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!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Escape to New York

If you're wondering where I've been this week, I've been recovering.  Not from a hospital stay or injury --  thank goodness! -- from something much, much better...

A ROAD TRIP.

I used to be a road trip expert.   With barely a thought, I'd toss a duffel bag into the trunk of my Honda Civic and take off for a long weekend.   One summer, I spent 60 days driving cross-country with my friend Linda.  We met cowboys, ate crawfish, and hiked every national park that crossed our path.

There's so much I love about traveling:  the "not-quite-home" feeling of hotel rooms, the excitement and uncertainty of navigating by map.  I love meeting new people and tasting new food.  I even love turnpike rest stops!

But like most experiences, travel is no longer as simple as it used to be.


Mile Marker 940:

In New York City, the streets are short and the avenues are long.
  

My mom, friend Jen, and I aim downtown and start WALKING.  (Map in hand, of course!)



Third Avenue in Midtown Manhattan unfolds before us like a 4-lane highway.  As the street numbers drop, the big buildings fade into cafés, restaurants, and corner groceries.

Somewhere around 47th Street, we’re drawn in by a window of French macarons, neat rainbow rows of meringues stuffed with delicate icing.  We order a six-pack of flavors to go:  Wedding Almond, Orange Blossom, Nutella, Raspberry, Honey Lavender, and Coconut Chocolate.  We're not in France, but tonight in our hotel room, it'll taste like it!

Bag in hand, we amble down toward Murray Hill, a neighborhood packed tight with restaurants, bars, and posh-looking apartments.  Green awnings and brownstones line the sloped side streets.  In the blue light of evening, we peer inside them for a glimpse of “real life” in the Big Apple.

On the corner of 35th Street, we spy an unassuming bar, whose name – THIRD and LONG – seems a fitting end point for today's journey.

But there’s another reason we want to stop in.   The bar belongs to Matt Long, the New York City firefighter who inspired me with his book, The Long Run.  More than a year ago, my PT Julie turned me on to Matt’s story, which involved a bicycle accident eerily similar to my own.  Matt’s recovery, struggle, and ultimate accomplishments still offer me strength at my weakest moments.

Last winter, when I wrote the post In Training, I sent Matt an e-mail.

And he replied with this encouraging message:  

Keep it up!  I have shared your blog with many and I'm glad I can be a source of inspiration to you....  If our schedules allow it would be great to walk a mile or two with you!  Keep pushing, Matt.

He wasn’t available to walk this weekend (I did ask!), but stopping by his bar seemed like the next best thing.

Bartender Sid welcomes us warmly.  $2.00 drafts are the day's special, plus a glass of wine for Mom.  The walls are lined with flat-screen TVs displaying every sport imaginable.  Behind the bar hangs a Montreal Canadiens flag.   At center are two rectangular mirrors engraved with crosses and helmets in memory of NYC's fallen firefighters. 

For a Saturday at 5, the place is comfortably full.  At one point, a bulldog even scurries across the floor!  Sid serves him a dog treat. :)

We unwind for an hour or so.  I tell Sid my story and ask about Matt.   Then we make a toast – to road trips, new destinations, and all the inspiration we find along the way.


Mile Marker 943:  Sunday nearly blows us over.

We'd planned to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, but that gets scrapped -- at least until spring!

Instead, we “cab it” across town and ride an elevator to a walking path that's high but not as risky.  

The High Line is a public park above the streets of Manhattan’s West Side.   It traces a mile of old rail line from Midtown to the Meatpacking District.   

The railroad tracks are still there, zig-zagging along the paved skyway.

As they mix with plant life, murals, and sculpture, the trail becomes an elevated museum above the city.



Modern buildings sprout up as if they've grown there too. 

My apartment...
in case I ever move to NYC!


We can only imagine how it'll all look in bloom!





There's even a view of the Statue of Liberty...
But the winds are fierce up here!  Jen's virtually unrecognizable, and I grab Mom’s arm to stay steady on my feet.

We push onward, soaking up every last ray of sunshine.

The garden is barren, but spirits up here are bright.  Dozens of walkers pass us, heads wrapped tightly, smiling bravely into the cold. 

And when we look close, we notice the tiniest signs of spring!


Mile Marker 945:  Later that afternoon, I catch up with college friends Chip and Charlotte, and meet their kids – Anna, Chloe, and Charles.

Anna, the oldest, is 10.  This means I haven't seen Chip and Charlotte in more than a decade!

Mom's old flip phone
is just plain
embarrassing!
Our meeting place is the glass-encased Apple Store on the edge of Central Park.  Mom, Jen, and I step out of the cold and into the cylindrical elevator.  Down below, the sea of shoppers is so thick I have to call Chip -- yes, on his iPhone! -- to locate him. 

We lure the kids away from electronic heaven for a brisk jaunt through Central Park.

Thankfully, the wind’s settled down enough for me to walk without holding on! 

The park opens up with grassy hills that have kept their green throughout the winter.  Passing through the zoo, we catch sight of seals flopping around their icy pool.

The kids scale the city boulders. 

We climb a steep path to a tree-house at the top of the hill.  For a few seconds, the view of the city is enough to distract us from our numbing toes!

Anna's feet give my Genium
a dose of boot envy!
A half-mile later, we emerge onto the sidewalk.  Chip hails 2 cabs, and we ride down Broadway toward Ellen’s Stardust Diner (according to Anna, “The diner where the waitresses sing!”). 

Over milkshakes and burgers, the wanna-be stars sing and dance around us.

The kids are STAR STRUCK…

...Well, most of them anyway!

Finally we say goodbye in Times Square.  Surely, it won't be another 10 years till our next visit!


Mile Marker 946:

Heeee'res Gabby!
(Right kid, wrong TV show...)

Wind Chill = -2 degrees!
Brrr!


On  Monday morning at just past 6, Mom, Jen, and I trek a half-mile to Rockefeller Center.   The sun hasn't cleared the skyscrapers yet, but the plaza sparkles with anticipation.

Before we know it, Today Show cameras are rolling.  Packed into a bundled crowd, we watch the broadcast on the outside monitors.  Our fingers freeze against the metal railings as we proudly display our signs for TV audiences everywhere to see.

But there's surprisingly little action out here.  It’s so cold that Al Roker reports the weather INSIDE.   Yes, Mom, I’m glad you talked me out of wearing shorts!

Gabby's a true fan!
Click to read her sign...
Beside us, we meet 7-year-old Gabby and her mom, Shari.  Stylish in her boots and pink glasses, Gabby distracts us from the cold with her steady chatter.  “I think a commercial break is a good time for a snack!” she giggles, ripping into a pack of yogurt cereal bites.

She digs my robot leg, and I’m happy to have her join us for this mile. 

After almost an hour, our fingers and feet have turned to icicles.  When Al finally comes out to shake our hands, we can barely feel it!  

So we escape with Gabby and Shari to a nearby coffee shop to warm up.  Cozy and comfy, we settle in with our new friends, waving to the TV cameras through the window.


When the weekend's done, we've covered 7 1/2 miles in less than 48 hours!  Miles fly when you're having fun.

And the trip is fun.

But not EASY.

At every turn, there are sensations and worries that distract me from my surroundings.  On crutches, a hotel room is like a foreign language.   The change in schedule jet-lags my intestines.  And the Genium is a good sport, but not quite as forgiving as my old leg.

In almost 1000 miles, I've tried to put these things behind me.  But after nearly 2 years of "traveling," I still can't escape The Way Life Should Be.

Sure, I can choose to rest safely at home.  But isn't it better to push out into the world, thankful for each glimpse of what I once had -- or might have?

Having come this far, I'm convinced the only way to get good at something is to PRACTICE.

There was a time when the longest distance I could walk was between two dining room chairs.  There was a time when bike riding and skating seemed like pipe dreams.

I only hope that learning to travel again works the same way.  That with every step, it will get easier and easier.

So I'll do it again and again.

As they say on Broadway, the show must go on.

Thanks to Mom and Jen for their endless patience -- and tolerance for the cold!  And for all the old friends and new ones in NYC.  Couldn't have done it without you!

3 comments:

  1. And the show will go on. I'm counting on it, because I'm planning to go to France... to experience the beauty of Cecile's parents' sunflower farm, to see Provence and Bordeaux, to visit with your home-exchange families... with you as my traveling companion and guide. So, you'll practice. We'll make a return trip to New York to walk the Brooklyn Bridge and revisit the Today Show, only in much warmer weather! And you'll venture to Vermont, Florida and Chicago with family, friends, or on your own. And you'll figure out hotel rooms and jet-lags and airports and flights. And with every Genium step, one step at a time, traveling will get easier and easier. C'est vrai... I'm sure of it:)

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  2. I was wondering where you guys were over the weekend.

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  3. sorry you were cold, but I can understand the importance of seeing and being in Manhattan. I have to say that your photos were even more wonderful than ever! Aunt Gail

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