Peeling the onion of truth & Slaying the dragon of lies

14 Mar

Trust, but verify.” Ronald Reagan’s signature phrase unites the otherwise very different worlds of lawyers and research scientists. Indeed, by following this maxim, I am neatly (I hope!) bridging the gap between my two professional lives. How to succeed as an attorney and/or newbie neuro-researcher? Trust, but verify.

It works.

So how could I be so blind to this logic in my personal life?

Up until very recently I unquestioningly accepted that I had smashed my skull on Mulholland Hwy — that’s what they told me in the hospital, so it must be true, right? Yeah. No. NOT right.

Turns out, the statement: “You had an accident on Mulholland Highway” (a street everyone knows and can orient themselves to), really meant: “You had an accident near Mulholland Highway.” This shorthand truth was much easier for a brain-damaged person (and her family members) to grasp. Fair enough.

For the last 21 months I have not allowed my cycling coach to even THINK about putting Mulholland Hwy on my training schedule. I could not be charmed onto that road with encouraging words, nor cajoled into reframing my fear as a “challenge.” Not that he tried to do either of those things! He was very respectful of the fact that I remained steadfast in my unwillingness to face my mental demons and the great hydra-headed unknowns presented by that mythical, mystical death-mongering highway.

Blacklisting Mulholland while trying to train for a race up a volcano is kinda like trying to win the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest while trying to follow a “no-carb” training diet — it can be done, but it presents a “bit” of a handicap. Nevertheless, we’ve soldiered on without throwing Mulholland into the mix.

And it’s been fine — boring, but fine.

Recently, however, I learned that the accident actually (or at least probably) happened at the incredibly tight turn that unites Muholland Hwy and Decker Rd. It’s hard to determine which road was the “real” site (or cause) of the wreck. Thus, each is equally worthy of my fear, but one can be absolved.

There’s no good reason to absolve Decker. Decker is a known menace. Decker exists to allow cyclists to build their egos — it’s an inherently fearsome road and there is no reason whatsoever for me to attempt to make friends with it. Decker can remain dead to me forever and all will be right with the world.

Mulholland, however, is inherently lovely. It also serves as the main arterial connection to all other vital climbing options in the Malibu hills. I would be well-served by making friends with Mulholland again. This would be no easy task, though. After all, for the better part of 2 years I was 100% convinced that Mulholland tried to kill me. In fact, I had convicted Mulholland of that crime and given it a death sentence. That said, however, the new evidence of Mulholland’s possible innocence cast enough of a doubt so as to warrant a new trial.

And so it came to pass that Mulholland appeared on my training schedule. And it also came to pass that my return to Mulholland coincided with my debut training ride with a couple members of my new cycling team: Rapha Prestige-Team Bike Effect.

What better way to forge bonds with your new teammates than by slaying a proverbial dragon together?

Dragon of Doom & Death

And so up Mulholland we went.

I didn’t tell them about the whole “dragon” issue until we were a couple miles into the ride. They took this news in relative stride. Turns out, they had proverbial dragons of their own to conquer.

The funny thing is: learning that none of us was as strong as we pretended to be actually made us strong. The paradoxical power of unvarnished truth is astounding.

As we climbed, I replayed the events of June 11, 2011 in my mind. When we got to the point where we could see the radar dish array on the side of the hill, my mental replay shorted out.

This made no sense.

The point at which my memory stopped definitely was NOT the place where I wrecked — there was no “blind curve,” there was no downhill, there was no berm onto which I would have face-planted. The accident did not happen here.

My memory stopped, but Mulholland did not. Up we climbed.

It was 2.54 miles until we got to the Mulholland/Decker intersection. At the rate I was riding back in June 2011, it would’ve taken me at least 20-25 minutes to cover that distance (it took me less time on Sunday — my climbing’s improved considerably!).

Holy f*ck.

Are you kidding me?! I had a 20+ minute period of retrograde amnesia — on top of the unknown amount of time I spent totally unconscious and all the days/weeks of anterograde amnesia?!? How is that possible???

My mind was swimming.

As I crested the top of Mulholland (still ignorant as to where, exactly, the accident happened), I felt triumphant for having “slayed the proverbial dragon” (i.e., Rode Mulholland / Did Not Die!), but I was totally mind-f*cked by the whole retrograde amnesia revelation. That is some SERIOUS SHIT!

Holy balls, I was lucky to be alive!

Holy smokes, I can’t believe I didn’t die.

Holy crap, I have still have NO idea (and, in fact, I now have even LESS of an idea) how all of this happened.

Holy spirit, whoever/whatever/wherever you may be (assuming you exist in the first place), please guide me safely down this steep, highly technical descent, because I am in dire need of otherworldly support here.

We made it safely through the rest of the ride. We worked well together as a team and knocked out a mildly aggressive pace, plus it was a GORGEOUS day — one where you feel really, really bad for anyone who doesn’t ride a bike and even worse for people who don’t live in L.A.

So I slayed the dragon, but I also found a new set of mysteries and challenges to unravel. Meanwhile, I am thoroughly enjoying a renewed euphoria about the miracle that is my life.

And if you tune in next week, I will reveal the image that enables my renewed euphoria to thrive.

Parting Thought: I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. ~ Nelson Mandela

2 Responses to “Peeling the onion of truth & Slaying the dragon of lies”


  1. Best Year Ever! | JustAdventures - December 30, 2013

    […] I return to theย scene of my brain bashing for the first time, only to learn that it likely did NOT occur there, which opens up whole news […]

  2. Slow is the New Fast – Epilogue | JustAdventures - June 11, 2014

    […] the first time since even before my wreck, I was riding, solo, along the formerly-dreaded Mulholland. The “Snake” portion was a little sketchy, as usual, because of all the motorcycles, […]

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