Monday, July 22, 2013

It's Been A Year Since......

The Incident, July 22, 2012

I was ashamed, I was scared, I was disappointed in myself but in the end and most importantly, I was thankful at how lucky I'd been.

I've decided to Post this, not for sympathy but as a reminder to myself and to anyone else that has any tendency whatsoever to get complacent about their riding.  It is also for me a celebration of things that didn't go more horribly wrong.

Riding my old ragamuffin Honda Ascot (Tran Zalp) to last year's Lorem Ipsum event in Viroqua, I was having big fun.  After a breakfast stop in Alma, the roads saw me in and out of various rain showers, from wet roads to dry and back again.  It was a warm day and supposed to be sticky, so I had a pair of shorts on under my Darien Light pants and a T-shirt on under my 'Light jacket. I'm running some fairly aggressive tires on the bike, aggressive as in knobbies and they've always been good and reasonable in providing feedback for my, ah, sometimes, when conditions warrant, brisk riding through our region's abundant corners.

For some reason that day, County M's uphill corners slid my brain and common sense from that which is above my neck down into my right hand.  I've already mentioned the big fun and I was having it.....until faster than I knew what had happened, I was sliding.  There was pavement moving very fast only inches from my eyes and the scraping noises were loud, even with my earplugs in.

The bad news was the guardrail.  The good news was the guardrail, good because beyond the guardrail were rocks, many rocks a long ways down.  I remember hearing the bang that the Honda made as it hit the guardrail and a fraction of a second later, I had hit something and was stopped.  The rear end of my Honda had backed between posts under the guardrail.  My shins hit the adjacent post and I deduced later, must have acted like springs to save me from the severe impact that I should have felt.  The very luckiest part for me was my point of contact with the wooden post. Had any other part of my body hit something that solid, things would have turned out very differently.

I jumped up (adrenalin) and I no sooner was able to focus on what had happened than a car pulled up behind me.

"Are you OK?"

I knew I had to be OK since I was standing up, how could I not be OK??   He asked if I had a cell phone because he didn't.  I in fact had two of them but had little intention of using either one if I could help it.  It was obvious that he was as anxious to get out of there as I was.  We walked to the bike and he helped me yank it out from under the steel guardrail; it had wedged itself between posts, cosmetically doing itself no good whatsoever.  After helping me get the bike up, he quickly took off and left when I assured him that I'd be fine.  It took a bit of finagling to get the bike in a spot to stand up since the sidestand had been bent straight and was tending to prop the bike up very close to vertical.  It was a relatively steep hill so I managed to find a spot where it would lean enough to not tip over the high side.

I was stiff and sore all over, but appendages all seemed to be working.  Expecting big, bleeding holes when I looked down, I saw none in my riding suit.  In fact, I didn't really see holes at all.  The biggest hole was in the palm of my right glove, just above the most pronounced 'crease' of my palm, but over my tender wrist; it hadn't even left a mark on my skin.  There were small penny-sized scrapes, with only the smallest of holes along the zipper on my pants and it was only later that I saw like holes in my AeroStich Darien Light jacket.  While at the crash site, I never took my helmet off, or my jacket, my pants or even my gloves.

Since the bike had slid backwards into/under the steel rail, the rear turn signals had broken completely off and my poor, precious Hondaline luggage rack looked like a pretzel.  The OEM rack was one of the big reasons I had bought this particular,  once beautiful V-twin Honda rather than others.  Bent shifter, brake pedal, muffler pushed tight against the right rear shock, whacked mirrors, now-angled footpegs, clutch and brake levers tipped and roadside sand in every nook and cranny pretty much rounded out the visible damage.  The side stand was too stiff to do anything with; the center stand looked OK and would work just as well.  The handlebar levers were not where they belonged but I'd be able to adapt, the shift lever the same.  The brake pedal was pushed right against the engine case and rather than start yanking on things in my 'harried' state without tools and a better mindset, I gave it a small tug to prevent its rubbing on the side of the engine, content for the time being.  I seldom use the rear brake anyway so I wasn't going to miss it.

Decision Time

I REALLY wanted to proceed to the event; I was 90 miles from home and Viroqua was only another 35 or 40 more.  Other than being sore, I seemed to mostly be OK and the Ascot seemed ride-able......if it would start.  I aimed it downhill, ran the started 20 seconds or so and it was running, as good as ever.  I turned it off, hobbled across the highway to take a photo of the crime scene, then restarted the bike.  Pointed down and back towards home, I made a U-turn and continued on up the hill and onward to the event.

The 'ruffled' sand is 2 and 3 post spans behind the bike.

Other than all of the controls feeling odd, the machine seemed to do what it was meant to do.  With the wind out of my sails, rather than follow the curvy GPS Route I'd planned, I stuck to the main highway.  The adrenalin had quit flowing and soreness was taking its place.  On the edge of Viroqua, I pulled in at a favorite gas/convenience store stopping place to re-evaluate the situation and my choice(s).

These photos were shared with my close riding friends and never made the Lorem Ipsum Post or anywhere else, until now.  See anything wrong with the bike??

The tankbag, magnetically hanging on to the luggage rack but just barely.

Now that I had the jacket and helmet off, scratches, scrapes and small thin spots in the fabric showed up.  I began to step out of my riding pants, shorts underneath but both shins looked tender and there were small marks on both of them, only a bit of red but they both looked bruised and sore.  I pulled the riding pants back on, even though it was pretty warm, deciding that the public might not want, nor did I want them to see.

Here's the old post of what I saw at the Lorem Ipsum event.  You may notice that there weren't any closeups of the Ascot at the event.  In fact, I parked it far over in the corner, hoping that I wouldn't have to explain or maybe, even have to look at it. It was hot and there was no way I was going to walk around with pink shins; the small tears and 'worn' spots in the Darien pants were bad enough.

This was a Saturday, after riding home that afternoon and explaining my boneheaded mistake to wife and daughter, it was a night of struggling to find a position where my ribs would let me rest.  By Sunday afternoon, both shins were looking as well as feeling more sore, so I headed in to Urgent Care concerned that maybe I wasn't quite as healthy as I'd thought.  X-Rays, an ultrasound for clots, an antibiotic prescription, some gauze to cover the spot on my left leg, confirmed that I was only sore, nothing more serious was wrong and that better health would soon follow.

If only.......

Over the next couple of weeks, things seemed OK.  Two weekends after the crash, I attended the Wisconsin Moto Guzzi Rally.  Friends that knew about my foolishness were concerned about me; those that hadn't been told, thought I seemed a bit subdued.  Both nights in the tent made tough sleeping, not only because it was hot and sticky but because my left leg was getting hot and swollen. I was feeling a bit feverish.  I headed for home Sunday morning and by that evening, knew that I had to get to the E.R.

Infection had taken over in my left shin.  Remember that there had been no tear in my riding pants, either leg. There had been a small amount of blood on the left side, just from the impact or at least that's what I guessed.  Somewhere, somehow, over those two weeks post accident, possibly here on the farm, maybe in my tent, at work, someplace, I picked up a nasty infection.

They admitted me that evening and placed me on heavy I.V. antibiotics, the hospital was where I stayed most of the following week.  Doc debrided my leg right away on Monday morning and by the time all of the damaged and dying tissue had been removed, a hole was left that a tennis ball would have fit inside of.  There was a moment in the O.R. that I became a quasi-celebrity among the O.R. staff but it was humor that should really stay in the O.R so I'll leave it there.  Before the week was out, I was wearing a Wound Vac, an amazing machine that I wore, 24/7 for the next 6 months.  Even after the void had mostly healed over and I had the skin graft, I wore the Vac for another month to promote healing to make sure the graft would take.  There was a setback in December when a MRSA infection found me and did its very best to take over.  We beat that back with a $400 prescription, something I balked at when I got to the pharmacy and was convinced that the pharmacist thought that I had no insurance......"oh that's with insurance".  I called the doctor to complain that there had been some sort of mistake.  He told me that I would take the pills or come back to that nice bed in the hospital for more I.V. work.......I bought the pills.

Once released from the hospital, those first few weeks saw me back in the clinic 2-3 times each week, that gradually dropped off to twice each week and finally once a week.  I was back at work right away, working with my Lil' Hoover on my belt (I ruined two belts with that thing hanging on my side).  My doctor and the nurses continually asked me if I was riding or would ride again.  I was on the bike every weekend but because of my vac system needing to be charged every night, camping in the tent had to wait until the next riding season.  I attended a local rally for the day in late August and then our Labor Day rally always takes place at a mom and pop motel, so I was covered for that one and did just fine with the Vac the entire weekend.  With the Morphous scooter and the Givi Hump Bag, I had a perfect place to stay connected while riding.

Finally in December enough of my 'void' had filled in (not really but the nurses were getting tired of seeing me...except for Julie) and it was time for a skin graft procedure.  Not having a favorite, they harvested a patch on the upper part of my left thigh, leaving what was essentially a bad burn at that wound site.

I recorded photos of my leg almost weekly, the progression of healing, at least until that second infection slowed things down and scared us all, was remarkable.  With my shin and calf almost the size of my thigh, the cavity was pretty impressive initially.  So, I've shared the photos when asked though most didn't and I don't blame them.  They won't be shared here.

My leg(s) never really hurt other than those first few hours after the crash and what I'm still surprised at is that neither of them looked bad enough to cause me all of the trouble that the left one has.  The leg still swells up a bit during the day, especially at work when I'm standing most of the time.  Otherwise it isn't bothering me and hasn't bothered me for a long time.

To a person, my friends wondered what had gotten into "Common Sense Doug" who it seemed, had always known when to back off and ride within the limits of current conditions.  None of those friends were there, I was and I'm still not really sure what disconnected me from reality.  I do know the mechanics of what happened and why the tire gave way physically, but there's no good explanation for my failure in judgment.

Don't do what I did.  It's been a very expensive mistake, the doctor bills very disappointing and unfair to the family.  I wouldn't say that I repaired the bike, at least not my most people's standards but I have patched it up with used parts online.  It works well and the plan is to put many more miles on it, rough and crude as it is.

I very, very much enjoy riding motorcycles and have every intention of continuing to go, the satisfaction felt something that not everyone else may appreciate.  Being able to breathe, move all my limbs and function for the most part normally ain't bad either.


  1. Wow. You sure are lucky it turned out the way it did, not just with the crash but recovering from the infections.

    Thank you for sharing your story it couldn't have been easy.

    It is good to hear that it isn't really bothering you anymore. Thank you modern medicine.

    1. Trobairitz,
      I was very lucky in those first few seconds that as I was slowing down, I wasn't spinning more than I did. It seemed a fair story to tell, coming from me, someone that said, "won't happen to me".

      Peg told me once "if you leave on the bike, come home on the bike; no ambulance rides, stay out of helicopters, etc." far, so good :)

  2. Thanks for sharing the story. I think that it is easy to become complacent in anything especially if youve been doing it for a long time without anything happening. That is probably the thought that many texting drivers have,

    "I've been doing this for years, I know what I'm doing. Leave me alone!"

    Or something like that.

    Glad to hear that everything has healed. How was the infected area injured? Just impact?

    1. Richard,
      That's the great puzzle, at least to me. Either there was something riding along on the inside of my 'Light pants, possibly some of the sand I slid through got between my shin and the post, or it was as I said, something that I picked up later on, maybe even sitting in the waiting room?

      I struggled with the fact that it got so serious when it didn't even leave a mark on the front of my pant legs.

  3. Doug

    Glad you have healed up even though it took a long time and it was complicated. Have you been left with any other post-accident sequelae?

    Adrenalin is funny stuff and our inner "Oh god, I am embarrassed" factor kicks in, after my scooter crash I did the 'pop-up, I am fine routine' too. It's only after the adrenalin dumps out of your system and shock takes over then all of a sudden things hurt that you realize you may have done more than you thought. Glad you were wearing gear, it would have been much worse without it.

    1. Dar,
      I didn't even have to look that one up. :)

      Worked in a Biomechanics Lab for 15 years and we were in the Research area of the Twin Cities' county teaching/Level 1 Trauma hospital. Every spring the E.R. nurses would wink at me when the first m/c victims would arrive..."spring is here, the riders are back".

      I initially went in, worried about Compartment Syndrome. My boss's hubby suffered from it and I only knew enough to speculate that I might be a candidate. Turns out that wasn't my problem but had I not been worrying about that, I probably would not have made that first visit to Urgent Care.

      The tissue is very thin over my wound, even on lil' old me. I have to be careful of avoiding any more trauma there; seems it doesn't take much to leave a mark. My leg modeling days appear to be over.

  4. I had no idea. And that would explain that dent in your leg that was visible in a few photos. I wondered...

    I'm sure glad you didn't suffer worse injuries in the incident itself and really glad MRSA didn't take you out. This is really a scary story. One worth sharing with all riders, and all people who (like me) tend to let things be to just work themselves out. The old "It won't kill me" doesn't stand anymore.

    1. Martha,
      You Did see my's there. Between my leg and an old diverticulitis injury, I'm an asymmetric fella.

      I am definitely a "go to bed and after some sleep it will be better" person. For all of the times it has worked, there were two times it would not have served me well.

  5. I have a retired nurse in my family and I remember her saying that in the hospital they called motorcycles "murdercycles" and "donorcycles". No love for two wheels there...

  6. I know how ya feel about pushing the limit.I went for a ride with the Quad City Sportbike Club 3 weeks ago.I was last at every stop they made.I wasn't comfortable riding Scenic Ridge Rd at 70 to 80 mph.Too many blind corners/driveways.I decided I like riding more with old fuckers like you Doug!JK!
    Stay safe my friend.I feel no shame in slowing down either.I've done "TOO" much stupid stuff in my life already.

  7. Scott,
    I just don't ride with the old groups any longer, though I do try and meet them someplace for coffee, ginormous tenderloins or ??? The big boys, in groups, simply find it too easy to ignore common sense "for conditions" and that quickly becomes the default.

    I don't ride fast any longer.....I know that sounds hypocritical but hear me out. That Saturday a year ago, I wasn't going to fast for dry roads, or even wet roads on any of the other machines' tires in the garage. I WAS going too fast on that bike with those I said before, for 'conditions'. Not a discovery I made after the fact; I knew it right then and for some reason was ignoring what I knew.

    Riding fast on the public roads that we all share is simply not right and I don't do it any longer. There are too many choices for us to get track time to prove whatever we need to. I'll admit that I get tempted to go out and run fast again on the track, but the costs, in every way, are too high. It's almost not even motorcycling for me but rather something else entirely. It's an addiction I've learned to control. I ride on public roads because I like to explore and that's hard to do while scraping things and chasing others off the roadway.

    Ride with Sheri and she'll keep you on the straight and narrow. :)

    1. Agree entirely. We tend to tootle off on our own. x

    2. Very well said Doug.I'm finding out I don't need to wind it out as much any more either.Just kidding about the old effer reference!

    3. mrsnesbitt,
      Welcome and thanks for stopping by! I mostly ride alone though there are a couple of people I do partner up with. A group size of two is perfect, beyond that things get iffy unless the circumstances are special and once in awhile, special is fine.

    4. Thanks Scott,
      I've written and spoken thousands of words on the same subject, thought it prudent to make myself a bit more clear.

      Kid away....I are one. I'll do all I can to see you in downtown St. Olaf.

  8. ... I saw the boo boo at the hospital.... two words... ugh lee .....
    no open wound from the crash.. but yet, infection... Doug was very lucky...

  9. Lucky I was and continue to two weeks, a lovely ride to another good rally and a great deal of Wisconsin that needs some new exploration.

    You ought to come.

  10. Things can go bad so quick. I was hit by a car while I was rollerblading. Of course, I was fine. It was only later (nearly 6months later) we discovered I had a hairline fraction in my left leg. Oh well, I was fine, but I'm still not right.

    Infections have become really scary.

    Glad the tale is having a happy ending.

    1. Keith, I hope you're right enough. Danny O'Keefe says nothing stays perfect for long and he's so very right.

      Our Biomechanics Lab had strong links to the Infectious Disease group at the hospital and yes, the infections are getting ahead of us, something I thought and have thought a great deal about when it wasn't someone else.

  11. The importance of good biking clothing - just think how different things could have been. We are hoping to go to our first Guzzi rally soon - here in UK. BUT we do want to go to Italy to the factory itself.

    1. I sure hope that you can report on your rally. My times in the UK never involved riding and I'll always be sorry about that. Friend Chuck and I had big plans back in the early '80's to visit the factory there on Lake Como, buy bikes, ride the best part of Europe and ship them home. Plans fizzled out....maybe someday.

  12. Coop, thanks for sharing that experience. It's very sobering. I'm glad it all worked out in the end. The problem is that even a light injury can be a slippery slope to more serious things.

    1. David,
      That was the odd part about this. For all of the things that may have happened, I could have experienced what I did by simply falling over on the Honda in the driveway.

      The trauma docs all spoke of motorcycle and farm accidents as being the worst when broken skin was involved; the most at-risk patients because of the soil contact.

      Keep your Vespa wheels beneath you!

  13. I read this post when you first published it and was blown away. I am glad you moved through this psychologically and physically. I'd guess many give up.

    I have ''not yet'' laid the bike down nor been hit by anyone, though I've had a few close calls. I can remember those in vivid detail and one almost put me off riding.

    It can happen so quickly and unexpectedly, as you have so eloquently described.

    Glad you moved through this phase and continue to ride and glad you are doing well.

    1. Thanks much Deb, I've never referred to what happened as an accident because it wasn't one....I was wrong, clearly at fault and very lucky that things didn't go much worse. This was a mistake I have no intention of making again.