Okay. Calm in a crisis. Yup. Always have been. The most harrowing was while on a motorcycle trip with my husband, the second year I had been riding -July, 2004.
At the close of a magnificent day of riding in beautiful West Virginia, I “dumped it” on an unexpectedly tight right turn. We were on the last leg of a big, lazy circuit, heading back to the lodge at Blackwater Falls. The locals call the curve “Wild Maggie,” and it is apparently a common place for crashes. But usually folks crash going DOWN the hill. I wrecked going uphill. I was leading and feeling confident. Just having too much fun.
It was a long, straight, easy, grade, and I got focused on pushing my bike up the hill, forgetting to think beyond what I could see. I never saw the posted “20 mph” sign for the curve. I must have glanced at my speedometer as I whizzed past it. Next, I looked up to see one of those helpful yellow arrow signs pointing the way to the right.
I eased off the throttle a little, turned my head, and began to lean into the curve. Then, my stomach clenched as I suddenly realized that this turn was far sharper than I’d anticipated, and I was going far faster than my nerves were comfortable with. I was going to run into the other lane. (My husband got to watch helplessly as it all unfolded.)
As a relatively unseasoned rider, I then began doing what I’d learned in the BRC: “Straighten. Then brake.” It might have worked. But, coming at me around the next curve, was an 18 wheeler. And he was over the centerline by two feet. The shiny metal grill looked as big as a garage door.
For an instant, I considered leaning harder, but discounted that. I didn’t have the confidence to try it. And the consequences of failing would surely put me under the truck’s wheels. It seemed that I had enough room to cross in front of the truck to the opposite shoulder. But the gravel covered shoulder was, well, gravel covered, with a deep ditch beyond. Beyond that, rose the side of a steep, weed and brush covered hillside. I chose that.
I chose, and headed for the gravel and weeds on the outside of the turn. I was uncertain that I could stop between getting across the truck’s path and the side of the hill. In retrospect, I’m ashamed to admit that in my moment of panic, I probably “laid it down” intentionally. At the time, it seemed better to follow the bike into the hillside, not the other way around.
I slid across the lane, up the hill, my bike on my right leg. I remember the WHOOOSH of the truck’s wheels past me, as I slid. I have no doubt that I disappeared from the trucker’s line of sight, I was so close to the cab of the truck.
I came to a stop, and lay still a few seconds, waiting for the ‘starriness’ to dissapate from my whomping my helmeted head. I assessed myself: It seemed that all my parts were still attached and essentially intact. There was hot pain in my right knee, but it didn’t feel severe (I’ve broken bones before). I heard the sound of the truck braking, stopping. My husband’s voice, calling my name as he stopped his bike.
I sat up slowly, and pulled off my helmet. I hollered to my husband query that I was okay. I turned and could see him on the opposite shoulder, near his bike. He already had his cell phone out. The trucker, 60 ish in a plaid shirt, was huffing uphill toward me. He turned pale when he saw me pull off my helmet. Perhaps in relief. Maybe that I was a woman.
I will NEVER ever regret spending the big bucks on BMW gear. If I had been wearing jeans, or even “cheap” leather, I’m convinced that my right kneecap would have been disintegrated from sliding 50 feet beneath the bike, and I’d be sticking to hospital sheets in Elkins or another trauma center now. Not sure my Joe Rocket gear would have done half as well.
The CE armor in my BMW Airflow 2 jacket and ‘zip off’ Summer pants, saved my bones from serious damage. The damage: a hole the size of a plum in the right pant knee, and a melted stripe on the left ankle. My right jacket shoulder was scuffed with road grime and there is a tiny hole on the right elbow of the jacket – the only place I have actual ‘rash’ – but that was from the edge of an elbow pad.
Physically, my right knee looked like an over stuffed bag of rocks within several hours, but Xrays showed nothing broken. It felt like someone very large and angry stomped on my right calf. I had a hyper-extension hairline fracture in the hyphoid bone of my left hand. Probably got my thumb hooked against the handgrip as I went down.
Then, two years ago (again, on my motorcycle – a bigger one, the one in my avatar), I remained calm as I hit a piece of pulpwood that “appeared” out from under a car… while doing 75 miles per hour, in heavy traffic. Dented and opened a 4″ crack in the cast aluminium wheel. But I stayed upright and was able to pull out of the travel lanes.REPORT ABUSE