If you’ve been reading this little travel journal, you’ll remember that I was a very brave Nonni when I rode a bicycle to the grocery store in Berlin. I mean, OK, so I crashed into a pile of stinging nettles, but I did ride the damn bike, right?
And, boy howdie. Was I proud of myself when I got home!
So when Katja and Jorg took us up to the gorgeous North Sea Island of Sylt, I was only mildly alarmed to hear that we were going to be taking a 45 km ride on e-bikes.
Yup. E-bikes. As in “electronically enhanced bikes that will make you go way faster than you would ever have gone on a regular bike.”
I was…excited! No, really, I was. The island is so unbelievably beautiful that the idea of being able to see the dunes up close was my absolute dream come true.
I am a confirmed ocean addict, and this was like being in Heaven.
Seriously. The NORTH freaking sea! Where the Vikings sailed! Hell, yeah. I wanted to ride my (big scary) e-bike.
So off we went that cool, sunny morning. I was elated to find that I was able to balance the bike and ride along smoothly and easily. That electric boost was like magic. There I was, zooming along the dunes, the heather and sea on either side, my gray hair blowing in the wind.
It was the most fabulous morning. We stopped for cake (HUGE) and coffee at a beautiful spot on the island. We rode along the tops of the dune. We passed a lighthouse and fields of cows and sheep. In the early afternoon we arrived at our destination, the little city of Westerland. We shopped and then sat down for a cold beer.
Eventually we headed back toward the northern part of the island, where our hotel was located. We had already ridden farther than I’ve ever biked in my life, but the battery power made the ride easy.
Easy until the moment when the people in front of me found a reason to stop suddenly.
You see, I had mastered that whole “pedal your bike and move forward” thing, and I had gotten pretty good at the “balance on two wheels” thing. But: I was NOT able to stop suddenly.
Uh, uh. No way.
So when Katja stopped in front of me, and Lucas stopped quickly behind her, I knew that I was doomed. I simultaneously pressed back on the foot brakes, squeezed both hand brakes, closed my eyes and made a squealing sound that was reminiscent of a pig being skewered by a fork.
And I face planted on the bike trail in front of me.
Actually, truth to tell, I was fairly graceful as I went over the handlebars. I’m told that I landed relatively gently on my right knee, right hand and right cheekbone. In that order.
All I know is that I saw the cement approaching my face and had just enough presence of mind to turn my head a bit. My bifocals flew off and I found myself on the ground. I have NO idea where the bike was, but it must have been pretty damn close.
I looked up at the horrified faces of my hosts, my husband and a very pretty young German woman. I had just enough comprehension to hear her ask if I was OK and to think, “Nice hair!” Then she was gone.
My biggest worry at that point was “Oh, no!!!! I’m staying at the first upscale resort of my LIFE and I’m going to get home with a black eye and all my face skin removed!”
Eventually I realized that I was in more or less one piece, and I got shakily up to my feet. My glasses were intact. My knee still bent. My expensive new athletic sandals were unscathed. I was completely and totally faked out, but nothing was broken.
I smiled and reassured everyone (especially poor Paul) and got back on the death machine. And off we went, to complete the 15 km left between our location and a good hot shower.
I did OK, overall.
Until Katja stopped to check on me, at which point I more or less screeched, “DO. NOT. STOP.”
It was a very exciting day.
I’m proud that I did it, and glad that I didn’t quit riding and demand a taxi. After another hour or so, we got back to the hotel.
And that’s where the funny part of this story begins. I’ll be back with more!