A Motorcyclist’s Worst Nightmare

Sunday September 2nd, 2007. Labor Day weekend.

As usual – my wife’s family had a cookout out on a farm in Wellington, OH. I’d had to work that day so I rode out solo on my new ’07 KTM 690 SuperMoto to be with everyone.

Just your typical leisurely weekend ride to and from your average family get-together…..at least that’s what I thought.

At around 6:15pm or so, my wife and 11 month old son left in the car. I walked to my bike, suited up, waved goodbye to everyone and pointed the front wheel towards home. As I pulled on to the road going East the sun was out – but low – in the sky behind me. I made a mental note that visibility for oncoming traffic could be an issue. I could not have known how right I was.

8 or 10 minutes up the road, I stopped in the parking lot of Crooked River Choppers to adjust my helmet and got back on the road a minute later. 20 seconds up the road was the intersection of Route 18 and Beat Rd.

I never made it through.

Technically that’s not accurate. Both my bike and I traveled through the intersection. However – we went through separately, and at very different trajectories. Remember that mental note I’d made regarding visibility for oncoming traffic and that it might be an issue? It was.

I have to trust the police report and eyewitness accounts for this next part. I have no recollection of the S10 pickup or of its driver turning left in front of me.

A motorcyclist’s worst nightmare.

Eyewitness accounts say that the bike hit the front of the truck, cartwheeled over the hood and landed on the far side about 6 feet away. I took a much different route by rolling up the hood and into the windshield. From there, I skipped off like a flat rock on a pond and flew like a rag doll over the truck, landing some 30 feet down the road near the berm, unconscious.

You may be wondering ‘How fast were you going?’ The speed limit on that road is 55mph and I tend to run 5 over, making for 60mph. Per the official report, the pickup was moving at 40mph. That creates an impact velocity of 100mph.

Motorcycle vs. Pickup, head-on at 100mph……..yyyyeah.

Near as anyone can figure, the driver of the truck turned in so late that there was simply nothing I could have done. If you ride motorcycles on the street, you know that risk can only be minimized – not eliminated. At some point when crossing an intersection you have to trust that the other guy has seen you and does the right thing.

When you look at the pictures – notice that the main point of impact is still on the bumper – not the fender. The guy had barely started his turn. No way he saw me in time. With a closing rate of 100mph, you’re converging at over 145 feet PER SECOND. Once he committed to his turn, my goose was cooked.

All I can say about the aftermath is God Bless Arai Helmets, Aerostich Suits and the rescue workers. Without them – I’d be dead. That isn’t a maybe, it’s a fact. The pictures tell that story.

Looking at the picture above, the divot with the black mark in the middle of it on the driver’s side was my head. The big hole in the middle was most likely where my elbow was damaged, and obviously where the bulk of my body hit.

Per the report, I was non-responsive at the scene for 5 to 6 minutes. Someone called 911 and rescue workers arrived. After they’d stabilized me, my unplanned impact and flight had earned me an ambulance ride and a helicopter Life Flight to Metro Health (nearest Level One Trauma center). All I remember during this period is waking up, hearing my Uncle’s voice (they’d had the misfortune of being on their way home, only to drive up to the scene and see my bike on the ground). During that brief moment of consciousness, I recall asking what was going on and if I’d hurt anyone…..and then passing back out when the answer came back ‘no’. My first helicopter ride (an $8,500 helicopter ride at that)…….and I don’t remember one second of it.

I woke up briefly coming out of the MRI machine, then again during X-rays and finally came to for the most part just before I got the stitches in my elbow.All told, the list of injuries seems short: 8 stitches in my elbow, a severely bruised left thigh and top of my right foot. No broken bones. No joint damage. But – I had suffered a severe concussion.

Now – you hear about concussions in sports a lot. Everyone talks of how serious these things can be – but you simply have NO idea how serious they are until you’ve dealt with one.

I’ve been to the Emergency Room more than a couple times in my life. I’m male – we tend to beat ourselves up at times. That last injury listed – the concussion – is the most insidious thing I have ever sustained. Even now – over 6 months later, I’m still not medically released. The dizzy spells, for the most part have subsided. My behavior has gone back to the way it was, mostly. My sleep patterns are mostly good, except for some odd dreams I never had before. I don’t fatigue quite as quickly and my night vision seems to have returned.

I think that the problem with head injuries is that you can’t SEE the damage. It isn’t always obvious. But – forget which hand you use when brushing your teeth just one time, or completely lose your temper over nothing more than a loud noise and you’ll know that all is not well with the wiring upstairs. Head injuries are spooky and something I hope you never have to experience.

Prognosis? It appears that I’ll make as full a recovery as anyone can ask for. I may not be able to ride roller coasters ever again (which stinks, because I LOVE them). Some residual effects will no doubt be present forever. But – I’m here, I’m healthy and I’ve (apparently) got the same number of marbles I started with.

I’ll ride again – and I’ll ride again soon. That may not make sense to people, and that’s understandable. I’ll not make such macho comments as “Its just in my blood” or “its part of me” in an attempt to deflect. I enjoy the crap out of riding and always knew that something like this (or worse) could happen. For that matter, it could happen again.

So be it.

Much to my wife’s credit – she always expected me to ride again. Even before I knew myself. The day after the accident someone asked her if she’d let me ride again. Her response was simple: “If he’d been in a car and the same thing had happened, would you expect him not to drive again? Of course not. So yes, he’ll ride again.”

I love my wife.

I realize that she’ll worry more, at least for a little while. But she has been an absolute Godsend during this time. As I’ve said many times before – marrying Vicki was the single best decision I have ever made in my Life.

Looking ahead, the new Arai is on order, and I’ll be calling Aerostich in the very near future to have another Roadcrafter suit built. I’ve still got my trusty SV650s, and my eye on a 2008 Triumph Speed Triple. Spring is just around the corner.


2 Responses to “A Motorcyclist’s Worst Nightmare”

  1. Magpie Says:

    Thanks Ruefus. For having the sense to wear your gear, for being honest with us, your wife, yourself. Though we have only met face to face a small handful of times, I count you as a friend and am so glad we will have the opportunity to ride together again. See you at the Rally, if not before…

  2. Hezz Says:

    Wow. Thanks for taking the time to write it down, hopefully I’ll only ever live out this scenario by reading your journal of it. Ride safe mano.

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