Fifty Smacks Me Upside the Head

In a post published in April 2017, “O’Yonder,” and in previous posts, I shared that I’ve been thinking quite a bit about time and age lately. Explicit or not in earlier blog entries, hopeful belief that I’m still young underlies my time-oriented thoughts. I am fifty years four months and maybe a week or so old. I want to believe I’m 25. Even as I aged and tallied up seven orthopedic surgeries, I always recovered and found my way back to the things I loved to do. In short, I’d go hard, fall down, get hurt, get back up, recover and start out again. And it was no problem.

An early view of Alaska, June 2017

Recently, our family traveled to Alaska, a first for the five of us. We had a day in Anchorage before our lodge picked us up, so we rented bikes to ride Anchorage’s Knowles Coastal Trail. The paved trail connects  downtown Anchorage with Kincard Park, 11 miles away, as it winds along the coast, beneath the flight path of the airport’s runway, and through dense forests. (We saw a baby moose right off the path, munching on leaves, and it’s wary mother nearby.) The path’s rating is “Easy.”

Calf we rode right past

The trail is indeed easy, except for a short, semi-steep and curved section inside Kincaid Park. After lunch, we set back to explore the city. My 18-year-old and 16-year-old took off like greyhounds down the trail. At 25, I was up to the challenge. Screaming along, I passed both boys, looked ahead, saw a curve I couldn’t make, so off the trail I went, braking hard. Happens all the time mountain biking, so why would this be any different? I planned to approach a stop and then ride back onto the trail.

The log

A stump had another idea. It stopped my front wheel dead and catapulted me at 20-mph over the handlebars and onto a nearby log. Depending upon how you look at it, my experience was an “epic fail,” something worthy of YouTube (according to my sons), or it was what I choose to accept as a wake-up call: 50, not 25. “Fifty, not 25,” will be on my lips moving forward for every mountain bike ride, ski run, or high-mileage hike. I have a good friend whose mantra has become, “I ride to ride another day.” I get that.

Five weeks later, I’m still recovering. I fractured two ribs, broke the collarbone, and cracked the humerus. (That word is too close to hubris for my comfort.) My wife snapped a picture of the log, and I marvel at it. Had I flown a few inches lower, I wouldn’t be here. It’s definitely good to be here.

So thanks, 50,  and to an anonymous log in Kincaid Park, for smacking me upside the head. You knocked some sense into me.


About Malcolm W Campbell

Father. Husband. Writer. Teacher. Outdoorsperson. And something else... Forgetful?
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4 Responses to Fifty Smacks Me Upside the Head

  1. Kim says:

    One for the record books! Love, your 22 year old sister!!!

  2. Karen says:

    Well, you’ve certainly made the 50th year memorable. I shudder to think about your 60th though.

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