I think us Midwesterners generally develop an appreciation for the ephemeral. Otherwise we develop winter depression or move. Here are a few friends of mine racing motorcycles on studded tires on the frozen McKinley Marina in downtown Milwaukee. On the other side of the breakwater people are ice fishing. We’ve all got our seasonal loves. Unless we have a February heatwave, I expect the ice should be solid for Slippery Sunday during the weekend of Mama Tried Motorcycle Show (if that’s where they decide the ice racing will take place).
Thursday night I was riding my motorcycle home from work. I took a more well-lit route, as opposed to the curvy and fun road as I figured that would be safer. I was traveling on a city street, driving south, when a car traveling northbound abruptly turned left in front of me.
There was no way I could have reacted to have any effect on the inevitable impact. Physics, man. My motorcycle crashed into the side of the car and I have a brief snapshot of flying over the car, and that’s about all I remember for a few minutes. A witness tells me that the driver waited for me to get up before leaving the scene.
I vaguely recall talking with a handful of strangers. I don’t remember taking off my helmet, or standing up, or coming to. I don’t know for how long I spent either on back or on my belly in the middle of the street next to the shattered headlight and the busted steel bits of the triple clamp. I recall the feeling of grit in my mouth and realized the next morning that coarse-grain sand I spit out was part of my tooth. I remember the sensation that everything I saw was out of focus, like looking through the wrong prescription of a stranger’s sunglasses.
A few people asked me for money while I wobbled around confused and unsure about what had just happened and whether I was ok. “There’s an ATM right around the corner, come on, I’ll show you,” one of them persuaded.
At some point the police arrived and we spoke, of which I remember snapshots. The police got a call about a shooting, which they had to tend to immediately, and a report made its way into my pocket. I understand and agree completely with their sudden exit.
(from what I’m told) While I was talking with the police, a fellow motorcycle rider, who I did not know nor remember, stopped and pushed my bike out of the road. He then called a friend we have in common and said, “Do you know anyone with a blue Yamaha DT175? They just got into an accident on Humboldt and Capitol and you might want to check on them.”
My friend Andy then called his shopmate Chadwick who immediately drove his van over. He stepped out of his newly acquired #VanLife van, without his glasses on and I said something like, “Are you Chadwick? What are you doing here?” I think he answered, “Andy told me to come check on you.” In some amount of time both me and the bike left in Chadwick’s van. Chad’s wife Becky picked me up from the shop, because in my babbling I announced, “I’d really like to take a bath right now,” and she brought me to their house and made that happen.
The whole night still feels surreal, probably because I don’t remember all of it. It feels like a movie I watched while half asleep and dozing in and out of attention.
I’d probably be a little more bummed out that the dual sport I bought to ride dirt bikes with my kid is totaled, except I keep returning to a sense of amazement that both strangers and friends dropped what they were doing to see if there was a possibility I *might* need help. Which I certainly did. I can’t imagine what walking home from that would have been like, if I would have made it, and how the rest of the night would have progressed.
As I sit here doing nothing in a dark room under doctor’s orders (I’m not supposed to be reading or typing this on a screen either), despite the soreness of swelling and road rash and slow, deliberate movements when I get up, I actually feel pretty good.
For years, I’ve stopped by fellow cyclists and motorcycle riders on the side of the road or trail and asked if they were ok or if they needed anything. But it never occurred to me that other people do the same. The fact that other conscientious riders are out there and hop into action when it seems like they could have a positive effect on a situation makes me very glad. After a rather dismaying experience, it redeems how I feel about living in this world.
Here is my final television reporting piece for this semester, a spotlight on Walker’s Point and Fuel Cafe’s Two Wheel Thursday. For this one we had to come in at longer than 60 seconds and under 1:20.