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My Journey back to Englad

Everything can change in a moment.

June 10, 2022 I headed out early on my bicycle to run a few errands, only it wasn't until July 2 that I even started to become aware of what happened. I'd been hit by a car at 50mph. Broke my back, both legs, left ankle, left shoulder, ribs, collapsed lung, and ruptured all the tendons in my left knee. Also treated for traumatic brain injury – thank God I'd turned my nose up at those little cycling helmets and embraced a heavier duty multi sport helmet.

Went from trauma at VCU to a rehab hospital, canceled my August ‘22 UK trip and came home in a wheelchair. Then started physical therapy. I got to a walker, then a cane and started back to work on November 27. I'd take walks around the block with the walker and could do a half mile in 40 minutes.

Throughout this whole experience what pained me most was that I canceled my August trip, and no one could tell me when or if I'd travel again. I'd already accepted that there was no more cycling or backpacking but I couldn't imagine never doing England again.

Finished physical therapy in March ‘23. By April I was fed up enough not knowing that I bought tickets to the UK. I had to have firm goals, my capabilities at work were improving and whether I could travel or not was all up to me and it was all up to me to build my strength and endurance. As I'd told myself many times, “suck it up cupcake”. I got it stuck in my mind that success was going to be walking the 0.7 of a mile from Broken Wharf across Millennium Bridge to Borough Market and back. That became my singularly focused goal. By early May I was down to a 20 minute half mile, in June I'd reached 15 minutes and in early October I broke 14 minutes. With a knee that doesn't flex, a cane, and a pretty gnarly scar across my forehead I was going to do this

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All of this leads to October 25 and my trip to England. The extent of my planning was to repeat previous travels. Push myself just enough, nothing new and do what I know. This trip would be 5 nights in Chichester and 8 in London.

October 15 I saw the news that Millennium Bridge was closed for a three week maintenance period. Oh well, “suck it up cupcake,” scat happens.

October 25 walked the block from the house to my local Amtrak station and boarded the 6:01am 174 Northeast Regional to DC. I would fly United on UA918 from Dulles departing at 5:30pm. I'd bought Amtrak business class tickets, with more leg room and assigned seats, allowing me to score seat 1A and its nearly infinite legroom at the front of the car. I also used the journey to scope out and test various other seats to see how comfortable they'd be for future travel.

Arrived at Union Station with plenty of time to get to IAD, so I grabbed breakfast, a table and got the tablet out to monitor work’s YouTube channel and moderate channel comments. Time breezed by and I headed down to the Red Line at Union Station, finally I was getting to take the Silver Line all the way to Dulles. From the Dulles Metro station to the departures hall was my first long walk – no hurry, just slow and steady. 

I checked an empty hardshell carry-on sized bag. That bag was going to be for souvenirs coming home, otherwise my actual carry-on bag was only 16 pounds. Headed down to security and was through in about three minutes. Then I made my way to the C/D Terminal via the aerotrain – a second long walk. What's funny is that as I waited for the next aerotrain, an attendant with a chair approached me and offered to take me to C Terminal cause “it's a long way”.  I declined and told him the walk was something I needed to do. That gentleman discreetly followed till I reached the last escalator up to the C gates. I hope he knows how much that meant to me.

Had lunch and found a comfortable seat at my gate to surf the web and relax before boarding. A gate agent approached me to board early and sent me on my way. I'd booked Premium Plus and seat 20L. Again plenty of room with my left toes just touching the bulkhead. A big plus for these seats were the recliner style leg rest coming up from below the seat, that offered a lot of support and relief for my left leg. It was wonderful being on a flight once again. It was relaxed, uneventful and I had a nice nap.  

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My goals in Chichester was to enjoy the town and visit the Mary Rose Museum and the Weald & Downland Museum.

October 27, Friday morning, woke up, jumped on-line and bought train tickets to Portsmouth Harbour and back. Found a café for breakfast then headed to Portsmouth. Good train ride. I spent a good 5 hours at the Mary Rose Museum, did okay with the walking and it was easy to find the occasional bench when needed. As part of their educational activities they had an artifact table where visitors could handle objects. We do the same at my own museum, only with reproduction objects. I was amazed that at Mary Rose it was original artifacts from the archaeological excavation – 500 year old anchor rope that still smells of tar and 500 yo stone cannon shot. I might have been a bit giddy. Also ended up talking about museum business and compared notes with staff. Bought new copies of the book Before the Mast and a couple other titles about the archaeological studies. Headed back to Chichester.

Saturday morning, the 28th, had breakfast and planned out the day. Hopped on the #60 bus and headed to the Weald and Downland. They were offering a 50% discount to visitors that arrived by local bus. Which was nice. The layout of the museum meant I'd have one of my longest walking and standing days. Well silly me I walked down to their blacksmith shop to see if it was fired up and working. Started talking to the smith and was quite surprised that 5 years after my last visit he still remembered me. There were few museum visitors so we probably ended up just talking shop and projects we'd worked on over the last 5 years for a good few hours. Had lunch in the museum café then wandered through the other exhibit buildings. Again with few visitors that day it was a pleasure to get to talk “shop” with staff, especially about museum education.

Took Sunday off and Monday spent a good part of the day touring the Cathedral. Tuesday was time to pack up and head back to do London. Back in London and I didn't relish facing the various stairs in tube stations with my souvenir case already gaining weight so I took my first London taxi to my hotel, Locke-at-Broken-Wharf. It was interesting and became even more entertaining as my driver began to colorfully rant about the behavior of London cyclists on the road. Boy he became animated, and he wasn't wrong, as I witnessed the worst road manners and disregard for traffic laws or for safety on the part of cyclists I'd ever seen. Surprised I did not witness multiple car strikes. But I did have a little fun and got a great look of "oh boy I stepped in it now" when I shared I'd been hit by a car. But I assured him I took no offense at all and we had a good laugh. Checked into my room, the walked to Co-Op to get a few groceries.

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Wednesday was my visit to the Wallace Collection. When you get to know various artifacts through books and articles, it's a whole new experience when you finally get to see artifacts in person. I found myself texting photos to colleagues and receiving back requests to go get detailed photos of various other artifacts. And again bought more books.

Thursday I found the yarn shop Loop on Camden Passage in Islington. Bought a bunch of skeins of a sport weight medium-gray British wool spun in Yorkshire. Always fun being the only man in a yarn shop. Across the alley was a militaria shop, and picked up a WW1 era Life Guards cap badge for a friend.

Friday Millennium Bridge was still closed so I headed to Borough Market by the tube, and stopped in Neal's Yard Dairy. Had a great time and probably spent a couple hours talking cheese and selecting varieties not available at home. Mature Sparkenhoe Red Leicester, Montgomery's Cheddar, Doddington, Pevensey blue and some 2 yo Dutch cheese from another vendor. Ended up with 2.5 kilos that would come home. Saturday was my visit to the V&A where I sent hours taking pictures of construction details on various pieces of iron work.

Sunday I walked to Borough Market by Southwark Bridge. Then I took the rest of the day off and watched from my hotel window as the various barriers were slowly removed from Millennium Bridge. When I read that Millennium Bridge would close for maintenance I just shrugged and thought to myself "suck it up, cupcake". In the last 16 months I'd gotten so used to that and I hadn't realized how wrapped up I'd gotten in the need to cross that bridge and walk to Borough Market was impacting my feeling of success on this trip. I had to cross that bridge but Borough Market was closed Monday. So instead I went to the Bank of England Museum. And that evening I walked across the bridge and had supper.

Tuesday was a lazy morning, then got myself ready and

V-I-C-T-O-R-Y

I took that walk from Broken Wharf across Millennium Bridge to Borough Market, had lunch then toured Southwark Cathedral and walked back to Broken Wharf.

Wednesday was my return home. My souvenir case had grown to 22 pounds and I didn't feel like dragging it to St Paul's station and down the stairs so got a taxi to Tottenham Court Road Station and took the Elizabeth line to LHR. Checked my bag breezed through security and headed to the United Club lounge. UA919 to IAD, again in Seat 20L. Used Mobile Passport Control and flew through immigration & customs in less than two minutes. Had several hours for a layover and headed to the Club at C7. Last flight was UA4473 to RIC and on a CRJ550 with seat 7A being perfect. Landed at Richmond and met my driver for my ride home to Williamsburg.

So this is the story of my most recent trip to England. I was prepared for it to be my last, but it is not and there will be more.

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1990 posts

VAP

We never know what might come in the next 5 minutes or 5 seconds, do we.

"Life is uncertain: eat dessert first".

Thanks for your report. I wish you a happy holiday season. And another trip to England soon.

Posted by
3251 posts

Wow!
You should be very proud of yourself and your recovery.
We are!! 🙂

Posted by
2490 posts

This was lovely to read. Good for you, VAP!

Posted by
1383 posts

VAP, this is a fabulous Trip Report and I commend you for your upbeat spirit. Here’s wishing more adventures in your future.

Posted by
6773 posts

This is a tremendous trip report.
Quite poignant to me as I have a friend in the States who had nothing like as traumatic an experience as yours, but is struggling to get travelling internationally again.
'All' she did was to step off a sidewalk and fall incredibly badly, aggravating injuries from a previous car crash, but ended up with multiple injuries and surgeries. But she ended up with 6 weeks in hospital, coming out in a chair with a very long journey to recovery.
She had a trip to England scheduled, but now hasn't got the confidence to do it. I am working hard with her to try to facilitate it, but not getting very far.

Posted by
856 posts

I am so sorry about your accident. So wonderful to hear that you were able to return to England. I loved your trip report!

Posted by
2602 posts

The human spirit can be so resilient. Thank you for an inspiring report. I am going to England next spring. I will think of you.

Posted by
305 posts

What a wonderful trip report. Thank you for sharing your amazing recovery and successful return trip to England. I hope that there are more trips to follow for you.

Posted by
700 posts

What a beautiful and inspiring trip report. Your power of determination, attitude and hard work shines through. So glad you were able to so successfully realize your trip.

Posted by
2507 posts

What an inspirational report! Compared to your experience, dealing with my torn meniscus seems trivial and gives me added hope that if I work hard enough I will get back on track as well.

Posted by
3995 posts

Thank you for your amazing story and trip report. I loved your determination “So this is the story of my most recent trip to England. I was prepared for it to be my last, but it is not and there will be more.” Bravo!

Posted by
4005 posts

Thank you for sharing your incredible journey. Having that goal, to walk across the bridge, and succeed, is truly inspiring. I’m raising a glass to you and your beautiful spirit. May you have many, many more trips to England.

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1990 posts

isn31c

I once worked for a group of orthopedic surgeons and it was an eye opener what we do to ourselves.

I have never forgotten one person who only stepped off the curb wrong and ruined all those little tiny bones or whatever we have in our ankles.

It required extremely delicate surgery by a very highly specialized orthopedic surgeon.

We do not know what can happen in just a moment as the OP said. Sometimes it comes from someone on the outside and sometimes from ourselves.

I can very well imagine something like this happening to a tourist who is rushing and or not paying attention.

Posted by
6384 posts

VAP, thank you for sharing this with us. What an amazing story. Congratulations on your victory, and thank you so much for making us a tiny part of it.

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5144 posts

VAP, your story of determination is truly an inspiration. I hope you will have many more rewarding trips in the future.

Although nowhere as traumatic as your terrible accident, I'm in the rehab process too, from a back injury a couple of months ago. Walking outside now, with our Canadian winter upon us, has become problematic. So I'm off to the local Y today go get a membership that will let me get my walking done on a treadmill. The goal will be to manage the walking and standing necessary on our tour of Egypt and Jordan in Jan and Feb. So far I've been able to manage a kilometre (with some hills) in 25 minutes. If I can boost my endurance to an hour, and not be in pain at the end, I'll consider it a success. Your story is just the boost I've needed to keep on trying.

Thank you so much for posting your trip report.

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5067 posts

I was prepared for it to be my last, but it is not and there will be more.

Glad you made it, and I'll drink to your plan to do many more trips. Just keep on keeping on!

Posted by
14291 posts

Oh wow! Thank you for sharing your story from the accident to rehab to victory!

I think you made some extremely wise choices for your first visit back. Re-visiting locations where you have some familiarity is something I enjoy anyway but in your instance made so much sense! I love that the blacksmith remembered you!

I think you also did well to take cabs when it was the better choice although you knew how to do public transit. Sometimes you need to preserve your energy.

I'm sure you are back to planning for your next venture!

Posted by
442 posts

Thank you, very much, for such a thorough and inspirational trip report!

Posted by
2744 posts

What an inspiration you are, and what an amazing trip! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. I loved reading it. Best wishes for many more trips in your future!

Posted by
1470 posts

Thank you VAP for your inspiration! I had a hip replacement this past July and was thinking there was no chance that I would be able to travel internationally again. I had 2 months of rehab and I am now returning to chair Yoga. I had been doing yoga for 10 years before; which I believe helped me to regain balance. I still have some paranoid fears of falling; but I did learn to use trek poles for faster walking on trails and city sidewalks. Meanwhile, I always take my wooden cane with me shopping; I stick it in the cart and it's great for opening electric doors! We do plan to do driving trips closer to home; since we realize that there are cool places to visit right here!
Bon Voyage!

Posted by
1884 posts

What an inspiring trip report. Congratulations on exceeding your goals as well as having a wonderful trip. Traveling is my passion and as I get older I always wonder if this is my last trip across 'the pond.' Whenever I get down and worried about 'can I do it' I'll read your trip report.

Posted by
7031 posts

VAP, thanks for telling us this story of your accident and courage. I can't even imagine what I would have done after something like that, so it fills me with awe that you were able to do so much and have so much perseverance. And it sounds like you had a wonderful trip! Congratulations!

Posted by
3824 posts

VAP, good heavens, we had no idea all this was happening to you!! I am so very sorry for all you went through!
Thank you for your amazing trip report. It is the story of your incredible courage, determination and inner strength.
Congratulations on a trip well done.
You were wise to visit familiar places with a couple of day trips added.
Good plan.
Congratulations on your Victory Walk over Millennium Bridge!
Best wishes to you.

Posted by
2530 posts

Thank you for sharing your story, very inspiring. And I enjoyed your interesting viewpoints on museums as a museum worker. My nephew is interested in that field of work and we got to do similar artifact handling at the British Museum last year - very cool! All the best to you as you continue your healing journey.

Posted by
724 posts

Thank you to everyone!

For whatever reason I latched onto two songs, that have an even stronger emotional meaning for me now. As I'm becoming aware and got my phone back I started texting out to friends and colleagues a YouTube link to ELO's "I'm Alive". That song got a lot of play and I'd put myself to sleep with it quite a bit. Then rehabbing and therapy there was Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down". It's all Jeff Lynne's fault.

Oh, and the Pixies's "Where is my Mind" may have got more play time to.

Posted by
8886 posts

What a journey of recovery!!!

Admirable resilience.

Thank you for sharing and reminding us all of inner strength and determination!

Bravo!!!

Posted by
486 posts

Can’t even imagine the pain you worked through! I too would use travel as a goal. Very motivational and brave story for others! Well done!