There’s a lot of crazy, insane and/or downright maddening events going down in our world these days. I’m sure you all have those friends who are either posting every viewpoint from a pundit or celebrity that they can find or posting inspirational quotes that none of us can find helpful. Maybe amusing, but never helpful. One of those cliché phrases that I see regularly posted by my peers is “be grateful”. Pretty harmless phrase, right? But do we put that into practice?
I didn’t plan on writing two “crash” entries back-to-back, but when the owner was involved in an accident (luckily only extremely minor injuries) it struck a chord with me. I ride to work probably 70% of the time when the weather is warm enough. If I don’t have anything larger than my backpack, I’m probably saddled up on one of the street bikes in my fleet. While I may not log a lot of miles over the course of the year, from roughly March to November, I’m on a motorcycle at least 3 days a week. If the weather agrees with me, make that 6.
While riding to work isn’t particularly virtuous on its own, it still counts as putting your knees in the breeze. I don’t have a particularly fun ride to work or anything, but it beats driving the same vehicle to the office every day. Plus, I get to display my helmet collection by wearing something different each day of the week! One “obstacle” on my way to work though is a familiar foe for many of you, a busy set of railroad tracks. I must cross these shiny steel rails before turning onto the road that takes me straight to the office. Completely unavoidable. Because of this rail’s particular arrangement in relation to the intersection nearby, if the light on the other side of the tracks is red, you’re of course going to stop short of the tracks, because you never know when a train is going to come charging down the line. So, there I sat, my customary 15 minutes late, thinking about what emails and projects I would work on first. That’s when the sound permeated my full-face brain bucket. We’ve all heard this noise while stopped and there’s no worse panic in the world when you have nowhere to go. Tires screeching.
To be fair, it was more of a chirp thanks to modern vehicular ABS, but it quickly popped me right out of my stop light daydreaming and woke me up. I turned around to see a RAM 2500 about 4” away from my Dyna Superglide rear fender. I didn’t stop short of the tracks abruptly, in fact, I had been stopped for probably 15 seconds before I heard the commotion. What happened was the driver wasn’t looking for me. Blink if you’ve heard that one before.
Before I dive off into “always ride like you’re invisible (which is a life saving mantra that has saved me dozens of times) there’s not much you can do about sitting at a stop light. One of my good friends was rear ended at a stoplight several years ago. No major injuries, but his fully custom built softail was off to the scrap heap after the impact. I just wanted to illustrate that I know the danger of simply sitting still on a motorcycle, or even a car for that matter. Of course, my first reaction is pure anger. What an idiot, right? How could Mr. Monster Truck not see me stopping? I was seeing red. So many thoughts ran through my head in that moment. Does he get the flip off? Maybe even the ole double bird? How about getting off my bike, dragging him out of the truck and beating him with my helmet like a “real” biker would? How about throwing my bike over and claiming he hit me for the insurance settlement? Yes, my head is a weird and strange place, so all those thoughts actually went through the processor.
What was my choice? I looked at the driver. He was giving me the “My bad” wave. I shook my head. By this time, the light had gone green, I dropped the bike into gear and rolled away. Probably a minute down the road the adrenaline wore off. I went from “ready to fight” to “holy crap that was close”. My arms and legs felt weak, and I was slightly lightheaded. Just up ahead was a small country church and I thought about pulling in and kind of doing a walk around to calm down. All of the shock was extremely temporary, and I kept moving forward as an all-new set of new thoughts filled my head. In a span of 5 minutes, I had gone from “commit assault and battery” to “I could be dead right now”. The new “train” of thought that now entered my mind was gratefulness.
I wasn’t hurt. My bike was fine (sometimes the most important, right?) and I was going to make it to the office and do my days work. My girlfriend wouldn’t have to get that call, and I wouldn’t have medical bills. How lucky did I just get? How appreciative can someone be, especially when I’ve seen the other side of it? I’ll say it again here and then I’ll sign off, but don’t let too many things stop you from riding. If you want to ride to work, do it. If you need that weekend trip, fill up the tank. Life is too short, complicated, and frustrating to deny yourself the opportunity to enjoy your motorcycle. Be wary of what can go wrong, protect yourself as much as possible from that happening, but also remember to be grateful each time you make it to your destination safe. Take care of each other.