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Motorcycle Accident

damaged bike

I bought a motorcycle about five years ago. My mother said "It's too dangerous. You'll get in a crash and die." I said that I knew several people who have been riding motorcycles for years without incident. I knew what I wanted and nothing was going to stop me. I was young and enthralled with speed so it seemed like the thing to do. A neighbor had a red Honda Hawk that I liked so thought I would get one too. It was fairly difficult to find one. Honda only made this bike for three years, from 89 to 91. It immeadiatley became a classic amongst the community and developed a huge following. It is a "cafe" style bike according to my friend Dave who knows more about bikes that most humans. I still haven't figured out what that means though.
  I asked Dave's dad Richard to teach me how to ride. After a brief tour of the controls he gave me the one and only lesson: "Hop on and go around the block a few times then drive home. Try not to crash." Great. Dave agreed to come along on his dad's bike so that he could call for help when I crashed and burned. I climbed up on the back of this beast and started her up. I almost fell over trying to walk it down the driveway. I almost fell over trying to get started. Dave said I was being to light on the throttle, I need to give it more juice. Determined to get it right this time I gave the throttle a good turn and let the clutch out quick-style. The bike surged ahead with great acceleration. I was literally hanging on for my life. I finally got the presence of mind to pull in the clutch and let go of the throttle. Whew. I turned around to look for for Dave and found him right behind me laughing hysterically. The night continued in much the same way. After an hour or two I was ready to navigate my way home. Dave followed me again, and I made it in one piece.
  Every night after work for the next few weeks I would take the bike out into the surrounding neighborhoods and practice. This was time a time of pure enjoyment. There is something so fluid & dynamic about riding a motorcycle. It is as if the bike is alive. It strains at the bit wanting to fly ahead and race down the road. It flows like water around corners like it knows where it is going. All the while you feel the deep throaty roar of the engine and playing of the wind across your body. It can be a very powerful experience, almost hypnotic. I can see how so many people fall in love and devote their lives to riding damage to the right sidemotorcycles.
  After awhile I felt ready to go anywhere I pleased. So I decided to take a day trip out around the Palos Verdes peninsula. I woke up early on a Saturday morning, put on all my gear and headed down the road. I had never ridden in heavy traffic on highways and major roads before. It was then that I discovered the fundamental problem with riding a motorcycle; people in cars will try to kill you every minute that you are on the road. They don't see you and don't care about you when they do see you. People are mostly idiots when they get behind the wheel. That's not a problem when you have two and a half tons of finely crafted American steel between you and the other guy, but when your protection is 18 ounces of Tiajuana leather it can be down right deadly. Other drivers will turn left right in front of you. They will change lanes right into you, pull into traffic from a side street right in front of you, cut you off, run stop signs in front of you, ride your tail about 1 foot back. They will dilberatly try to keep you from changing lanes to get around them. They will open doors in front of you to keep you from slot riding. It is unbelievable until you experience it yourself. I had a lot of fun any way but I was still a bit shaken up when I got home. I was planning on riding from Long Beach to Costa Mesa, about 30 miles, on Monday morning and I hoped it would be better with the morning work crowd. I was wrong. The morning work crowd is in way more of a hurry than the Saturday old-people-out-for-a-cruise crowd. By the time I got to work I had been almost killed 10 times. I shook my head and told myself that I would get used to it.
  After about six months of riding almost every day I was feeling pretty confident. I could handle my bike well and had developed a "sixth sense" for spotting people trying to kill me. I had discovered just how maneuverable a motorcycle can be and was fairly adept at avoiding idiots. It was still kind of scary sometimes but I was used to it. On a bright Saturday morning I went down to Second street to hang out at a cafe. It was a nice morning and went by quickly. Around noon I decided to head home. I pulled out of the parking lot and was immeadiatley forced on to the sidewalk by some guy changing lanes right into me. No problem, flip him the bird, get off the sidewalk and continue on my way. At the next light some ass turned left right in front of me. I layed the bike sideways and missed him by about six inches. I shook my head and continued on my way. I was in a fairly large group of cars on a four lane road, this is usually a bad place to be so I accelerated a bit to get out of the traffic. Some ass thought that it was inappropriate for me to break away from traffic so he speeds way up, passes me doing 80, pulls into the lane in front of me and hits the brakes. I swerved violently to the right, barley missed the curb and just scrapped by him. I was visibly shaking at this point. I was headed downhill at around 55 mph in the far right hand lane. Just as I entered the next intersection some ditzy chick turned right from the side street right into my lane. Unfortunately for me the asshole that had cut me off had sped back up and was right next to me on my left side. I couldn't go to the right as I would have hit a group of pedestrians on the corner and then plowed into a building. With no other option, I dumped in the whole throttle and aimed for the small ,closing hole between the asshole's right front fender and the ditzy chick's left rear fender. I blew through the hole at about 85 mph with about 4 inches on either side. The asshole must have realized that he almost killed me, and cut across three lanes of traffic, made a u-turn and high tailed it out of there. The chick just looked shocked and confused. I followed her to the next stop light and pulled up next to her. I banged on her window asked what in the hell she was thinking. She said "Sorry, I didn't see you" and sped off. I drove home very slowly and parked the bike in the driveway. There it has sat for the last four and a half years. I decided that riding a motorcycle is just too dangerous.
close up of damage
I haven't put in effort into selling the bike, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I would take the bike out for a quick spin around the block every six months to keep the carburetor from gumming up. It was uneventful and sad. One day my friend Yury asked how much I wanted for the bike. You don't want it I told him, it's too dangerous, especially up in Westwood where you live. He was unconvinced. A few weeks later, on a Saturday, while he was down here for the day, I decided to take the bike out for its six month ride. I started the bike and put on all my safety gear. "Why are you putting all that on?" asked Yury. "Do you really need it?" I told him that you never know when some idiot is going to try to kill you. I hopped on the bike and went around the block. On the last leg of the trip the inevitable happened. Some guy pulled off to the right side of the road like he was going to park, no turn signal though. Suddenly he turned left off the shoulder into a driveway and the other side of the road. He was driving a huge 1970's Chevy Suburban. It blocked the entire road, from one side to the other. There would be no fancy maneuver around this one. I hit the brakes and hoped for the best. Luck was not with me that day. The brakes locked up. There was no way to stop in time. I figured if I was still on the bike when it hit that 3.5 ton monster that I'd be in a world of hurt. I decided to take my chances with the road. I laid the bike down on its side and jumped. I hit the pavement doing about 25 mph. My judo training came in handy and I remembered to tuck my chin down and hold my arms and legs in. I flipped through the air a few times and tumbled about sixty feet down the road. The bike flipped over a few times and smacked into the back of his truck. I came to rest about six feet from the side of his truck. I lay there for a few moments while the damage reports filtered in from all the parts of my body. After a few minutes I got to my feet and went to see the damage. The bike was in surprisingly good shape, as was his truck. I was hurt but not feeling it yet. I was not carrying any insurance on the bike nor was the registration current and I had let my license lapse. (I figured I would not need any of those things since I didn't ride any more.) I didn't want the police involved as I figured there would hit me with some sort of fine for ridding without a license or insurance. I told the guy it was my fault to keep the police out of it. He seemed to know that it was his fault but was willing to play along. He was a very nice and caring guy. He was very interested in my well being. We exchanged information, he helped me pick up my bike and I walked home.
  Luckily Yury is an RN and a great guy. He helped me to bandage all my wounds and drove to the store several times for more supplies. He took me out to run and errand and to lunch at a great place in Seal Beach. He stuck with me for hours making sure that I was all right and taking care of my injuries. I was very thankful to have such a wonderful friend. He still wants to have the bike though. :-)

It has been over a week now and I'm healing nicely. My girlfriend has been taking great care of me. She is a real trooper. So what kind of injuries did I get? I took a huge chunk of skin off my back where my leather jacket rode up, all the skin off my left forearm where the jacket rode up, all the skin off both knees, badly bruised both knees, badly bruised my right hip, sprained my left shoulder, sprained my right wrist and badly sprained and tore some ligaments in my right ankle. Not too bad. I am one of there very few people who have survived a motorcycle accident, let alone walked away from it.

What lessons did I learn?

Update - Jan 2001

I am as fully recovered as I will ever be. The scars have mostly faded. The damage to my right ankle was a bit more severe that it seemed. I have some permanent scar tissue & reduced mobility in the joint. It also aches if held in the wrong position for more than a few moments or after any significant walking. Yury, thankfully, has decided not to buy a motorcycle.