Whenever I’ve heard about epic wipe out stories, I’ve always assumed that adrenaline took over and no pain was felt until a few minutes after the fact. I always assumed people just sort of blacked out until it was all over.
But that wasn’t my experience. I felt pain the moment I lost control.
It was a beautiful day. Absolutely perfect. The skies were blue with not a cloud in sight. The temperature was just a hair on the cool side. The trails were dry. Everything pointed to an epic ride.
The trees towered over us as we entered the trailhead. Dad and Mom led the charge in their Wildcat, I followed on my Honda Sportrax, and Luke closed up the rear on his Yamaha Big Bear. Dragonflies and butterflies were literally everywhere.
Right out the gate, this was the most beautiful trail I had been on. Granted, this was exactly the 4th trail I had ever been on, but it was the most beautiful nonetheless.
I was feeling good and ready to settle into a nice long day of riding, when I noticed my parents easily glide over a lopsided drop in the trail ahead of me. Their car-like vehicle had no problems, and I doubt they even noticed it as they passed. But I immediately knew I was in trouble. I was moving too fast. I didn’t have time to slow down.
I rose to a standing position in hopes of absorbing the movements with my legs, but it wasn’t enough. I hit the drop at an angle and lost control. As my four wheeler tore up a steep incline to the right, I tipped sideways, released my grip, and fell to the rocky trail – hitting my head and twisting my hips as the wheeler ran over my left leg.
I can remember each moment of that wipe-out in hazy/clear detail – if that makes any sense. It was both a blur and yet completely vivid.
I laid there on my left side for a few moments dazed. I had just experienced my first ATV accident.
I rolled onto my back to find Luke next to me. My head was pounding, and my whole body hurt. I pulled my knees up, alleviating the short-lived fear that maybe I was paralyzed. I did a quick mental check, and was certain nothing was broken. I was just in shock.
Having noticed that Luke and I were no longer following them, Dad shut off their UTV and came running back. As Luke helped me up, I assured them both that I was ok, I just needed a few minutes to get my bearings.
Some test-walks around the area proved that I was overall fine, but it did hurt to put weight on my right leg. Sitting on my ATV hurt as well, but was far more bearable than walking. My immediate thought was to turn around, pack up, and begin the two hour drive back home. But Luke was so sweet…he told me that we could absolutely head home, but if I was well enough to ride, he believed I should keep going. He told me that now is the best time to get back on the horse and get past the fear. We can take it as slow as I needed.
As we discussed our next steps, my eyes wondered to my Dad. I grew up on the stories he told me about off-roading with his Jeep Wrangler and all kinds of other outdoor adventures. He’s not a stranger to wipe outs. But he’s still out here doing what he loves. That inspired me.
I was shaken, but Luke’s wisdom and my dad’s adventurous spirit spurred me on. I knew in my heart that if I were to turn around and go home, this would be my last time out on the trails. And I knew that I didn’t want that to be the case.
The next hour of riding was simply scary. I was tense. Every bump and pothole had me clenching my teeth. I had to intentionally keep myself from crying. Before this, riding was care-free and exciting. Now it was a slow go with the subtle threat of disaster. In the matter of about thirty seconds, everything had changed.
We stopped for lunch and took about an hour break. Mom and I went for a little walk to keep my body from getting stiff, and Luke and Dad got to grilling hot dogs. It was getting harder to walk, but being off the wheeler helped my head to feel better and my nerves begin to calm. By the time we finished our meal, I was in a new place mentally.
As we fired up the machines and got going again, I approached each turn, climb, and descent with a new sense of care and caution. Sure, I was going slower than I usually would…but I was beginning to appreciate how slight shifts in my body weight affected how my ATV maneuvered. Before my spill, I was all about getting from point A to point B as fast as possible. I loved the rush, the feels, the adrenaline. But now, I surprisingly started to enjoy a more technical, nuanced ride.
The beauty of ATV riding is that you can ride as a group, and yet have plenty of time alone with your thoughts. During that second half of our ride, with the only sound being the muffled engine through my helmet, I silently thanked Luke for encouraging me to push through the pain and fear. And I prayed – a lot. I prayed that God would keep me safe for the remainder of the ride. And he in turn started up a dialog with me, gently telling me that a setback isn’t the end. Pain doesn’t mark the end of something good. Fear shouldn’t hold me back from moving forward.
My MO has long been to give up when things get hard. I’ve given up on plenty of things. I’ve given up on plenty of relationships. I’ve given up on plenty of opportunities. All because they got hard. What if I would have given up and gone home that day? I would have sold Lil’ Red, and my career as a hobby ATVist would have been over. And a piece of me would have died. My sense of adventure. My love of a physical challenge. A wall would have been built up that would have held me back for the rest of my life. Not only in the one area of ATVing, but in other areas as well. It would have been another mark of failure.
Instead, as the sun was setting and we made our way back to the trailhead, God invited me to surrender the pain and be ok with its existence. In order to do the things he’s calling me to do, there is going to be pain. There are going to be setbacks. But instead of calling it quits, I need to trust him and push through to the other side.
Despite my bruised body, it remains my favorite ride to date. The entire day somehow felt sacred. God was with me the whole time, and he didn’t let a single moan or moment of fear go to waste. He taught me some valuable lessons.
And if the lessons weren’t enough, we had some of the sweetest times with my parents whenever we would stop for a break. And, believe it or not, my heart was filled with joy. There was so much laughter.
The pain that day taught me to
- Take things a little slower. Speed isn’t everything. I tend to speed past a lot of things when I should be paying close, careful attention. Both to the beautiful details and potential dangers.
- Setbacks don’t mean it’s over. They’re discouraging and painful, but they’re also a part of life. The best is before us if we continue to move forward.
Somehow, I feel liberated after that day. I feel a fresh new courage bubbling up inside me.
Pain doesn’t mean failure. Pain doesn’t mean God is distant. Pain is a very real and effective tool to bring about a new perspective, hope, courage, and joy.