized it was the leading edge of the biggest swarm of bees I’d ever seen — at least 30 feet wide, with thousands, or even tens of thousands, of bees buzzing around in every possible direction. And I was already inside it.

I had no way of knowing if they were angry or docile, and to be honest, I have no idea if I’m allergic to bees or not. But I figured this wasn’t the time to find out. So I just put my head down and pedaled as if my life depended on it. Because for all I knew, it did.

Then just as fast, I came out on the other side, thinking that I’d made out okay, when I looked down and saw that I was literally crawling with bees everywhere I could see. And I could only imagine what there was where I couldn’t see.

And then, nothing.

The next thing I knew, a lifeguard was placing an oxygen mask over my face and asking if I knew where I was.

Fortunately, I’d picked a good place to land, just a few feet from the new county lifeguard headquarters next to Will Rogers State Beach, right where they used to film Baywatch. They’d found me unconscious, off my bike and laying flat on my face, and said I’d been out at least a couple minutes.

Of course, all I wanted to do was thank them for their time, get back on my bike and finish my ride. But by then, the paramedics were there, and I was on my way to the ER at St. Johns.

I still thought I was fine. The docs in the ER thought otherwise, though. That led to a couple nights in intensive care, as a result of A) a moderate concussion, B) a bulging disc in my neck, C) a massive hematoma on my right hip, literally the size of a football, and D) major blood loss due to the hematoma. In fact, my blood pressure crashed three times that first night, dropping as low as 56 over 38 before stabilizing at around 90 over 60 — still too low, but just enough to avoid a transfusion.

So if I had gotten back on my bike to ride home, chances are, I might not have survived the night. Even if, by some miracle, I actually managed to get there. And if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, I wouldn’t be writing this now.

They sent me home with firm instructions not to leave the house for next two weeks, and no exercise — at all — for the remainder of the year.

I remember reading in Bicycling that it takes about two weeks of rehab for every week you’re off the bike due to an injury. By that standard, I should be back where I was by the end of this month. And yes, I’m close, but I’m not there yet. I still find myself struggling at times — though I often look down and see that at least I’m struggling in a higher gear now.

And I still have no idea what really happened, though. My injuries suggest that I must have fallen hard to one side, flipped or rolled over to hit the other side, and somehow ended up doing a face plant on the asphalt. But hey, your guess is as good as mine.

For all I know, Godzilla could have risen up out of the blue Pacific and slammed me down, before slinking off to ravage Tokyo once again. Though you’d think something like that would have made the local news, at least.

I keep trying to figure it out whenever I ride past that spot, but they tell me those memories are probably gone for good. Which, all things considered, could be a good thing.

Oh, and the bees? Not one sting.

Go figure, huh?

A big thank you to the L.A. County Lifeguards, the EMTs from L.A.F.D. Station 69 in Pacific Palisades, and the ER staff at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica — you guys are the best. Streetsblog reviews Dodger Stadium’s new combination bike rack and smoking lounge. The Times’ Joel Stein misses the good old days of bikers on dope. And finally, Councilmember Tom LaBonge is big on bikes, as long as their riders aren’t into holiday lights.

16 comments

  1. goodbear says:

    i read this and all i could say was, “oh my god.” so glad you had your helmet on, but that is a crazy, scary story.

    glad you’re back riding!

  2. Holy crap!!!

    I hope you heal fast. That is the story of a lifetime.

  3. Laurie says:

    I can’t believe it! I stumbled across your story and had to tell you that I have encountered bees too only my outcome was a safe arrival at home. I am a new rider and came across a swarm towards the end of my ride on Esplanade (the road) right before finishing my ride in Redondo Beach. Scary. I dodged them too unsure what to do and where to go. You just hope and pray for the best and my experience turned out much different. Glad you’re doing better!

  4. bikinginla says:

    Thank you all for all the kind words. It’s been a long, hard road back, but at least I’ve got a good story to tell.

    Laurie, glad you had a better outcome than I did. Keep up the riding — maybe I’ll see you on the road sometime.

  5. Penny says:

    There must have been some amazing, revolutionary, sentive, brave and strong woman who bought you your first helmet, eh? Hee hee.

  6. bikinginla says:

    That would be my loving sister, who gave me my very first helmet the day after my first serious biking accident over 20 year ago. And thanks to her, I’ve worn one ever since.

    Now if she’d just buy me a good bee suit…

  7. thundercourage says:

    Wow. The bees part is so surreal. I feel you though, I’ve been hit by two cars (whilst in a bike lane no less!) and have had my fair share of gnarly unforseen mishaps on the bike. I’m so very glad that you are writing this.
    Working towards the revoluotion.
    Courage

  8. cb says:

    Man, fuck bees.

    I can’t believe you didn’t get stung. Still no idea whether or not your allergic, then, eh?

  9. bikinginla says:

    Nope, no idea. And God willing, I won’t find out anytime soon.

  10. […] as well as his 20th riding the streets of L.A. He is perhaps best known for surviving the Infamous Beachfront Bee Incident; the bees have yet to […]

  11. […] about his encounter with a swarm of thousands of bees, you no longer have an excuse – here is the link! Frightening, is all I can say. So, no, I am not complaining about my bee sting, no […]

  12. Gina says:

    You’re Indian name is; “Dances With Bees”

  13. […] I never ride without one — and credit mine for saving my life in the Infamous Beachfront Bee Encounter a few years back — I think making helmet use mandatory would be […]

  14. Steve A says:

    My only biking encounter with bees involved one getting through a vent on my helmet and then not being able to get back out until she got really PO’d and decided to teach me a lesson, so my perspective on bees and helmets is a little different.

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