That Fateful Day

Two years ago today was a typical Tuesday. I had a lot of work to do at the office and I was looking forward to another productive day.

The weather was mild and dry. Great day for my six-mile commute to work via Harley!

I dressed in business casual attire, and selected a favorite pair of black Chippewa harness boots to wear to work.

I entered the garage, opened the door, and felt …

… the cool air rush in. I took a deep breath and thought, “another great day for a ride!”

Because the air temperature was in the low 60s (17C), I pulled on a pair of thick leather chaps, gloves, and selected my Rev’IT ballistic neon yellow jacket. After all, it was still dark at 0450 that morning. That bright color will help me be seen. Plus, the jacket is super-comfortable and well-ventilated, so I was thinking that I can unzip the vents for the ride home when temperatures were forecast to rise to the low 80s (27C).

I put my lunch in the TourPak, strapped on my SuperSEER helmet, adjusted my clear protective eyewear, gently started the engine, then rolled off.

Four miles later and just two miles from my destination… I was hit by someone who misjudged a blinking traffic signal for one that was changing to red. She overreacted and stopped short, but her evasive action put her right in my path. She knocked me down.

In an instant, I was sliding downhill. I never lost consciousness, but was bewildered, “What’s happening?” “Where is my bike? “Why am I not on it?” “Why am I sliding?”

When the force of the impact and going down transferred into kinetic energy, the energy caused me to slide. The most fortunate thing about this long, long, bewildering slide down that hill in the middle of a six-lane highway was that the ballistic nylon of my jacket did what it was designed to do… and I slid instead of coming to an abrupt and body-damaging abrasive stop (and roll). A cop said that my forward motion was probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 25mph (40 kmh). I slid about 300 feet (90m) before my body came to rest. “Slide marks” on the road proved it.

I never rolled. I pretty much stayed on my left side and back, head, hands and feet in the air. The back and left side of my jacket took the brunt of the road’s friction from asphalt.

Turns out that I also broke three ribs as I hit my left side very hard when I went down, but I had no other injuries. No concussion — my helmet worked. No abrasions — my gloves, chaps, and jacket worked. No eye injuries — my eyewear worked. Everything designed to protect me actually did.

But I crashed! I actually, for the first time in riding for more than 30 years — crashed!

I have much to be grateful for. Everyone driving on that road in the area where the crash happened stopped and several good Samaritans rushed to my side. A fire department with trained EMTs was just two blocks away and were on scene almost immediately. A county cop was on scene in less than two minutes, followed by at least three more shortly thereafter. A fully-equipped ambulance with highly trained and qualified paramedics was on scene in less that five minutes.

I was tended to well. My situation and injuries were quickly assessed. The cops, firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics all said things like how surprised they were about how un-injured I appeared to be.

Several firefighters lifted my bike and got it off the road. A firefighter from that nearby firehouse rode my Harley to the station. Two friends collected my bike and rode it home for me.

While my visit to a local hospital’s emergency room was less than admirable, I was examined and treated for my injuries okay. I just was badly mistreated personally because I am married to a man.

What did I learn from this?

1. Even in highly-populated, rush-to-work urban areas, people will stop to help, and are caring and considerate.

2. We have a top-notch first response system in the county of my birth and of my lifetime home. (Disclaimer: I am a Life Member of my local volunteer fire department, so I am indeed a bit biased.)

3. While you have to get back up on your iron horse IF you are going to keep riding, you do not have to ride when you feel less safe. That’s why I no longer ride when it is dark. I know at my age that I do not see as well as I used to, and that also applies to the aging population of cage drivers around me.

4. There is a reason why they call thick nylon “ballistic.” It can take a pounding, not tear, and absorb shock.

5. Helmets actually work. If I did not wear a helmet, I probably would have died in this crash. I can see where my head hit the pavement by the indentation and damage on the helmet I was wearing.

6. Chaps and gloves work, too. I can see where the leather on the chaps and gloves that I was wearing that fateful morning was shredded and abraded — but better cow skin than my own skin!

7. ATGATT isn’t just a phrase, it is a way of life. (All The Gear, All The Time!)

8. Admittedly, I am much more timid about riding my Harley. I give great credit and additional thank yous to my local riding buddies who I know will keep me safe, and also HUGE and ongoing thanks to my friend “S” who went with me on our Crazy-Awesome Motorcycle Adventure in Utah last summer. If I didn’t have that experience to renew my skills and commitment — who knows, but I may have given up riding. So to “S”: I give a tip of my helmet once again for really getting me back up on my iron horse. Thank you!

Life is short: learn and apply life lessons and live to ride!

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