Friday, July 28, 2006

Today's sky report

Today's sky report should be more appropriately labeled, "Today's Pavement Report", for it was 5 years ago today that I crashed my motorcycle.  It was a bike I had grown to love, a 1996 Honda ST1100.  The ST stood for sport tourer, although I rebadged it "Sport Tank".  While bigger and heaver than any bike that has a right be called a sport bike, it none-the-less could carve a corner far faster than my abilities would allow. And it would happily tour all day, having taken me on a couple of long and fast trips to Canada.

I wish I could say there was weather to blame for my crash, but it was a beautiful, fairly cool and dry Friday in late July.  I was unemployed and decided to do a little "networking" with a former co-worker in ManchVegas.  I'm thankful that it was somewhat cool, as I was wearing my leather jacket.  I will never ride without my helmet, but on the hottest days, I will shed the leather (or what I wear now, my Aerostitch riding suit).  As I was riding east, my low fuel light came on shortly after Exit 5.  On Rt 101, there are no gas stations at exit 4 and nothing right at exit 3, either.  I knew there was one being built at Exit 2, but I wasn't sure if it was open yet.  On several previous trips past that exit, it appeared as if the gas station was nearing completions, so I decided to exit the highway to investigate.

I hit the exit ramp, carrying a good deal of highway speed.  There was no cloverleaf and the exit ran off at an angle from the highway.  I was being very attentive to the condition of the gas station.  I was not being very attentive to the road.  In order to make the angled exit square up to an intersection at the end of the exit ramp, it took a bend to the left.  As I looked back at the road from my investigation, I realized I probably wasn't going to make that bend.  In a classic motorcycling mistake, I clamped hard on the brakes and leaned (left).  The wheels locked up, which took away any steering ability I might have otherwise had, and the bike washed out to the left, in this case a "low side". 

To this day, I still have a mental image of parts of the accident.  I remember hitting my shoulder.  I remember thinking "oh shit".  I remember the bike sliding away from me.  I remember "watching" the bike hit the curb and  I remember parts flying in the air.  I don't remember hitting the curb.  I remember coming to rest on the shoulder of the road. I was quickly on my knees while I pulled off my helmet and tossed my sunglasses to the side in anger.  I tried to stand up and thought, "I'd better take another couple of minutes on my knees".  I finally got up and went over to the bike which had found it's way back over to the side of the road; I think the curb had flipped it up and it rolled from the shoulder area forward to the road.  I tried to pick it up by my left arm wasn't cooperating.  Another biker was coming along the street under the highway and he stopped to help.  We got the bike up, but I still wasn't very much help.  After that, I began to realize that maybe I had hurt myself.  Another car came along, and eventually a police cruiser.  For some reason, they all kept telling me to sit down. 

Soon it was "yahoo holiday" in Candia.  Someone had called 911 and every (both) emergency vehicle in town showed up.  I was able to get the cell phone from my bike and call my lunch appointment, telling him that I wasn't going to make it because I had had an accident with my bike.  I then called my wife and told her she might want to join me at Exit 2 since my bike wasn't drivable.  When she showed up, she was immediately freaked out because there were two ambulances on the scene (one couldn't do transport), a couple of police cars and a few volunteer vehicles with light racks.

She followed me to the hospital.  Whiling away the hours in the emergency room, I got the preliminary diagnosis of a broken collarbone, but they needed to take some x-rays to confirm.  Unfortunately, a female Godzilla was manning the x-ray machine that day.  While trying to place me "just so" under the machine, she was pulling and pushing me around.  I was swearing and then apologizing for swearing and then swearing some more.  As she looked at the results, she said, "I think I see a cracked rib, but they didn't authorize me to take any more pictures".  I pretty sure I was glad she was done with me.

Back in the ER, an angel of mercy finally found me and asked if I had gotten any pain medications.  I said no but I wouldn't mind getting some.  She brought morphine, which was kind of interesting.  I hurt, I knew I hurt, but I didn't care.  And it was a good thing I didn't care, because when they came back and said they needed another x-ray of the broken rib, I might have hit someone.  As it turns out, they decided I could use the stand up chest x-ray machine.  Much to my delight and surprise, the x-ray technician for that machine was the complete opposite of Godzilla.  Not only did she show concern every time my face flinched in pain, she had the face of an angel.

For all that fun, diagnosis and medicine, there's nothing you can really do for a broken rib or collar-bone.  Today, I have a jagged left shoulder but there's no pain or limitation of movement.  It serves as a reminder of my accident.  A reminder that helps me remember that my own stupidity and inattention create a higher likelihood of an accident than any other situation I'll encounter while riding.


Heidi said...

gee, i wish my husband shared your attitude about 'inattention' regarding his last motorcycle accident. he had a majorly dislocated shoulder, roadrash and a broken rib. needless to say he doesn't ride anymore.

carpoolguy said...

I'm back riding, wiser for the incident. I'm trying to anticipate road conditions and other drivers better, and I wear more protection. But the bottom line is that there are two types of motorcycle riders: those that have crashed and those that will.