In everyone’s’ life some rain must fall and if you ride long enough, far enough you will take a soil sample. Here are some of mine.
I won’t get into all the “get offs” I had during the 22 years I rode motocross and outside of the occasional tip-over my first and worst crash to date came after 22 years of riding over 300,000 miles in 3 different countries.
On September 8th 1997 I was riding my 1991 GSF1100 Katana south on hwy 28 just north of Franklin, NC with two buddies. We’d been following these two cars for miles at or below the speed limit of 45 mph when we came to a long downhill straight and I decided to pass one of them. I was a relaxed pass as I rolled on top gear but when I got next to the first car he sped up and closed the gap. Already out there and with the momentum I dialed up the wick a little more to pass them both. At around 65 mph I passed the second car and let off the throttle to coast back in line. That’s when things started to go wrong. There was some light dirt on the road washed down from the hill and the back tire skidded from the engines' compression putting me into a side slide. After my years of moto-x a side slide is no big deal but I’m rapidly running out of room before the upcoming right hand turn. Traction was just stating to come back and with the front tire in my lane and the back tire just across the center line I slid into the right turn and met this nice lady on her way to work in a 1989 Chevy. The impact sent me about twenty feet in the air according to my buddy to land in the ditch. The Chevy went off the road on the opposite side and rolled down the embankment. As soon as I stopped sliding I tried to get up and check on things and …..problem. The legs won’t work and I realized I screwed the pooch on this one.
Emergency personnel were on the scene in record time and volunteer paramedic Phil held my head straight while keeping me calm while I tell my buddy Mike get pictures. At the local hospital they found my injuries too severe to treat there and choppered me out to Asheville’s trauma unit where I would spent the next two weeks in ICU with a crushed vertebrae and spinal cord damage leaving me a partial paraplegic.
Some time later a good friend would write this short story depicting the event.
Many years ago I met this French guy, Glynn, who really enjoyed motorcycling, perhaps more than I did. It didn’t matter what the weather was like, rain or shine, we always rode. The long winding roads beckoned us and many times gave us a taste of reality. Through the years we have ridden many thousands of miles together, always looking for new and adventurous rides. We have even ridden in every southeastern state. I have enjoyed his friendship and companionship more than anyone else I have ever traveled with. From day one, we have had a special kinship like no other I have experienced. Late one fall Glynn and I were playing in the mountains of North Carolina. We have done this many times before. Somehow, this day seemed different from the time we awoke in the cabin. We rode most of the day and were on our way back to Franklin to eat dinner at the bar-b-q house we often patronize. Of course, we were traveling at a high rate of speed to get there. Without warning, our lives were about to be changed forever. We came around a curve with a dirt mountain road on the right. The dirt had washed onto the road from a previous rain. Suddenly, Glynn hit the obstacle and the bike slid to the left easing the bike across the centerline. Glynn, with all of his years of experience, was attempting to regain control when a car rounded the corner. It was a matter of seconds before the car struck the bike. Glynn was launched into the air and landed flat on his back. It was all I could do to bring my own bike to a stop and rush to Glynn’s aid. “Oh God, is he okay?, Is he hurt?, How can I help?” were all questions that raced through my mind as I approached him. I knelt down by his side as he uttered the words, “Crashing sucks!” It wasn’t long before help arrived on the scene. It was amazing how quickly the ambulance and volunteer fire fighters went to work on assessing his situation. To this day, Glynn still remembers one of the volunteer fireman leaning down and saying, “ Hi, my name is Phil, just relax we are going to take good care of you.” Glynn was rushed to the nearest hospital. Unfortunately, they were not equipped to deal with trauma victims. They quickly called a helicopter and transported him to a larger hospital in Ashville, North Carolina. I was not able to ride with him. While he was being swept away, I still had to get back to the cabin and gather some of his things. The trip was almost unbearable. All I could think about was Glynn and wonder if he was going to be all right. By the time I made it to the hospital in Asheville, they were already taking great care of him. He would later be diagnosed with a crushed vertebrae in his lower back. The doctors told him he would never walk again and he definitely would never ride a motorcycle. This was not the news Glynn wanted to hear, nor would he settle for accepting. I guess one never knows just how much determination you really have until you are faced with a life-changing situation. In Asheville, I only got a glimpse of the true struggle a man would make in trying to restore his life to a shadow of what it once was. Once we returned home, he would open my eyes to what determination and perseverance really meant. A long three months went by and we hardly got to see Glynn, he spent a lot of time in various hospitals and rehab clinics. Thanksgiving Eve Glynn showed up at my house for my annual party. His smile and high spirits brought much needed relief to our friends who had not seen him in a while. He couldn’t walk and we could tell he did not like the wheel chair. I don’t know if it was the lack of control he didn’t like, or the feeling of having to rely on others for help. Later that same year, on Christmas day, Glynn and his daughter joined us at the house. This was a milestone for Glynn, he drove himself to Brooksville from Tampa in a truck with a manual transmission. Just to see the accomplished joy in his eyes, and pride back in his step, was the best Christmas gift I could ever ask for. Though he couldn’t walk without the use of a walker, he was now on his way to regaining that once lost control. He was taking his life back one struggled step at a time. Through this torn time in his life, he realized just how much support close friends and family could give. It was more than he ever thought he could have. Time went by quickly and with everyday Glynn was improving. Even the smallest strides could be seen weekly. By May of 1998, Glynn was walking with the aid of two canes. This must have helped fuel the flame to make him want to try and ride a motorcycle again. He had worked so long and hard to this point, he wanted to see just what he could do. Our usual routine is to meet at a popular location to ride on Sunday mornings. What a marvelous spectacle it was to see Glynn show up on a Honda Nighthawk 250. He was a proud sight to see. He was perched straight up on his trusted steed and ready for battle. He was the same old Glynn, yet he had changed so much. This was only the beginning to restoring the way of life he had known for so long. Presently, Glynn rides a Kawasaki ZR-7. Though there have been a few bumps along the way, he has managed to make an impossible situation, a broken back, into a minor set back. I have never witnessed a man with so much talent, resourcefulness, confidence, inner strength, and purpose, and probably never will again. Glynn has taught me so much just by watching his accomplishments and I truly respect him for his gift. I often reflect back to his situation when life throws a curve at me. Could I ever be as strong willed and determined as Glynn? I certainly hope so.
Mike E. Lugiewicz
August 17th 1999 on a typical Sunday morning ride. My buddy Mike was leading the group on a country road in Florida when a deer jumps a wooden fence crossing right in front of him. Hard on the binders he nearly hits the animal that crosses the road and runs into a chain link fence on the far side as if it weren’t there. The fence throws the animal back and she turns around and runs into it again, and again. By this time (slowing down the whole time) I figure the deer is going to realize there’s no way out that way and double back the way she came so I come to a stop to wait it out. Meanwhile the rider behind me on a Honda 900RR is looking over his shoulder warning the others to watch out for the deer. He looks forward again and realizes I’m stopped and tags the brakes locking up both wheels leaving fifteen feet of skid marks. I hear the tires squeal and had just enough time to look at the mirror before he impacted me. He hit hard enough to peel my back rim with his brake rotor. The impact sent him over the handlebars taking out his windscreen and planting his helmet in the middle of my back sending me over the bars taking my windscreen with me. Fortunately since the big accident I’d taken to wearing a turtle shell back brace and outside of some bruising and minor scraps I’m fine. He on the other hand had two broken wrist, two broken forearms, a concussion and a split pelvis. His turn for the helicopter ride.
My new bike is totaled and his insurance buys me a 2000 Kawasaki ZR-7.
August 24th 2003 riding in fourth place behind my buddy Ken we turn down a nice twisty road when the lead rider dials it up and disappears around the first turn. Ken on his second day riding after some work related back surgery keys his Chatter Box (a bike to bike communicator) “I’m gonna play with him” passes My buddy Mike and runs around the same turn. I’m thinking “this is bad” because three turns later is a bad turn to dive into blind, about that time I hear some nasty crunchy sounds over the Chatter Box. I key mine “That doesn’t sound good” already knowing what happened I rush to close the gap to Mike. We get to the turn in question and all I can think of is, “I hope he’s OK” forsaking all else I look for him seeing nothing. Turns out Mike’s bike was blocking my view of him so when he let off the throttle on his Ducati 996 it was the same as braking but without brake lights, by the time I realized what was going on I was on top of him. Leaned over grabbing a handful of brake the front tire broke traction. The sad part is, I could have recovered the lock up but at the expense of taking out the Duc so I stay on the brakes and down I go at around 70 mph. I begin to roll as fast as possible to minimize the road rash on my bare arms.
My ZR-7 died after meeting a pine tree.
The ZR's final resting place
Ken with a dislocated right shoulder
My poor ZR, at such a tender age
Road rash is like a really BAD sunburn
May 14th 2009, having met up with 12 friends from various states for our annual ride in the mountains we set out on our usual roads, I'm riding Suzi my Suzuki 1200 Bandit. The first half of the day went well, the weather was holding and we were having a good time. On the way down the mountain to our lunch spot I followed a rider who was pushing his skills to the limit getting out of sorts no less than three times and recovering. During lunch I remembered telling him, “We used a bucket load of luck coming down the mountain” and thought to myself it would be prudent to take it a little easier on the way back. Heading back up the mountain I was leading and all was going well, a nice relaxed pace but it was not to last. As I accelerated out of one turn into the next the speed picked up along with the fun factor and soon we were canyon carving again. Until havoc struck. Approaching an uphill left hander I braked and leaned in headed for the apex, as I crossed the center of my lane I rolled over some fine gravel the same color as the road and the front tire lost purchase, with the front end crossed up I slid the front tire a good fifteen feet but with no traction to be found I went down hard on my left side.
It wasn’t until I stopped sliding that I noticed the rest of the damage, the knee was missing from my riding pants showing the hamburger beneath.
We get back to the hotel and I get cleaned up, the knee is bad and the foot is bruised but nothing appears to be broken. Suzi suffered some damage but the crash bars took the brunt of it keeping it rideable.
The next morning with two friends in tow we start the 900 mile ride to home but the adventure didn't end there. On the way home I would strike a large dog who ran out in the road but the only damage there was to the dog.
4th of July week-end 2011. I decided to run up to North Carolina and escort a friend back on country roads knowing the interstate would be packed. I left out on a Friday morning and arrived at a mutual friends’ house in Murphy, NC.
That Saturday we took a mountain ride and had a great time.
Sunday morning and it’s time to make tracks for home. Expecting some serious heat in Florida we pulled out at 0400. Two hundred yards from the house we had a close call with a possum crossing the road, a preview of things to come.
Along the route we saw two deer as they jumped back into the woods and safety.
Central Georgia 0800, about two miles from a scheduled refueling stop on a straight 2-lane country road I check on my buddy in the mirror as I often do then havoc struck. Before I returned my attention to the front I was airborne after what seemed like hitting an invisible wall, later my buddy would claim it was a deer. I fly off the front of the bike landing hard on the pavement then sliding, rolling to a stop. Meanwhile my buddy swerves to miss my sliding bike but clips the back end and goes down as well. He suffers multiple femur fractures but manages to drag himself off the road so as not to get run over should anyone else come along. My poor Suzi is off in the ditch and the deer is nowhere to be found. An ambulance ride to the hospital to get checked out and I find that nothing is broken but I have a fair amount of soft tissue damage and a strained lumbar.
All my safety gear worked but it now looks like a Rottweiler’s chew toy, I would hate to think what would have happened had I not been as well protected.
And so close to a mileage milestone.
Nothing left to do now but put in the recovery time and deal with the pain, as the saying goes...
People often ask, “And you still ride?” Yes I think it’s a genetic defect, I blew my first turn at age 8 in the French Alps and it’s been an adventure ever since.
Hopefully this page will never get updated.
Time will tell.