That hurt! Dealing with sickness and injury

Trip update: The Southern Swing 2013 is swinging again. Last Saturday, I rode my loaded bicycle through the freezing rain to the bus station in Charlottesville, Virginia, and boarded a Greyhound bus for Pensacola, Florida. Pensacola is a pleasant city at the extreme western edge of Florida. To my surprise, it was colder there than it had been in Charlottesville, so I was glad that I had my winter bicycle kit on. It felt good to curl into a warm bed at the home of one of my shipmates from my Navy days.

While I was in Pensacola, I visited Truly Spokin’ bike shop, where Ryan replaced the

Another new bounce box. This time, parts of the broken box reinforce the walls of the new one.

Another new bounce box. This time, parts of the broken box reinforce the walls of the new one.

2013-12-19 08.51.47 - Copy

Setting out from Pensacola

worn bearing cones on my front wheel, repacked the bearings and checked out the drive train. Back at the house, I repacked my bounce box, taking out the large rear panniers and putting in the bicycle bag. The box is 5 kg lighter than before, but the bike is almost that much heavier. I also mailed back some things that I would not need on the road. For example, I had too many business cards, and I have learned how to use one of my bicycle bottles as a blender bottle.

Thursday morning, I set out for Destin, Florida, on the Emerald Coast. After 102 km of stiff headwinds, I checked into the Courtyard by Marriott feeling very tired. A hot bath and a good night’s sleep took care of my aches.

Friday, I set out for Southport, north of Panama City. The headwinds were not as strong. However, the hot bath had softened things that needed to stay tough, so I developed a large blister on my buttock after 32 km. I could have ridden out the next 50 km as a combination of standing on the pedals and sitting to one side (I’ve had to do that before), but I did the smart thing, and let my host in Southport come get me in his pickup truck. I am spending the weekend with Rich and Mary, and my blister is healing quickly. Had I been alone, I would have checked into a nearby motel and spent the weekend tending my wound.

I did not need medical attention, but this experience leads me to the subject of this week’s post: sickness and injury on the road.

Sooner or later, I will take ill or be injured. It may not be on my bicycle, but the bike is where my life is centered, so that is where I have focused my preparations.

This is not a discussion of medical insurance, because that is a separate post. Let’s assume that you have adequate insurance for whatever illness or injury befalls you.

Getting sick. If I am staying with friends or family, I can ask them for recommendations. If I take sick, they will help by contacting their physician or other health care provider(s).

If I am by myself, I may have to consult the local telephone book, ask the reception desk at the hotel, or locate a local doctor online. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I checked before I began travelling to ensure that my health care providers back home could transmit my medical records as needed. If the sickness is going to require staying put or follow-up referrals, I may have to send for those records.

Accidents or injury. Regardless of your insurance situation or location, the process during an accident is similar almost everywhere. The victim or a bystander calls emergency responders (ambulance, fire, police) and the responders take charge. If I am conscious, then the procedures for accidents are similar to those for sickness.

An accident is the most likely reason that I may be unconscious and unable to inform the health team of my situation. This is why I wear my ID tags at all times, and why I recommend that anyone travelling alone have some alert ID system like Road ID to allow emergency responders to obtain medical information quickly.

In addition to some kind of ID tag, it would be a good idea to have a card with pertinent information on your vehicle. Name, address, blood type, a point of contact for emergencies and a list of prescriptions, if you take any, would be the minimum information I would include.

I also have business cards in luggage tags on all the panniers and bags on my bike, which would give responders my name and website, and get them on the path to contacting those who know about me.

Preparing to be injured or sick includes a discussion of insurance. Next week, we will look at insurance: medical, personal and business. Meanwhile, best wishes to you during this holiday season in the US.

Smooth roads and tailwinds,


3 thoughts on “That hurt! Dealing with sickness and injury

  1. Hi, Jonathan:
    Glad you like the area. Pensacola is my base (technically Cantonment). I’ve occasionally biked from the water tower in Pensacola Beach to the one in Navarre Beach, but I’ve never dared take my bike over the bridge over Escambia Bay. You’re a brave soul!
    Paul Sadur


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