21 May 2009


it seems fitting to follow up the previous entry's description of a motorcycle accident with Son of Motorcycle Accident. and guess what -- different city, but nearly the identical scenario. recall that the first time, i was on my silver wing, obeying all laws on a busy traffic artery, and a little old lady in a big ol' cadillac made an illegal left turn across my path, striking my bike. that was in september, 1985.

my bike was damaged but latter repaired, minus the shattered saddlebags, alas. time passed, i met my third life partner, and followed her career around the country. from tucson, arizona, we spent a year in charleston, south carolina (just in time for hurricane hugo), then moved to philadelphia in the summer of 1990. on 30 october (i recall the date because i was looking forward to greeting trick-or-treaters the next night), i was riding my bike to a job interview. and wouldn't you know, a little old lady in a big ol' oldsmobile made an illegal left turn across my path. only this time she beat me to the point of impact, so my front wheel struck her front bumper. it was deja vu all over again. my bike was sent skidding to the curb by the force of impact (across two lanes), and i was sent somersaulting through the air, landing on the sidewalk twenty feet beyond my bike, again on my back. this time i was unconscious longer. when i came to, i couldn't move my neck, and thought "oh sh--, it's broken." at long last an ambulance arrived, and they strapped me to a wooden backboard, thence onto a gurney, thence into the waiting vehicle. the ride was agony.

i spent eight eternal hours on that backboard in the ER, still with my full-face helmet on. the pain all along my spine from the weight of my body on the backboard had me nearly screaming. meds were forbidden until they knew what was up with the spinal cord. xrays, MRI, and at last, sweet blessed morphine. heaven.

long story short, i had a fractured left clavicle (collarbone), a separated left shoulder, and another concussion. my medical care was quite incompetent. the clavicle was left to mend on its own, rather than insert pins to align it properly. i wore my left arm in a sling 24/7 (except in the shower) to support the left shoulder while it healed. astonishingly, while still in the sling, i was hired as a teacher and counselor at a small private residential school whose students were all SED (severely emotionally disturbed) adolescents, removed from their families by the courts for reasons of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. visually i was a sorry picture, so i'm grateful to the school's director for looking past that to my education and experience, and deciding i was a good hire.

and i was. i taught basic math, algebra, geometry, biology, and environmental studies (the last was a course which they allowed me to create from scratch, which was nothing short of grand). the student population was coed, 20 boys and 40 girls, all living in cottages on campus. the grounds had once been a posh estate, so we had large expanses of lawn and trees, a swimming pool, an infirmary, a gym, cafeteria, and a staff of six master's level therapists. there were seven teachers and a varying number of aides in the school, so the average class size was 12-15, a ratio which public school teachers would kill for. but we had our hands full, since our kids were all struggling mightily with intense emotional issues, and many of them were on psychotropic meds. i didn't even bother with lesson plans, since any given class was guaranteed to be disrupted by arguments or violence. passive physical restraints and isolated counseling were a daily occurrence.

and it was one of the most rewarding jobs i've ever had. we had our students for an average of one to two years each, lots of time to develop trust, rapport, and make a positive difference in many (not all) young lives. i miss working there.

so not all accident or disability stories have tragic endings. but i will say this -- my left shoulder rides lower than my right to this day, and gives me occasional pain. and remember that full-face helmet? the chin portion was cracked clear through. if i hadn't been wearing it, imagine what would have happened to my face.

oh yeah. after i'd begun healing, my partner laid down the law -- "the motorcycle goes, or i do." she was so afraid when she got the call from the ER, and (legitimately) never wanted to go through that panic again. i know a number of hard-core bikers who, at this point in the story, would say, "you know, i'll really miss that woman." not me. i knew what a treasure i had in her, and later sold the bike for scrap.

eventually our travels took us to vancouver, washington, and johnson city, tennessee, where after five years the relationship came apart, for reasons which are between her and me. i'm now back in montana. would i buy a motorcycle again? yes. probably a BMW touring bike. doesn't mean that i take two-wheeled safety for granted. car and truck drivers plain do not see (because they fail to train themselves to see) smaller objects on the road like motorcycles and bicycles. i'm in no hurry to reenter that danger zone.

but i do miss the freedom, the transcendent open-to-the-sky freedom, of motorcycles. perhaps that's why i'm more focused on becoming a pilot, where safety is much more manageable. but that's another story for another time.


  1. I had a Honda Shadow Aero 1100 up until last month when I sold it for gas money to get me to Houston. It was my first motorcycle and pretty much the coolest thing I have been on. I think the only thing that could compare to motorcycling would be rocketing to space, but who gets to do that??! I hope you get your BMW sometime and have good travels!

  2. thanks, frank, and right back atcha. coincidence -- my first bike was a '63 triumph bonneville 650, and i sold it for gas money in houston to get me back to tucson. still miss that bike.