“Dude, you guys need to call the paramedics,” said the guy who just walked into the shop. “There’s a guy up on Pauley who cut his femoral artery.”
As soon as I heard “femoral artery” my head spun around. I was neck deep in repairing a customer’s grenaded rear wheel when this panicked rider walked into Yuba Expeditions and informed us of an alleged seriously injured rider 10 miles above Downieville. I immediately questioned this guy’s assessment of the situation and asked if he was sure it was the femoral artery.
“All I know is that he was passed out by the bridge below where Pauley and Butcher meet, bleeding from the inside of his thigh,” he said.
In my mind I thought, if that’s the case, the guy is already dead. My co-worker Jake, who lives in Downieville full time and knows what to do in emergency situations, swung into action. Within a half hour I heard the sound of rotor blades cutting the air, and looked outside to see a Lifeflight helicopter flying over town.
The last time I saw a helicopter over Downieville was about 10 years ago. It was carrying the dead body of a gold prospector who was hiking up Second Divide trail when he slipped, fell off an exposed cliff and split his head open. Seeing that helicopter flying over town last weekend sent a chill up my spine. Not even a month into the season and we might already have a fatality.
I managed to get out of work with enough daylight to get in a couple hours of pedaling, so I immediately headed up Lavezzola Creek Road to obtain more details on the situation. Halfway up Lavezzola, a Search and Rescue team came rolling past me in the opposite direction, followed by an ambulance and a fire truck. Then I saw Jake on his dirt bike. “What happened,” I asked.
“Nothing dude,” Jake said. “That guy in the shop was full of shit. The guy was fine. He may have had a concussion, but refused medical assistance and rode back to town.”
Perhaps the only thing worse than an emergency situation is an emergency situation that was never an emergency in the first place.
Of course the rider who cried wolf didn’t do it in jest; he was sincerely concerned for his fellow mountain biker. But unless you are qualified medic and know for certain the injured person in question has suffered a potentially fatal injury, don’t go and advertise that the person in question is suffering a potentially fatal injury. Because as taxpayers, we all collectively paid for that empty helicopter ride, and the next time first responders get called, they might not be so quick to respond.
Aside from the rider who cried wolf, the rest of the weekend in Downieville was filled with hundreds of miles in shuttling riders to the top of Packer Saddle. The outstanding early-season conditions brought out a lot of folks, and on Sunday alone, I personally drove 200 shuttle miles, delivering Lycra-clad crazies to the top of Shredville, USA.
For me, shuttle driving is always a fun surprise; you never know who’s coming along for the ride. Sometimes they’re a complete band of strangers who’ve never heard of Downieville. Other times they’re Downieville veterans who just want to plug in their iPod and rock some Metallica at full blast before getting radical. Then there are the guys who talk your ear off the entire drive to the top. Regardless of the passenger, I enjoy all kinds. After all, these people are on vacation, escaping from the harsh reality of everyday life.
My “job” is to make sure that escape is as enjoyable as it can be, even if they’re a little obnoxious at times. It’s all good. Just don’t break stuff, smoke weed, or drink booze in the shuttle, and you can behave however you want. Oh, and please, put on some deodorant.