My 11-day look at mainland China had only two days left: One was shopping day, and the other was a banquet and award ceremony closing the tour.
Day Nine was a warm, drizzly one. Some of the bicyclists skipped breakfast to get a good start on the longest ride of the tour, 53 miles to Canton. I topped up the air in my tires and strapped on the saddlebag that carried my camera, extra film, first-aid items, towel and rainwear. I chose to wear my black wool cycle shorts because bare legs dry quickly. On a trip of that length, slacks or jeans would chafe my knees and thighs when wet. The road was messy, and at noon we were delighted to get the black muck washed off in washtubs of hot, sudsy water before our good meal.
During the early part of the trip we had discussed drafting - one bike in front and another riding close behind - to let the first rider protect the other in wind or rain. I wanted to ride at my own speed, not take turns drafting and being drafted. On this 53-mile day it did not occur to me that anyone was "riding on my rear wheel." About three miles from our destination, I was alone on a bike path that was suddenly blocked by a huge pile of broken bricks. The bike tracks all turned to the left as there was no other choice. I turned, and suddenly I heard, "Don’t! Don’t! Damn it!" My bike and I went down into that muck, and another bike and rider were down, too.
My handlebars were turned wrong, the saddle was out of line, and I was caked in mud from head to foot. The girl who had been drafting me went down but was not hurt because she saw it happening in time to yell. I was down before I knew she was there. Thinking first about my bike, I stood astride the front wheel and held it with my knees while I forced the bars back in line, then pounded the seat back in place and checked to see if either wheel was damaged; both were all right.
I then realized what a muddy, bloody sight I was! My right ankle hurt, and my helmet was muddy but still on my head. I opened the saddlebag and got a towel and first-aid items.
Foolishly, I tried to open adhesive patches and couldn’t get them to stick on my wet left arm, knee or leg. Forget that! I stuffed the messy towel into the saddlebag and walked the bike up to the narrow blacktop road and got on.
People I met were shocked at my messy body on that bike, and their faces instantly showed sympathy and a desire to help. It was the same for all three miles to our hotel in Canton.
A warm, sudsy bath revealed more about my injuries: Pedaling had been good for the ankle, as it was not swelling much.
The muddy helmet had protected my head, but the soapy water stung brush burns on the left side of my back. The left arm and leg had ground-in cinders. A friend and I removed most of those and patched several places that needed it. At supper, the tour director told me she would send two interpreters with me the next morning to the hospital for an examination and a required written doctor’s report.
What an interesting trip that was. The fellow spoke only Chinese, and the woman, our tour interpreter from Hong Kong, spoke Chinese and English.