One day I walked a mile down the Grand Canyon and then back up again. That’s two miles of crutch walking, which, if you think about it, is like vaulting over portable parallel bars.
The next day, at a treeless KOA campground outside Las Vegas, I met a handsome biker riding a Suzuki 1000. He told me he’d had his ear drums blown out in Vietnam and his vision blurred by a shell blast, putting him in the ranks of disabled American veterans. He was sensitive to my amputation, aware because so many veterans lost limbs in the war. We talked, and he asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. I hesitated. This is how I lost my leg in the first place. I told him to let me think about it.
I went immediately to the bathroom, sat on a seat, and while staring at the timeless graffiti, I weighed the pros and cons.
Haven’t you had enough excitement this week climbing down the largest canyon in the world?
Well, yes, but. . .Wouldn’t it be great to see the countryside from a motorcycle again? Wouldn’t it be a good thing to break that taboo and get back in the saddle?
But what if something happened again?
Do you know the odds of something like that happening again?
And if something did happen, it would be against all the odds. Only instead of winning, you’d be a real loser.
I didn’t feel like a loser, and somehow, maybe because I was so near Las Vegas, this idea of the odds made sense. It lent me some logic to calculate.
Okay. Think it through: It’s a large motorcycle, built for highway cruising; not anything like the 350 BSA street bike Mark and I were on when we were hit head-on four years ago.
But what about his blurring vision?
Hey, he made it this far, didn’t he?
Yes, but… Do you trust him?
He promised to be really aware of me back there and to stop if I have any nerves or doubts. He knows trauma. I can only hope he’ll be as sensitive as he seems.
Well, at least this time you know what can happen.
“Here I sit broken hearted. Came to shit and only farted,” the graffiti stared back. For the first time, these words struck me as both poetic and poignant statements about my life. I didn’t just come to see Vegas, I came to experience it.
Go for it! I thought, Okay, I’ll tempt fate — this time, however, with much caution, extracting promises from my driver that there was enough of a seat for me to balance on, and that he would pull the bike over the minute I got scared.
Helmeted, holding on for dear life, I was taken on an excursion to the Hoover Dam. The rush of air and scenery were familiar and still intoxicating, but I knew now I didn’t need to do this again.
Once there, judging the wide expanse of terrain we’d have to cover in the dam’s interior, he shanghaied a wheelchair from the people who give tours of the huge water facility, and he drove me in mock recklessness around my week’s second amazing wonder of the world. I was smitten by his tenderness and attention to my circumstance.
Later, we drove home through the traffic on one of Vegas’ teeming main streets. I caught a look at myself in the reflection of a glass building in the late afternoon sun.
Mini-skirted, my strong, tanned leg gripping the body of the bike, my cleavage winking through a denim halter, I looked out from my right side and saw an image of any other glamorous gal on a motorbike. My blonde hair shining, streaking outside the helmet, I smiled at myself in the mirror. I looked. . . intact.
But in the shadows, on the left side, no companion leg straddled the seat, just my trusty wooden crutches, strapped horizontally the length of the bike.
This was the side of me I didn’t feel that day.
Back to excerpts from “Have Crutch Will Travel”