Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Over the River, Across the Bridge



Mile Marker 339.9:

In the past 15 years, I've crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge by car, train, foot, bike, and skate.

Each time, its huge blue structure dwarfs me.  Miraculously suspends me in its iron grasp above the Delaware River.

But in reality it's just a quick trip from Pennsylvania to New Jersey.  On the other side of the bridge lie Philly's closest suburbs.  Shopping malls with free parking.  Restaurants.  Homes of good friends.


Early Wednesday morning, my dad and I headed over the bridge to consult with a doctor recommended by prosthetist Tim.

As we drove, I lamented that I was "stuck" on Mile 339.  In 6 days, I'd walked fewer than 5 miles total.

But as we ascended that giant bridge, our conversation stopped for a moment.

Just long enough for my mind to travel back to a frigid, sunny day in January 2010.  The day my colleague Casey and I chaperoned a crew of wide-eyed third graders to the New Jersey State Aquarium. 

Truth be told, our fun that day began long before the bridge.  As soon as we shepherded the kids out of school, their heads turned toward the cold winter sky.  They were drawn toward the mirrored windows of skyscrapers, the long neck of a construction crane, the flapping feathers of pigeons.

Casey and I dispatched our hands and voices to keep the kids tethered to the sidewalk.  Without us, they'd have surely blown away in a gust of excitement.

As we corralled them down the stairs into the underground PATCO station,  their oohs and ahhs increased by decibels.  Their bodies ricocheted off the walls as we tried to funnel them through the turnstile.

When the subway train screeched down the tracks, the kids covered their ears with their mittens.  But then the doors opened, and (much to our relief!) they marched aboard.

The pinnacle moment came as the train began its climb up the narrow edge of the Ben Franklin Bridge.

“We’re in ANOTHER STATE!” the kids cried.

Their exhilaration steamed up the train windows.  So much release – so much JOY – in being far from home.


Like many of the bridges in the area, the Ben Franklin has a toll only in one direction -- toward Pennsylvania.

Why?

Well, the longstanding joke in Philly is,  "Who'd really pay to go to New Jersey, anyway??"

But South Jersey is so quirky and endearing, it makes crossing the bridge worth the (half-free) trip.   It's the land of drive-thru car washes, root beer stands, and full-serve gas pumps.  It has small-towns with clock towers straight out of Back to the Future.  

And you’ve gotta love a state that has a bias against LEFT TURNS.   In New Jersey, U-Turns rule.   Two wrongs may not make a right, but somehow two rights do make a LEFT.  

339.9 took me
into x-ray

After a morning in the doctor's office, a stop at the radiology lab for x-rays, and at least 4 U-TURNS thrown in for good measure, my dad and I hit another South Jersey special -- Ponzio’s Diner.

It was then I decided I'd had enough.  Mile 339 had dragged on for days.   Comfortable or not, I was ready to take the leap into the 340's!

So instead of choosing the closest parking spot, we chose the farthest.  The tenth of a mile from the car to the restaurant was worth every step.

My pedometer rolled over -- I'd hit 340.

Inside, I chowed down like I'd run a 5K.


Yes, New Jersey is another state, but the trip took only 20 minutes.  All I had to pack were a pair of shorts and some alcohol spray so I could remove my prosthesis at the doctor’s office.

Good thing, too.  Traveling any farther has become a challenge.

In two short weeks I'll be heading to Florida for my cousin's birthday.  It's just a weekend trip, but there's much to do to be prepared.

Ponzio's interpretation of
uncomfortable travelers :)
I don’t mean laundry and packing (although those need to get done, too).   I mean renting a shower bench, buying collapsible crutches, counting out medication, organizing lotions, reserving a wheelchair….

The tasks cue up like travelers ahead of me in the airport security line.

And as usual, so do the uncertainties -- getting around the airport, sitting on the plane, climbing in and out of a pool on one leg??   New experiences are rarely comfortable.

I used to be a seasoned traveler.   I want to be again.  I tell myself it'll only get better with practice.

Kind of like TURNING LEFT in New Jersey.


I wish I could soak up the newness like those excited third-graders.

They’re in fifth grade now.  You’d be amazed at how tall they are.  But you’d be more amazed at how often they still talk about that train ride over the bridge! 

How they peered out the front windows onto the rising metal track.  How they looked down and saw the river churning below.  How they screamed and raised their arms like they were on a roller coaster.

And best of all, how they landed in ANOTHER STATE!

Over the river, across the bridge... 

340's here I come!

2 comments:

  1. Though I’ve never run a marathon, I have often heard runners say that it’s those last 0.2 miles are harder than all of the 26 miles that came before…..I can totally understand how sometimes it’s those last few steps to reach a milestone that can take the most determination and perseverance. You are the epitome of determination and perseverance, so I’m not surprised you conquered those steps to hit 340. But I know how hard those steps must have been…..
    Life certainly seems to ebb and flow…..sometimes I feel so stuck—like I’m constantly battling a major headwind. And then other times I’m in the groove and flying, but often flying so fast that I feel like I’m rushing through life and not really living it. Sometimes it seems like it’s one extreme or another. Maybe the key is figuring out how to be content riding the waves of the ebbs and flows…..to enjoy the ride like a surfer. Easier said than done, that’s for sure. :o)
    Wishing you smooth travels to Florida…I know how much you like to travel, and I hope that with each trip things will get a little easier. And I hope you’ll get a chance to meet lots of fun airport transport drivers. :o)

    PS: Looks like Ponzios has perfected the “angry” cupcake! Maybe you can open a bakery full of “angry” baked goods….or open a kitchen where people can visit to make their own “angry” baked goods as part of therapy for stress relief? I have visions of an entire “angry” cookbook….. :o)

    ReplyDelete
  2. 1 short week till florida with your cousin!!! :) It will be a great adventure! Love, your cousin

    ReplyDelete