Posts Tagged ‘accident’

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My existence on this earth that Sunday morning. In a flash, it was almost over.  

Before I knew what was happening, my entire world was upended and I was sliding down the pavement under an oncoming car. My bike, wrecked. There’s not much more I can say about those critical few moments because, I just don’t know. This is what I remember:

I left my house around 2pm to go get some carb cleaner. You see, I had this finicky type generator that I had been neglecting all year and with winter not so far away I thought this Sunday morning would be a good time to get the oil changed and clean out the air filter and carburetor. I spent most of the morning working on that and when I finally realized I needed to go to the store, I got cleaned up, put on my gear like I do for every ride, and set out. It was a beautiful afternoon. Aside from the usual trouble spots, the roads were surprisingly not crowded and I enjoyed a spirited ride down one of my favorite cut throughs.  Point A to Point B, all as planned. Just like every ride. 

With the carb cleaner acquired, standing in the Pep Boys parking lot, I put the can in my pack and my helmet on. Out of the corner of my eye I watched a husband and wife ride by on matching Harleys not wearing helmets, or any sort of protective clothing. Shorts, flip flops and a prayer. I shook my head and let out a quiet snort of derision as I snapped the strap closed and started the engine. I could never understand how people can be so lax about their safety. I suppose they think it will never happen to them. 

But I digress. 

The plan for the rest of the day was to get the carb cleaned out, run a 10k in preparation for the Half this weekend and then have my parents over for dinner. You could say I had a pretty solid Sunday lined up. 

Most of the way home was quiet. I reached the main road through town which was predictably packed with people visiting the apple orchards and farm stands. I always expect the worst from these folks and I’m usually not surprised. I navigated through the confusion and made my way up to the one stop light in town. I stopped at the light for a little longer than normal, presumably adjusting something, and then rolled through the intersection. 

What happened next isn’t entirely clear. There was a car in front of me and the speed seemed normal for the road. Not too fast, not too slow. The last thing I clearly remember is riding up the steep hill just a couple minutes from home. 

Then, it was kind of like floating in a dream, only it was more like a nightmare. I saw things happening and I thought, “Man that would really suck if it were real.” What I saw were flashes of my accident. 

The car in my lane way too late. 

“Oh Shit.” Grabbing a fistful of brake. 

Hitting the ground. 

On my feet screaming at the driver to call 911. 

My bike visibly damaged, laying on its side on the side of the road. 

Finally, reality started to piece back together as I lay on the side of the road. The first thing I remember feeling was a woman holding my right hand. 

“I’m alive,” I heard myself say. It sounded like a question. And then, “My wife is gonna be pissed.” 

“No she’s not,” the woman said, “she’s going to be happy you’re alive.”

That’s right because, I am still alive. 

Then, as though she was never there at all, this mystery woman (read ‘witness’ to those without a concussion) was gone and I was placed into the capable hands of the local first responders. From my stretcher, I saw a lot of faces with a lot of different names. I spoke to the police, fire and emt crews that came out, all of whom helped me piece together the last thirty tumultuous minutes of my life.

After giving out my emergency contact information, I watched one of the firefighters call my wife. I can not adequately describe how awful that felt. She’d had to deal with so much. It wasn’t fair that she should have to get that call. 

“I’m alive.” I said again. Making sure it was real. 

“Yeah buddy, you’re alive,” one of the faces said, “and you’re pretty lucky.”

Later that night in the emergency room, the police officer that responded to the scene, called my wife to fill her in on what happened. He told her that the driver said he “thought he had time” to cut in front of me, initiated his turn and when he saw he couldn’t make it, he stopped, right in front of me. Before hanging up, the officer also told her that her husband was “tough as nails,” because apparently, after sliding up to my chest under the car, I pulled myself out. I have no memory of this. 

Tough as nails. 

If I ever wanted to be described as something to someone, it would be like that. I know it was all reflex and instinct but I’d like to think that there must have been some part of me refusing to accept death as an option that forced me to get out from under that car. After the fact I feel pretty proud of that survival instinct, although I’m not sure I can take credit for it. I stared death square in the face that afternoon and somehow managed to walk away. My injuries, relatively minor: a little road rash on my left knee and some other bruises and abrasions. I am battered and sore, but I am not dead. Lucky is right. 

A little over a week later, I finally worked up the nerve to go see my Bonneville before it got towed away. I wanted to say goodbye. I suppose that may sound silly to some, but I suspect other riders might understand. At any rate, we got to the garage too late in the afternoon and they had closed for the day. My wife called the next day and found it had been towed earlier that morning. My heart sank as I overheard the conversation, but as she said, maybe it’s best to remember the adventures and not how it was after the crash. She is, as always, quite right. In life, my 2014 Triumph Bonneville was an amazing motorcycle. In the 16 months and 5500 miles that I had it, it took me on some pretty epic adventures. I shall miss it terribly. 

And now for the sixty-four million dollar question. Will I ride again? The truth is that, for me, riding motorcycles is probably over. As much as I loved motorcycling, and the person I’ve become as a result of those experiences, after looking at the fear and shock on the faces of my family, it’s hard to do decide to go back to something that would possibly put them through that again. They all indulged my desire to ride and had faith that my planning and preparedness would protect me if the worst should happen, and I am grateful for that. Most importantly, now a few years later, I have a little man to think about and I can’t have him growing up without a dad because a pizza delivery guy got impatient. I loved riding, but there’s really no contest there. 

The gear:

Helmet: Shoei Neotec with Sena Bluetooth Communicator

Jacket: Dianese Crono Textile with Back Protector

Gloves: First Gear Rush Mesh

Pants: Scorpion Covert Jeans 

Boots: Alpinestars Oscar Monty

Backpack: 5.11 Tactical Rush 12

Individually these items all did their jobs and saved my life. Before my accident, and now more than ever, I am a vocal advocate for riding with the appropriate gear. Life is far too short and too precious to take unnecessary risks. That’s not to say we shouldn’t participate in things that might be dangerous. We should just show the proper amount of respect. 

All the gear, all the time. No exceptions. 

Ride safe.

21 Days Later

Posted: November 30, 2015 in Life, Moto
Tags: , ,


Note: on September 27, 2015 I was involved in a serious motorcycle accident with another vehicle that totaled my much loved Triumph Bonneville and nearly killed me. I have a post written that chronicles that event but I’m waiting to publish it due to pending legal action. I wrote this three weeks later:

Today I put on the boots of a guy that should be dead. That guy is me, and the boots are my Alpinestars Oscar Montys. 

Let’s just stop and think about that for a minute. I should be dead. It’s a funny thing when the thing you love nearly kills you. I’ve been mulling that over for the last few weeks. I’ve spent the time since my accident resting and healing and tying to come to terms with the fact that I had a one percent chance of surviving that scenario and somehow managed to make it out alive. Talk about beating to odds.

Anyway, I had been meaning to write some short reviews of the gear that saved my life, and today I finally got around to it. I took a few pictures and for the first time since before the crash I put my hands on those pieces. Everything is trashed except my boots. They’re scuffed up to be sure, but are otherwise in good shape. So, I decided to clean them up and put them back on. Why? 

Because fuck you cosmos, I’m still alive.

Ahem… Let’s move on.

Now that the shock has (mostly) worn off and the wounds are healing, I’m left with questions that have no obvious answers. The most asked question of me recently is, will I ride again? The more existential questions like, Why am I still alive? Should I be living my life differently now? Should I ride again? These questions are harder, and have no real answers.

Great post, Matt.

I know, right?

I’ll start with the question everyone seems to want an answer to: will I ride gain? I just don’t know. Most people I know assume that once you’ve been nearly killed doing something, you would never again want to take part in whatever it was that nearly killed you. It does sound logical, doesn’t it? Remove the threat from the equation and voila, one less way to die. I get it. Immediately after the accident I was sure I would never ride again. Twenty-one days later, that answer seems less certain. In finishing my article on the Mt. Washington adventure, I got to relive some of those moments, and was reminded of what motorcycling had become for me, and why it had become such an important part of my life. What started out as a passing interest developed into a passion and eventually a new way to have adventures, not just a different way to get to the store. When that was taken from me three weeks ago, the loss I felt…. feel… is palpable. Not just the loss of my Bonneville, but the loss of those future adventures. There were many things I had yet to do.

So, why would I be willing to accept all that risk again? Because fuck you cosmos? No, we covered that with the boots. The reason to buy another motorcycle is personal, and I think only other people who have had similar experiences might understand. The adventure I found on two wheels in the last few years, has done a lot for my soul. Spending a day exploring roads on the map that “look like they might be fun” provided me an opportunity to put aside what ever troubles I might have had and be present in a different moment. Even if that moment was fleeting. Giving up motorcycling means giving up those moments.

The reasons for not riding should not be surprising: It’s dangerous, I almost died, the accident was hard on my family, I almost died, my local friends would not support me in buying another bike, and that means the risk of alienating them, and also, I almost died. Those things are all legitimate. I don’t really expect those friends to understand, and it definitely makes a decision to buy another bike seem selfish. I am fortunate, however, to have a supportive family. Not one of them, including my wife, has told me that I can’t ride motorcycles again. I mean, I know that I’m all growns up, but it was nice for me to hear them say that if I wanted to buy another bike in the spring, that would be ok. It’s a kindness I’m not sure I deserve.

Why am I still alive? Right now I’m going with the Seven P’s: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. I planned for the crash, ergo I survived the crash. It’s a very simple way of looking at things, but right now it’s the best I can do

Should I be living my life differently? This one is heavy. It sort of makes me thing about what I would want people to say about me if I hadn’t survived. He was kind to people? He loved his family? He loved his dog? He was a good friend? I would hope that I have lived a life worthy those compliments. I know that I’m not the easiest guy in the world to know sometimes, and I can be….. less than flexible about some things. So as I’m trying to find meaning in this survival story, perhaps I can use this opportunity to work on those flaws.

You can see, I have a lot to think about.

As I said, the answers aren’t obvious. So until I can figure them out, these boots are staying in the rotation as a reminder to be kind to people, love my family and my dog, and try harder to be a good friend. I guess that all any of us can do.