I had my final check-up on my ankle today and the doc has cleared me for … well, everything. I dumped the cane about a month ago and for about the last two weeks I’ve only been wearing my “cam walker boot” to work (mostly to avoid getting side-eye from folks when I park in a handicapped spot), while on weekends I’ve been hobbling around in motorcycle boots and riding my bike. I told the doc that and he said to keep doing what I’m doing and to call for an appointment if I feel like I need to see him again — which I don’t. He took a cursory look at my ankle, didn’t have the slightest interest in looking at my xrays, and seemed puzzled as to why I was there when I was obviously doing so well. Frankly, I felt a little puzzled too.
So I’m going to consider this the last waypoint on my road back to recovery from my crash. It’s been just under four months and I’m feeling pretty good. The shoulder-blade feels just fine (and never really did give me much of a problem); the ribs still feel a little creaky right around where they put in the chest tubes, but it’s more an ache than a pain; the mangina has healed up nicely; and my friends and family are enjoying the kinder, gentler Chuck since the surgeons apparently took out my mean along with my spleen. The ankle has been the last vestige of injury, and while it’s still achy and I limp when I walk on it, I can walk on it. And of course, I can ride. So clearly I must be recovered.
I’m still planning to write up the gory details of the hospital experience one of these days, but from this point on I’m considering the accident and my recovery to be old business and I’m putting it behind me.
Of course, I do still have another month left on my handicap parking placard. No sense in letting that go to waste…
My brother Wizard died last night at 9:20 pm PST. He’d been sick for a long time, fighting off cancer, but it finally got to be too much for him.
I got to talk to him briefly on New Year’s Eve, so I sort of got to say goodbye, but it was still shocking how quickly after that it took him. He sounded strong when I talked to him, even though he was saying he only had maybe a week or two left, so I didn’t quite believe it and I told him I’d call him again in the next couple of days. He’d been holding on for so long that I thought he had more time. He didn’t.
So here’s to Wizard. He was a great guy, the kind of person you loved the minute you met him. I’m glad I got the chance to know him.
Here’s a couple of pictures I took of him. The first is at the Love Ride in November of ‘07, the second was taken in Reno in April of ‘09. This is how I like to remember him: smiling, strong, having a good time, being the Wizard we all loved so much.
Last Sunday, 85 days after I fall down go boom, I finally got my fat ass back in the saddle. And it was great!
The biggest thing holding me back was my left ankle — I dislocated it really badly and I wasn’t allowed to walk on it for what felt like forever. First I was in a cast, then I was in a “walking boot” but not allowed to walk on it, and I finally got clearance to put weight on it just before Thanksgiving. At that point I couldn’t put any significant weight on the foot, so I was still gimping around on crutches, but a week later I had moved on to a cane. And most importantly: I quickly built up the strength in my left foot to be able to get the bike off the kickstand.
That was the final hurdle: If I could get the bike off the kickstand and only had to bring one cane vs two crutches with me when I rode somewhere, then it was time to ride somewhere. Which is exactly what I did.
So last Sunday I finally got my knees in the breeze again and put 75 miles on the clock. I was a little shaky at first, but I felt pretty comfortable by the end of the day. It was awesome. My wife, however — she is not thrilled…
And I have to show off my cane holder because I think it’s fucking brilliant. I Googled “cane on a Harley” and “motorcycle with a cane” and crap like that before I rigged it up, looking for ideas, but there’s nothing on it out there. Until now. So here, for all my fellow motorcycle-riding gimps, here’s how to carry your cane on your motorcycle:
Zip-tie a scrap piece of PVC pipe to the saddlebag guard. The cane handle will slip in here.
Zip-tie another piece of PVC pipe to the TourPak mount — the cane will slide through here to keep it from flopping and rattling around
Here’s how it looks in action
Here’s another angle
One more angle — this time with the rider (me)
I did have one more problem beyond getting the bike upright and carrying the cane — the walking boot I have to wear makes shifting gears an adventure, and it’s impossible to put the kickstand up because the boot hits the floorboard and I can’t angle my foot over. So the cane was good for more than walking:
You can also use the cane to pull up the kickstand
You can also use the cane to pull up the kickstand
Heel & toe shifters? Nah, just the heel — for up and downshifting
It’s great to be riding again. I just don’t want a repeat of this:
It was Sunday afternoon, September 13, and I was hanging around the house with the wife and kid when a call came in from some club brothers: “Hey, come hang out with us in Ojai.” I was on the road about 20 minutes later.
I remember the ride up the 101 to meet them — I was blasting along, hitting 95 at times, splitting through traffic with my head on a swivel, watching for cops with a sick certainty in the pit of my stomach that I was going to catch a ticket, but too eager to meet up with my brothers to slow down. I saw plenty of cops going the other way, especially once I got on the 33, but none of them bothered me. It was a great ride up.
I got there in about an hour and met up with the guys. There were five or six of them there, and we all hung out on the front porch for awhile, bullshitting, drinking coffee, and being entertained by the kid next door who keep coming back to tell us “jokes.” Good times. After an hour or so we decided to hit the road.
For me and the other guys who live near me in the Valley, the obvious route home was to just turn around and go back the way I had come up. Boring. Instead, we decided to make it a big loop and take the back roads to Frazier Park, then take the 5 home from there. We saddled up, gassed up, and hit the road. Four of us rode out together, with me bringing up the rear.
We went up Highway 33 for about 20 miles, then split off on Lockwood Valley Road. I don’t remember a whole lot about the ride. I remember that it was fun, that we were hauling ass and had the road to ourselves. I remember that I kept monkeying around with my GPS, trying to plug in our destination so I could figure out how much further there was to go. I know I finished doing that because I remember thinking we were getting pretty close.
Then everything goes south.
The guys tell me the marks on the road show that I locked up both wheels and laid the bike over on its left. My bike was in 3rd gear, it was an easy entry to an easy turn, plenty of visibility, no reason to have gone down. I’ve seen the pictures and videos from the scene, I’ve read the data from my GPS, and they’re right. There was absolutely no reason for me to have braked like that and to go down.
The GPS shows that we had come out of a turn into a straight-away. I accelerated up to 48 mph, then began slowing as I approached the next turn. GPS shows me slowing to 30 (which ties in with the bike in 3rd gear — downshifting), then the track ends where I went down. I suspect that I had just initiated the left turn when I locked up both brakes for some reason, and the angle of the bike made both wheels sort of “squirt” out from under me, low-siding the bike and slamming me shoulder-first into the ground. The question is: why the hell did I lock it up?
The only explanation that makes any sense is that something jumped out in front of me. It was dusk, so it’s very possible that a deer jumped me, or maybe a rabbit, or who knows what. Me? I blame chupacabra.
I don’t remember the crash at all. My first memory is of being face-down in the road with one of my brothers kneeling next to me with his hand on my back, asking, “Are you okay, brother?” and me answering, “Noooooooo……” I remember that, and pain.
My memories there at the crash scene are really jumbled. Apparently I was very animated, asking the guys to take pictures and video, flipping people off, complaining that it was taking too long for the ambulance to get there, and generally being a pain in the ass. You know, being myself.
Here’s a shot of the crash scene. That’s me face-down (notice the unnatural angle of the left ankle. brrrrr!), that’s my bike with the American flag just beyond me on the side of the road.
Apparently all that happened to the bike was the crash bar was bent back about half an inch and was ground down on the bottom. No other damage to the bike at all. So I took all the damage instead. That’s fucked up.
When I went down I dislocated my left ankle, broke my left shoulderblade, six ribs on the left, blew up my spleen so they had to remove it later, and punctured my left lung. It looks like I stuck where I landed — no slide, no roll, no bounce. I just hit, and my body absorbed every little bit of the impact. I really need to learn how to bounce.
The crash scene was so remote that they flew me out by helicopter, which was pretty cool. I remember being on the ground and when I heard the helicopter coming, saying, “But I can’t pay for that!” and one of the firemen reassured me that Ventura County doesn’t charge for Life Flights. I am now officially a fan of Ventura County.
One of my brothers got the video of the helo taking me out of there. You can’t see it in the video, but I’m in the helicopter holding my right fist up in the air as we take off. The flight nurse kept trying to push my hand back down, but I kept throwing that fist up there for my brothers.
About this video… It illustrates one of the things I love about my club: No matter how bad things are, we can still find something to laugh about. In this case, I’m all busted up and going to the hospital, but everyone still cracks up at the pilot’s question over the radio at the end. And to explain the question… One of my club brothers — the one shooting the video — is an actor and was in one of the Terminator movies. He gets recognized quite a bit for it, and that’s what the pilot is asking about.
I loaded the GPS track into Google Maps. Here’s the last 20 or so miles of the route, with the pin showing where I went down. Check it out:
I went down, hard, on September 13 and I’ve been in the hospital ever since. I just got home tonight.
I’ll post the whole story later, but the short version is that I dislocated my left ankle, splattered my spleen, broke my left shoulderblade and a whole bunch of ribs, punctured a lung, underwent three different surgeries and bounced in and out of the ICU for two weeks.
The good news? I’m on the mend, I’m home again — and the bike came through without a scratch.
Time for another new rear tire. After changing the last one I was bitching about how I’m only getting about 5,000 miles out of my rear tires. Well, I think I’ve found the secret to extending the mileage: procrastination.
I kept noticing my rear tire was looking more and more like a racing slick and I kept thinking, “Yeah, I need to take care of that. Next paycheck for sure.” Then I’d get on and ride for another couple of weeks until I’d notice the tread was getting low and think, “Yeah, I need to take care of that. Next paycheck for sure!” Lather, rinse, repeat. Until the other day when I noticed there was a white patch in the middle of the not-tread-anymore and took a closer look. It had progressed beyond not-tread — now it wasn’t even rubber, it was cord.
Oopsie. This paycheck. For sure.
It turns out there were two spots where it was down to the cord, each on opposite sides of the wheel. Weird. I guess the shop where I had it mounted must have balanced the hell out of it…
I got a little over 8,000 miles out of this last tire, and probably only the last 500 or so were suicide miles. Not bad, especially for a Kenda. But now I’m giving Dunlop a try. I figure maybe Harley’s on to something with all those D402s they sell as stock.
One of our guys came up with a description for how we ride (or should ride) that I like quite a bit. He says we should try to ride “in the taint” — not so wild that we’re being assholes, but not so mellow that we’re being pussies either. Now, I’ve never actually wanted to have anything to do with the taint before — it hurts if you hit it wrong, if you know what I mean, and otherwise it’s just sort of a boring no-man’s-land — but as a metaphor it seems to apply pretty well.
An example: We were on our way home from a run out to San Bernardino recently and were heading west on the 210 freeway, fighting pretty heavy traffic. We formed up in the carpool lane where it was (mostly) clear and rolled along at about 85 mph. When we overtook a slower car we’d form up single-file on the double yellow separating the carpool lane from regular traffic and lane split past the slower car, then form up back in formation in the carpool lane. That’s how I like it — we’re not riding like a bunch of old grannies, but we’re not throwing hand grenades and running people off the road either. Instead, we’re right in the middle — in the taint.
On the other hand, some of those passes made for some precision riding since we did a few of them through sweeping curves, bouncing over lane reflectors, and holding position at speed with inches to spare on either side. Me, I think that’s fun, but the guy who came up with the Taint Theory thought we were going a bit anal at that point. Different strokes, I guess… One man’s anal is another man’s taint.
That’s where it gets confusing, though. I’ve never thought of the taint as the sweet spot, or of pussy as something to be avoided — or anal either, for that matter. This theory… I don’t know… It has promise, but I think it needs work.
I have sad duty tomorrow: a funeral for a friend who killed himself.
Apache prospected for the club for awhile, really gung-ho, good prospect, rode well, worked hard, everybody liked him. But then he had trouble with his girlfriend and with his job and with what must have been a lot of other stuff we didn’t know about, because he up and quit after awhile. He said he had personal stuff to deal with and couldn’t give the club as much time and attention as he wanted to, so out of respect for the club he wanted to quit prospecting until he straightened his shit out. We weren’t happy about it — we all liked him and were sorry to see him go — but we understood and told him to let us know when he was ready to come back.
At our last church his ex-sponsor let us know that he wanted to come back. We said to tell him he was welcome and to come on back.
The next day he killed himself.
I’ll always remember the last time I saw him: It was a few months after he’d quit prospecting. I was sitting at a red light in my car with my wife and daughter, when Apache came lane-splitting past us up to the front of the line. I rolled down my window and yelled after him but he didn’t hear me. The light turned green, he turned left, and he was gone and out of sight by the time I got to the intersection. I never saw him again.
I like that he was on his bike the last time I saw him alive. It’s a good way to remember him.
RIP, Prospect Apache. I wish you could have stuck it out, I was looking forward to calling you brother. Ride on…
I’ve gotten a few emails from people saying “Hey, where the hell are you? Are ya dead???” So I figured I’d better at least pop up long enough to say “I’m not dead yet!”
I’m still out here, I’m just busy with the new job and not sleeping enough and getting my Land Cruiser running again and having pissing contests with my club brothers and just generally not riding very much because of all of it. So I haven’t had much to write about. And now the job’s sending me to the Philippines for three weeks next month, so I’ll have even less motorcycle content.
But who knows, maybe I’ll come back with a story from the Golden Palace Massage Parlor around the corner from the hotel, where I hear they specialize in happy endings. And who doesn’t love a happy ending?