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“I’m Not Dead Yet!”

Damn, it’s been awhile since I posted, hasn’t it? It’s almost like I’ve been so busy riding that I didn’t have time to post, right? Okay, we’ll go with that, it’s better than the actual truth, which is a tale rife with TV and cheetos and that kind of stuff.

So. Anyway. As I’m posting this here entry, I’m in Guatemala City, Guatemala. I’m down here for work. Again. It’s my third time down here this year — and it wasn’t until I typed those words that I realized that, “Damn! Three times? In a YEAR? I need a new job!” They send me to the Philippines a lot, too. It sounds cooler than it is, trust me.

But given a choice between the Philippines and Guatemala, I choose Guatemala every time. Why? CATours. They do “motorcycle bike adventure tours in Guatemala,” and it makes all this travel worth it. They rent you a little two-stroke dirtbike like a Yamaha 175, provide helmet and knee-guards, and then they show you around Guatemala. Really fucking cool. I can’t believe I haven’t talked about them here before, but it looks like I haven’t.

This is my third trip down here, like I said, and I’ve gone out for a ride with them each time. Last time I was here I did their “Dirt River Tour,” which was a mostly off-road asskicking day for a Harley guy like me, but a ton of fun. It was kind of like getting into S&M — you need a safe word in case the “hurts so good” starts to hurt a little too bad — and I almost said the safe word a couple of times. I have just about zero off-road experience and we rode through rougher terrain than I would have thought I could handle, but I survived and loved it.

This time around I did the same tour I did my first time down here — the “Village Tour,” which is a mostly paved road excursion through several local villages. There’s some dirt roads, but it’s really easy riding. It’s mostly a looky-loo tour, but it’s really cool to see a foreign country from the seat of a motorcycle.

This time around I had a little video camera with me, a Flip video kind of thing, and I jammed it into my helmet so I could film some of the riding. I’ve posted it to Youtube and I’ll link to it below.

And with that… I don’t have much else to say. Stay tuned, maybe I’ll check in again sometime.

From the Dirt River tour on my last trip down, this is me crossing a river and nearly dumping it:

And here’s two videos from this trip on the Village Tour:

Same Time Next Year

Today’s the anniversary of the get-off that landed me in the hospital last year, so I figured I should check in with a progress report.

All things considered, I’m doing really well. My ankle is still stiff and painful when I first start moving, but it’s just fine once I get it warmed up. In fact, I’ve started running on the treadmill to try to drop some of the weight I put back on after losing 30 pounds on my “crash diet.” The ankle is really the only remaining physical issue I have — everything else has healed up just fine.

Mentally, I’m still not quite there. (Ba dump bump!) Even though I don’t remember the crash, it’s still in my head enough that I’m not riding with as much confidence and aggression as I used to. I’m back to my old form while lanesplitting, but put me in the twisties in the canyons and pucker factor starts setting in. But I’m getting it back, slowly but surely. I went for a ride with some of my club guys last weekend and for the first time in a long time I was riding with the “fast” group again instead of bringing up the rear with the pussies slow guys.

And I finally went back and completed that turn that took me out. The weekend before last I went back to the crash site for the first time. The club is calling it “Two Buck Turn” now, so I signed a roadside reflector, took some pictures in the street, and actually completed the turn successfully.

So one year later I’m in pretty good shape, I’m still riding, and I’m still happy to be here. You can’t ask for more than that…

9/11 + 9

Never forget.

9/11/01.  Never forget.

Rear-End Action With The Wife

I met my wife for lunch in Marina del Rey about a week ago at Aunt Kizzy’s Back Porch (good, but it was better last time I was there in the 90’s — and bigger). Afterward, she wanted to go to have some coffee at $tarbucks, so she drove over there in her car and I followed her on my bike.

We passed a Harley dealership along the way, and you all know how it is — you have to look it over as you pass: check out the scene, see what’s parked out front, what can you see in the windows, wonder if you should go in and buy something you don’t need, like a 2010 Street Glide or something. You know, the usual. So I’m doing this as I ride by and there’s a guy pulling out of the parking lot and it looks like he’s wearing a patch, so I’m checking him out and trying to get a better look at his back to see what club he’s with.

Then I happened to glance eyes-front again and–


Traffic had stopped. Not slowed down, but stopped. Stopped dead. And because I had been so busy eyeballing the guy pulling out of the dealership to actually watch where I was going, I was coming up on all the now-parked cars waaaay too fast, and I was going to drill my wife dead-bang center in the rear. (Pun definitely intended.)


Major pucker-factor set in. I grabbed a handful of front brake, stomped down way too hard on the rear brake, locked up the rear wheel, and my rear end started kicking out to the right. I found myself skidding sideways toward certain pain.

Time stopped. Well, maybe not stopped, but it definitely slowed way the fuck down. I’ve found that whenever I get in a pucker moment like this on the bike, my mind races through all the possibilities, projecting “Here’s what’ll happen if I do this, here’s what’ll happen if I do that,” etc… I can run through a dozen possibilities in a split-second, charting out all the possible outcomes up to and including lying in hospital beds with various limbs in casts. I can even feel the pain of each potential injury. It’s a talent.

So in the first oh-shit moment of realizing that my wife was stopped dead right in front of me and I was going to, uh, “take her from behind,” I could see that it was inevitable. I played it out in my head, from grabbing all the brakes I could, to slowing down as much as physics would allow but still not nearly enough, to slamming into the rear of her car anyway, crumpling the front forks, and getting launched over the handlebars like a tubby, middle-aged, doesn’t-pay-attention-at-critical-moments rocket. There was no escaping it: I WAS going to hit her, I was going to hit her HARD, and there was nothing I could do about it. I ran through all the possibilities and they all ended with a crunching sound and me flying over the trunk and crashing through the rear window.


So I just sat there for a few interminable milliseconds, frozen, skidding toward the rear of my wife’s car with the rear wheel drifting out further and further to the right, the bike starting to want to tuck under and low-side, and I waited for the inevitable to happen in complete and utter passivity.

Then a voice spoke up in the back of my head. It told me not to be an asshole. It told me to not just be a passenger, but to DO something. “Don’t just watch it happen,” it said, “Do SOMEthing.”

Well, okay. That was solid advice. So it occurred to me that taking my foot off the rear brake so I could stop skidding sideways might be helpful. Also, steering the front wheel away from certain collision with the car could be a plus. So I did both those things.

Now, releasing the rear brake in a slide like that can have a downside: a high-side. And that’s almost what happened to me — but in a good way. When I finally got off the rear brake, the rear tire suddenly caught traction and jerked the bike upright, but just enough to get me back over the center of gravity. It also snapped me out of the drift I was in and swung the rear wheel back around behind and in line with the front wheel. And since the front wheel was now aiming around the car instead of into it, that redirected my momentum around the car. So almost high-siding worked in my favor — but I don’t recommend trying it at home.

The end result was that I missed clipping the rear bumper by maybe an inch. The way the back wheel was drifting out and then snapped back around when the tire caught traction, it was almost as though I were tracing the rear of the car. The bike straightened out just as I was about to hit, then flirted around the left corner of the bumper so closely that I thought I was going to lose my leg on it. Then I was around it and flying past my wife’s door and wondering how the hell I had missed nailing her.

I made a U-turn and circled back to pull up next to my wife, laughing like a maniac, feeling like I had just cheated death (again). When I pulled up next to her, her eyes were as big as saucers. “I’m SO sorry!” she said. “That was totally my fault!”

And that’s when I made the real mistake: I told her it was my fault and explained what happened. You’d think 15 years of marriage would have taught me not to argue, especially when I started out winning…

Lesson learned: Know when to shut up, watch where you’re going, and if you’re going to almost crash your bike after you’ve already almost killed yourself crashing your bike, don’t do it around your wife.

Back In The Saddle Again … Again

Things look different today in the cold, hard light of April 2nd. I guess I’ll keep riding after all. I figure I’ve used up all my bad luck now, so I’m golden.

Hanging It Up

This has been a rough year for me; actually, going back through the end of last year. Going down in September was a real wake-up call to the risks inherent in riding, the sacrifices I was imposing on my family, the true cost of what I’ve spent so much of my time doing. I’ve spent a lot of years having fun on two wheels, but these last few months have made me see that at the end of day chasing adrenaline doesn’t really get you anything but tired.

I think I’ve said here before that my accident saved my marriage — it brought my wife and me closer together, it mellowed me out and made me a nicer guy, it made me appreciate my daughter more… In a strange way, it was the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time. But it’s also affected my riding — the crash is always in the back of my head, making me tentative, making me hesitant, making me … scared. I keep trying to push through it, but the way I’ve been riding lately that just makes me even more dangerous.

So I’ve been looking at those things, at how my family is better and how my riding is worse, and how much I’m risking one to chase the other and I’ve been weighing them. Riding is a solitary pursuit, family is, well, family. Which gives more of a payoff?

So after a lot of thought and consideration I’ve decided that family wins. And so I’ve decided…

Wow. It’s hard to write these words. I never thought I’d ever say something like this, not even when I was lying there in the ICU with a tube down my throat.

I’ve decided to stop riding.

I’ve already put the bike up for sale in my local Craigslist. I’ll probably take a loss on it since it’s got high miles and it looks it, and the economy’s in the tank, but I can use whatever cash I get for it. I’ve talked to my P about it and he asked me to turn in my colors when I sell the bike, and he’s right — you can’t be in a motorcycle club if you don’t ride. I’ll surprise the wife with it over dinner tonight (unless she reads this first, because, you know, she apparently does read here from time to time). I think she’ll be pretty excited about it.

As for this blog… I don’t know. It’s kind of like the club — there’s not much point in keeping a motorcycle blog without a motorcycle. And who knows, maybe I’ll start jonesing for two wheels and change my mind (but I doubt it). So for the time being I’ll keep it going here; maybe I’ll tell old stories and may that’ll help me deal with giving up the bike. Who knows.

I guess I’m an ex-biker now. In a way I guess that means I won since I’m walking away in (mostly) one piece, but it doesn’t feel like a win. It sucks, but it feels like the right decision. I guess that’s life — “smart” choices don’t ever seem like they’re fun.

Ride on, everyone. Get your knees in the breeze for me. On the bright side, at least there’s going to be one more cager out there who looks out for bikers.

104 In The Sun

Highlight of the weekend: Riding in a tight pack with five other club brothers, on our way up to the clubhouse for church Sunday morning, topping out at 104 mph as we blasted through Sun Valley on the freeway. Good times, good times…

Six Month Report

I missed the 6-month anniversary of my little get-off back in September. It was a week and a half ago, and I forgot it because I was busy celebrating my daughter’s birthday. Considering the way things could have gone, I feel fortunate to have been playing games at Laser Tag instead of taking a dirt nap or being spoon-fed at a long-term rehab facility. So let’s recap where I’m at today.

When I came home from the hospital on October 2 my left lower leg was in a cast, I was weak as a kitten, I was in constant pain from my broken ribs, and I needed a walker to get around at all – and very slowly at that. I was 17 kinds of messed up.

I went back to work on October 26, still in a lot of pain, but strong enough and mobile enough to get around on crutches – very slowly. The very first thing I did my first day back was to trip while coming up the steps into the building and go down like a sack of bricks. I think I re-broke one of my semi-healed ribs when I did that. Vicodin was definitely my friend on that day.

Somewhere around Thanksgiving they took my cast off, took the pins out of my foot, and put me in a “walking boot” – basically, a splint with a sole on it. I still needed the crutches to walk in it, but I could put weight on my left foot and start using a more normal walking range of motion.

By December 6 I had dumped the crutches and was walking with a cane. More importantly, I started riding again. I rigged up a cane-holder on the bike, used the cane to get the kickstand up and down, and got my knees in the breeze. I felt like a rookie rider all over again the first time I tried to lane-split. I was riding in medium-heavy traffic on the freeway and dove into the gap between two cars to start splitting – and my sphincter puckered right up like a bible thumper at a gay pride parade. It scared the crap out of me and made me realize that I had to heal my mind as well as my body if I was going to get back to riding like I used to.

On New Year’s Eve I went for a ride along the coast with the P of my club. I was still easing my way back into riding again and had a nice, safe, sedate, girlie-man ride in mind, but he talked me into taking the canyons on the way back instead, which meant facing the kind of twisties I had crashed in, the kind that I still wasn’t comfortable riding yet. But he went slow for me, and I went slower – so slowly at one point that I might as well have had training wheels — and it was a good ride. I appreciated the push. I needed it.

On January 7 I got clearance from the doctors to dump the cane and walking boot and start walking normally. That turned out to be easier said than done – my ankle still hurt, it wouldn’t really bend, and my version of walking looked more like a drunken peg-legged pirate in heavy seas. But I kept on keeping on and called it “walking” anyway.

On January 10 my job sent me to Guatemala for two weeks, so the weekend of the 16th I rented a dirtbike from an adventure riding tour operator in Antigua and went on a back roads/dirt roads tour of some of the local villages. I could barely walk on the village cobblestones and had to ride an electric-start bike because I couldn’t kick the kick-start, but dammit I was going on that tour. My biggest fear was that I’d have to put my left foot down during a slide and re-tweak my ankle, but I managed to keep it upright and in the tracks the whole time, so it was a good time. Everyone — EVERYone — thought I was crazy for doing it.

By mid-February I finally had to admit that my ankle wasn’t doing what it’s supposed to be doing, so I started going to physical therapy. Go figure: it’s actually helping – my ankle is getting much stronger, I’m regaining range of motion, I can almost mostly walk without a limp now, and I’m getting to where I can shift gears on the bike now with my heel AND toe. I’m still not 100% but I’m closer than I was. And I can’t get enough of the electrical stimulation – it’s my favorite thing about it. They put contacts on my foot and ankle and basically start electrocuting it and it’s AWESOME. I keep telling them to turn it up; my therapist says he’s never seen anyone ask for as much juice as I do. He says it’s maxed out and I’m going to start glowing in the dark. I don’t know why I like it so much, I just do.

As for the rest of my injuries, well, they’re pretty much in the past. My shoulder blade has completely healed (it never really bothered me that much in the first place, ) my lung is totally healed and I can breathe normally now, losing my spleen hasn’t had any effect on me at all (unless not being as big of a dick as I used to be can be attributed to that), all the scars are healing and are pain-free except for still being a little ache-y where one of my chest tubes was. My voice is still raspy from the intubations, but I didn’t have a future as a singer anyway. The ankle is the worst of it, and it’s getting better.

Riding-wise, I’m on the way back to my former self. I’m lane splitting again with close to the same confidence that I had before, but I’m still twitchy in the canyons. I still can’t really push it if I can’t see all the way through the turn, and even when I can see I’m still nowhere close to scraping my floorboards with the same abandon as before. But I keep telling myself that it’ll come in time, that I just need to log the miles and build the saddle time and I’ll get back to where I was.

The worst of it is that while I have no memory of the accident, I can still “feel” it. Even though I don’t actually remember going down, I can somehow remember how it felt slamming into the pavement, the sensation of bones breaking, the out-of-body detachment of going into shock. Imagination? Muscle memory? Vaginitis? I dunno, all I know is that the crash is still in my head and it’s affecting my riding. It’s going to take time to shake it.

And the weirdest, strangest, most obtusely wonderful thing of it all is that, in a way, that accident is one of the best things that has happened to me in a long time. It woke me up somehow, snapped me out of the life I was living. I’m a nicer guy now. I’m not as angry anymore. I’m a better friend. I appreciate my club brothers more. And things are better at home than they’ve been in years. I’m closer with my daughter now. I have a newfound respect and affection for my wife. In a very real sense, I feel like this saved my marriage. I don’t think it’s the cliche of a near-death experience making you appreciate life more, but whatever it is, it’s real. I’m in a much better place now than I would have been if I hadn’t gone down that day.

To paraphrase Hunter Thompson: I hate to advocate crashing, pain, injury, and near death to anyone, but it worked for me.

Mostly Back Online

I’ve recovered about 99% of the blog now, thanks to an awesome tip from Matt on restoring it from the RSS feed. I hadn’t thought of that and it was a lot easier than what I had in mind. I had to add the missing content in as backdated entries, though, so now the feed is fubar and it looks like it’s all new content.

I’ve also lost all the comments. The dashboard shows that there are 245 comments but I can’t pull any of them up, not even from the RSS feed, and even if I could I’m not sure how I’d attach them to the new entries.

Oh well, at least it’s up again.


No Backup

I discovered recently that this blog was broken. Out of nearly three years’ worth of entries I had put up, only ten remain. The database had apparently become corrupted and roughly 90% of my old entries were gone, just gone. I contacted my hosting company and asked if they could restore it from backup. And they could — but the oldest backup they had was just a week old. They do daily backups and keep them for seven days. That’s it. If you need anything older than that, you’re shit out of luck.

I find some ironic symmetry in that, that a blog about motorcycles — which don’t back up — is hosted by a company that doesn’t really do backups either. Ironic in a “wow, that’s really fucked up” kind of way, but ironic nonetheless.

So my mission over the next couple of days is to rebuild as much of the site as I can from Google and Yahoo cache searches. And going forward, I’m obviously going to keep my own backups.

The hosting company is www.totalchoicehosting.com, by the way. I highly recommend them if you enjoy losing your data.

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