Monday, August 24, 2015

Shortest. Ride. Ever.

So, yesterday afternoon I decided to take the Harley out for a quick spin. Got the lawn mowed, shrubberies trimmed, laundry done, errands run, and it was time to feel the wind in my hair. Err, mustache.

I made it as far as the end of my subdivision when this happened:

That's what an Acura TSX looks like after it's rolled over after failing to negotiate a 90ยบ turn at a high rate of speed (60 MPH+ in a 45 MPH zone). He clipped the traffic island and rolled twice, coming to a rest on its wheels after at least twice. He made a right turn from a travel lane, cutting someone off in the process (one of the other witnesses thinks he was racing the other car).

I was sitting on my Harley at this stop sign when all this went down:

He missed me by *maybe* 2 or 3 feet. Had I been in the truck, he'd have hit me right about dead center of the bed. Almost certainly totaled the truck, and I'd have at least gone to the hospital for observation. Had he been half a second sooner, he'd have hit me on the Harley, in which case I'd be having breakfast with my grandfather right now instead of posting this.

I remember sitting at the stop sign watching the traffic. The road perpendicular to the stop sign has two travel lanes and a right turn lane coming up to that intersection. I saw a car in the right turn lane, then I saw the Acura roar around him and try to take the corner. I heard him clip the curb, and then the car was airborne.


I'm not exaggerating when I saw he missed me by a couple feet at most. I watched the car hit the grass to my right and roll over again. I saw the airbags, deployed, as the car was still rocking on the shocks. At first I just rolled on the throttle, but turned around at the next intersection to be a witness. A crowd had gathered, 911 had been called, and as I rolled the bike to a stop I could hear sirens off in the distance.

Every day is a gift. First thing I did when I got home was hug my family. I'm fighting *REALLY* hard not to put a "For Sale" sign on the Harley. This is my second close call. Back about 20 years ago, I got T-boned by a kid who didn't realize that his side street ended at the state highway I was traveling on. I went through six months of physical therapy, and dealt extensively with insurance companies over whether my car was totaled or not.

I had planned on taking my motorcycle that night. Circumstances changed my plans so that I took my car instead. Now, had I been on the bike, much would have been different. The extra time I'd have needed to put on helmet and leathers might have meant I got stuck in traffic as a wrecker extracted his car from the house across the street. Or I might have left earlier, as I had done laundry at my folks' house, which obviously I'd not have done had I been on the bike.

There were enough "what-ifs" that I was able to get back on the bike. Eventually.

Not so sure about this time, though.

That is all.


Robb Allen said...


I want a bike so bad it's not funny. But the Mrs. has decreed that I shan't have one until both girls are out of the house & no longer dependent on me.

For these types of reasons.

Glad you're ok,buddy.

Matt W said...

Whoah. Glad are OK! It is stories like this that make me continue to make the decision to pass on a motorcycle.

Irish said...

WOW!! Glad your okay. It doesn't get much closer than that.

I hate sitting on the bike at the left turn red arrows here in NH when the through cars have green and are whizzing by at 40 plus.

I usually go when it's clear. Better off not being a sitting duck.

Go play the lottery :)

0007 said...

I quit riding after a friend who owns a shop "found" me a Cucati Paeso. Hadn't ridden in a while and climbed aboard. Hadn't felt like that since I tried out the infamous Kow 2-stroke 750 triple 'way back when. I finally gave it back to him when I realized that that bike just plain scared me.
And that's when I knew it was time to qut.

0007 said...

ARRRRRGGGGGH damn thing still must scare me.
"Cuati s/b DUCATI...

Pam M. said...

God is good. He's the Master of timing. Praise His Name and raise your children.

Joe L. Harwell said...

Yikes!! Looks like the Man upstairs still has you on his keeper list. +1 what Pam said.

Anonymous said...

When I went road racing motorcycles in the late '80s the most surprising thing was how many racers (about 20%) wouldn't ride on the street. Too dangerous they said and these guys weren't the backmarkers they were national champions on GXRRs, TZRs, NSRs etc who cornered dragging everything.

Your only as safe as the morons you have to share the road with are.

Glad you escaped with nothing more than a scare, Jay.


Anonymous said...

Glad you got the timing right this time.

I sold my every day ride when the days where "I just have a bad feeling" started to outnumber the days I rode. That was some time after my second slide. The first time I went down, I was on the back of a friend's bike. I was just a passenger so that one didn't count despite the permanent limp and enough trauma that my signature completely changed. The second (and final) time, I was doing everything right and still went down. I loved the ride, and I miss it still when the air has that certain feel and smell, but it's not worth dying for, or leaving my kids to be raised by strangers.

When I started riding, someone told me that it was time to quit when I was no longer willing to throw the bike down and slide if needed.

Now, I like to be surrounded by my Expedition. Lots of mass, lots of airbags. I recognize that when it's my time, the universe will find a way, but I'm not making it any easier.

Good luck with the decision, glad you made it thru the near miss.


LibertyNews said...

Glad you're ok. Motorcycles (and bikes) on the roads seem like fun, except for the not-insignificant number of idiots surrounding you. I'll stick with lots of steel and do my riding someplace safe.

Old NFO said...

Timing... It wasn't YOUR time. Glad you're okay and here to put it up.

ProudHillbilly said...

Wow. In a sphincter-clenching way.

And the DC area has a significant number of Really Bad Drivers.

Alien said...

As they say, "Stuff Happens". As careful as you try to be there are some things that are out of your control. In this particular instance you were better off on the Harley than the truck - he might have hit you in the driver's door, as it was your vehicle was small enough for him to miss you completely. Small consolation for your fears, I'm sure.

Count your blessings and look for a different street out of your subdivision....

libertyman said...

You could get one of these:

Is the Harley too dangerous in DC? You did everything right, and a flying Acura almost killed you. Thank heavens it missed, but I might rethink the risk/reward ratio now.

Wandering Neurons said...

Sadly, there is no accounting for other people's stupidity. Thank the Heavens that your timing was just right: not in the intersection, not a few seconds late. Someone up there is looking after you, enjoy and revel in it. And don't give up riding.

Tam said...

Glad you're okay!

I know that ice cold puckering feeling all too well. Brrrr.

The Neon Madman said...

Yeah, even here in flyover country there are roads I won't ride, or won't ride at certain times of the day. That's one way I have of controlling the risk. Yes, there's more risk to a bike than there is to a car. I accept that and try to keep the odds in my favor - constant awareness, ride reasonably, always a helmet, etc. I've been riding for 40 years now.

It's not just a motorcycle, of course. You could have been riding a bicycle to the corner store, or walking your dog at the same point in spacetime. Glad that this time the cards fell your way. Give it a few days and let the adrenaline settle before you make your decision.

Angus McThag said...

It was the near constant close calls in relatively unpopulated Iowa that got me off my bike.

You can do everything right and still get nailed.

Jerry The Geek said...

I had a few bikes. Put 50,000+ miles on the last one, and then gave it away to the nephew I didn't like so much. Ornery bastard gave it to a son he didn't like so much, and the SON sold it.

Hard to believe that the 'other guy' is so much wiser ... but then, they aren't really living the life. They're just existing.

I'm thinking about buying another bike, now. Life is much more flavorful when you don't really know what's going to happen next.

Like the man said: You've never really lived until you've almost died.

"Live Hard, Die Young, and Leave A Good Looking Corpse".

Worked for Jimmy Dean, but I'm too old for that stuff. Well, 2 out of 3!

Sailorcurt said...

Of course, any decision with regard to riding is up to you.

Life is a risk/reward equation. I've almost died many times in my life doing various and sundry things...including a couple of close calls on the bike that I ride virtually every day.

There is no method of avoiding risk. Even never leaving the house, were that even possible, is not risk free.

You just have to decide whether the enjoyment you get from a particular activity is worth the risks involved.

I personally don't believe riding is a particularly dangerous activity...provided you don't drive stupidly and pay sufficient attention to what's going on around you. Many of the "close calls" I experienced on motorcycles ended up with me escaping without harm because I was paying attention, saw it coming and reacted in time to avoid it.

That's not to say that an unavoidable situation is impossible...there are obviously situations that could occur from which there is no escape, but I believe those situations are extremely rare and no more prevalent on a motorcycle than driving a car or participating in any number of other common everyday activities.

But again, take everything I say with a grain of salt. I've often said that my goal in life is to die in a fiery motorcycle crash. I don't have a death wish and I'm not in any hurry to meet my maker; my point is that I love riding and if I've got to die of something, it may as well be doing something I love.

"Every man dies, not every man really lives" -Mel Gibson as William Wallace, from the movie "Braveheart"

But, obviously, your life situation is different than mine and you've got to make your own risk/reward calculations.

John said...

I'm siding with those who feel that the last near death bike ride was the last bike ride. Have not ridden since my 20s and that was a very long time ago. I was lucky to have survived the wreck, and I was straight and sober, and to no ones surprise I was picked off by a driver who, "I never saw him."

Matt said...

Glad you're okay. I had a close call not too long ago turning left at the light; one second slower and the car that blew the red light going 55 would've hit my door. Chick on her cell phone. Didn't even slow down. Got where I was going and shook. Friend said I was white (I'm normally pretty ruddy).

I moved from a Civic to an Explorer years ago after a close call. Wouldn't go back to a small car. Or get a bike either, I don't think.

Tam said...

So, once upon a time, very shortly after I got the Z3, when Marko and I were still roommates...

Google "The Grove at Deane Hill" on Google maps. That was where our apartment was, in the top floor of the southwestern most building in the complex, overlooking the intersection of Morrell and Deane Hill. We got to see some pretty spectacular wrecks there as Morrell was downhill to the traffic light from both north and south, and people sped right along.

I was heading south on Morrell, coasting up to the traffic light in the turn lane with the top down on my shiny new roadster, when a Ford Ranger heading down the hill from the other direction apparently didn't notice they had a red light and clipped the front of the car meking a left turn from Deane Hill.

I was then treated to the sight of a Ford Ranger going ass-over-teakettle, doing two complete bumper-to-bumper endos in midair before coming to rest maybe a dozen feet from my front left fender.

If it had landed in my lap, I don't think the fates would have given me bonus points for leaving the bike home that day. ;)

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you're OK. Just more proof that anything you do can get you killed, including nothing.
Despite the scars, screws, plates, etc., I'm still riding. Ma thinks I'm crazy. She's probably right.
--Tennessee Budd

The Freeholder said...

Jay, life is a full contact sport. No matter how careful you are, in the end, something will get you.

That said, you and you alone need to decide what risks you will take. Me and most of my friends all used to ride. At one point or another, we all gave it up for various reasons. Every so often, two or more of us will start discussing how much we miss it and the concept of getting back into it, if only for some weekend rides.

Then we start discussing the idiots we all deal with on the roads every day, the near misses, the wrecks various other friends and acquaintances have had, friends and family members who are no longer with us because some moron screwed up.

We always decide that we might be better off with a classic convertible.

fast richard said...

Intense close calls like that do focus the mind, and can lead to reevaluation of risks and priorities. I can think of a few instances in my skydiving days. I eventually hung up my parachutes after a couple of heart attacks, rather than from anything jump related. I have kept the name "fast richard", given to me by those friends.

Waking up to the sound of a burglar opening my bedroom door caused me to reevaluate personal safety and self defense issues.

Several years riding one of those Kawasaki 750 triples, mentioned above, caused several incidents to ponder.

Whatever you decide is your choice, your priorities. Your family might have some say in the matter, but the rest of us, not so much.

Jay G said...

Hell, I'm already planning a trip to York, PA to visit the Harley factory with a co-worker.

Appreciate the advice, counsel, and good wishes. I know riding is a risk, but I love it too much to give it up.

There's no safety this side of the grave. Thanks for the remind, G-d.

Jason said...

Holy smokes. Glad you are ok! I think it is good to be reminded every now and then that we are mortal and that anything can happen at any time. Makes you want to live your life to the fullest, hug your wife and kids harder, tell them that you love them more often. Everything in the world is trying to kill you at some point or the other. Live right, enjoy life, appreciate the people around you and the things that you have.

Will said...

About '74, sitting in the right hand lane at a red light at a 4 lane crossing a 4 lane. Late 60's big Ford 'wagon. I hear something behind me. Glance in the mirror, and see the driver's side of a large car sliding toward my rear bumper at a rapid pace. Stomp on that 4 bbl 390(?) and lurch into the two closest crossing lanes, which were clear of traffic. Sliding car goes through the spot I was sitting at, just clearing my bumper, and makes the turn, using most of the cross street.

The chasing cop did it under much better control. He cut through the corner of the car dealer's lot, just clearing the various light, sign, and power poles.
I think this was the first (but not the last!) time a cop chase came close to taking me out.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Glad you made it okay, bro. Silver Lining: Looks like you got a Real-Time Lesson about "Condition Yellow."

But I wouldn't worry about dumping the Hog for another Cage. PLENTY of people die Unnecessarily in Cars due to some Asshole running into them. Think of it this way: Would you Blame the Glock for Murdering those News People (JUST LIKE THE WHITE HOUSE DID!) or the Psycho pulling the Trigger?

Ride Safe, Jay.

Paul Bonneau said...

I'm 65 now, sold everything except one bike, a Kawasaki Super Sherpa. Don't ride much, but I do ride. Yeah it's a "girl's bike" but I don't care; anyway it's the old "more fun to ride a slow bike fast" sort of thing.

I figure my exposure to danger is pretty low and it is nimble and fun to putter down dirt roads with. Only weighs about 250 lb too; a factor when you get old. Been riding since 1968 and still can't quite completely give it up.

Jim said...

Jay, Honda sells a Gold Wing version with a factory equipped Air Bag.

There, solved it all for you, right there. Right? Right?


Damn glad you were only a spectator, amigo.

Sunk New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Joe Huffman said...

Back about 1998 I was walking north on a the sidewalk (right side of the road) late one evening when an eastbound car made a left turn onto the street I was on. They were going too fast, cut it way too short, bounced over the small curb divider between north and south bound traffic, lost control, continued across the two north bound lanes, across the sidewalk, and disappeared into the woods to my right, no more that 10 feet ahead of me. Except for some difficult to see in the dark skid marks on the street and some partially crumpled brush you couldn't tell there was anything amiss.

When the ambulance showed up I had to flag them down because they went right by. Then I had to loan them my flashlight and lead them to through the brush to find the car. The occupants were unhurt and the medic told the police officer who arrived a few minutes later, "This one is for you."

Had I been a few steps ahead of where I was when the car crossed the sidewalk I would have been flattened. I haven't stopped walking on sidewalks but I am a lot more paranoid about intersections.

RevGreg said...

I had one those sitting at a stop sign getting off the interstate here a few years back. A guy tried to beat a car coming the other direction to get to the onramp and lost, and somehow his car managed to pass between my vehicle and a stop sign less than ten feet away skidding to stop about 50 feet behind me...with my hood and roof covered with various engine fluids and bits of plastic and glass but otherwise unscathed. Definitely pucker inducing!

Toastrider said...

"Hell may have the best musicians, but Heaven has the best choreographers." --from Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Cargosquid said...

I just want to say that I'm really glad that you are safe.

If you believe...thank God. If you don't, I'll do it for you.

Hug your family some more.

Just reading this, at 11:30 pm, I've got the urge to wake my family to hug them.

You have cured me of any desire for a bike. My wife will be ecstatic.

Take care.