You Go Where You Look

Remember this from your MSF class or other basic motorcycling class that you may have taken?  I have heard the instructor in my head many times reminding me that the bike will go where I look.  I’ve also tested that lesson and proved it’s true – oh no, I don’t want to hit that pothole and WHAM!  Yes, I was focused on it and I went right into it.

Lately I have been wondering if this concept also applies to life.  If I am too focused on what happened in the past, where am I going?  Likely no where that I want to be.  As the calendar year comes to a close, I dare to think about next year’s riding season and dream of where I might go.  I think about what it might feel like to plan for and take off on a multi day trip again.  I wonder about how I would handle that and if I’m going to be up for it.

As the days grow shorter and cooler, I always look forward to spring.  I tolerate winter and sometimes even that’s a stretch.  I don’t enjoy the snow, I simply deal with it.  One way of coping when the snow starts to fly is planning for summer fun.  I’m not ready to commit to a specific plan for next summer yet, but I am at least allowing myself the space to think about what it may look like.  My hope is that will help me in making it a reality next year.  Will I indeed go where I look?  I sure hope so!

Pillion’s Perspective

It has been over three years since I’ve been a pillion on anyone’s bike.  If I have my way, it will be at least three more before it ever happens again too!  I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t enjoy it and now I can confirm that is, indeed, true.

Last weekend I took my first ever ride on the back of my riding partner’s bike.  Before anyone gets the wrong idea, let me say it had nothing to with a lack of trust in him.   He is a great rider and someone I trust completely.  What was bothering me about it, though, took a while to sort out.

There is something about not being on my own bike, and in charge of my own fate that makes me uncomfortable now.  Or maybe I’m a bit of a control freak.  Ok, there, I said it!  Even though our journey was brief, it took everything in me to sit still and not complain the entire time.  That would have been terribly rude of me as he was doing me a favor in letting me ride on the back.

If I am completely honest, I also found it a bit boring.  I don’t have to worry about traffic and in fact, it could be distracting for someone else to be looking around to see if the way is clear.  Just sit there, don’t any make unexpected moves and behave!  Where is the fun in that?  Other than in hanging out with my friend of course, but I don’t need to ride pillion to accomplish that.

I know of a few folks who only ride pillion and say they really enjoy it.  I’m hoping that the next time I run into one of them, they can explain it to me, because clearly, I have some thing still to learn.

 

D30 Armor Lessons

D what you may be asking?  D30 armor – the armor that is in my Klim jacket and pants.  It’s probably in other brands of gear too, but since I am no expert, I don’t want to assume or lead anyone astray.

After my accident in Alaska I had to think about my gear and what needed to be replaced.  My helmet was obviously destroyed, but my jacket and pants are just dirty and grass stained  I have not found any holes or tears in either piece.  Then a friend asked me about the armor in the gear – are we supposed to replace it after a crash?

I looked online and found various opinions.  I finally went straight to Klim and asked them, since they are the experts on their gear  What I learned is that the D30 armor is designed to withstand multiple impacts.  Unlike the padding in helmets, which takes one impact and must be replaced, D30 armor bounces back.  Now I know and can go on wearing my Klim gear with full confidence that it will protect me should this happen again.  Obviously I hope this never happens again, but I don’t believe in tempting fate and taking a chance with my life.

Speaking of gear – I had looked at my helmet a few days after the accident and while obviously damaged, I didn’t think it was terrible.  Last weekend my riding partner asked to see it and I took it out of the bag again.  As I did, I noticed that the chin bar piece of the helmet no longer closed.  In fact, it is now far out of alignment.  I was shocked!  Of course, I have already replaced the helmet and wouldn’t consider wearing it, but I didn’t fully realize initially just how damaged it is.  That was a reality check!

I hope that everyone wears ATGATT (all the gear, all the time) when they ride.  Please check your armor and ask the manufacturer about it’s safety if you have had an impact.  Make sure it’s in good repair so that if you should need it,  it can do it’s very best to protect you!

I am still on the road to recovery, and it’s longer than I’d like, but I am learning.  Last week I gained the ability to look over my right shoulder again.  Hopefully turning my head over my left shoulder will follow soon.

The new helmet is slowly breaking in and my bluetooth communication device is installed on it.  I also have replaced the RAM mount that holds my phone when I’m on the bike.  I never take calls or texts, but I do use my phone for navigation and especially for music.

Be safe out there!

New Helmet!

Isn’t it funny how life works out sometimes?  I’ve had my black Shoei helmet since I started riding again in 2014 or 2015, whatever it was.  I remember going to figure out which brand was going to work best for my head shape.  The color was not something I thought a lot about.  I remember before my accident saying that when I decided to replace my helmet, I was going with either a white one or high viz to give better visibility   to drivers.

Obviously I wasn’t expecting the accident and I would have gladly just paid for a replacement helmet and avoided all the other stuff.  But here I am nearly 4 weeks later and finally able to do some helmet shopping.  I tried earlier but as soon as I put one on my head,  my neck was screaming in pain!  At least I had the chance to discuss the different options with the sales people at my favorite gear store.  So much has changed since I bought my last helmet.

Yesterday I was finally feeling pretty good and very little pain.  I do feel a little stiffness but nothing compared to even a few days ago.  All the work I have been doing to recover is paying off.  So I made a trip to the gear store to see how my head and neck would feel about wearing a helmet now.  I also wanted some expert assistance in sizing to ensure I am in the appropriate size!

This time I went with a full face instead of a modular style helmet.  I liked the convenience of a modular, but after my accident, I am obsessed with safety!  The Shoei models seem to fit my head well, so I stayed with them again.  I also noticed that the ventilation system has changed and while I haven’t ridden in this one yet, I am hopeful it will be a little cooler.  Maybe the coolest feature I found is that since there is no built in sun visor, another option is needed in sunny Colorado.  The sales people showed me a visor with the transitions technology that adjusts to the light and darkens in bright sunlight.  We took it outside to test it and I was impressed!

This afternoon I am wearing my new helmet around the house for extended periods to make sure it doesn’t have any pressure points on my head.  So far, so good!  I’m excited to be making progress towards being back on my bike.  I had grand ideas of maybe taking the bike for a short ride over this holiday weekend, but my recovery so far has been a series one step forward and one or two steps back.  I woke up this morning feeling stiff so have decided I’m not going to rush things.  As hard as it is to wait, I want to be sure my body is ready for riding so I don’t set my recovery back by pushing too hard.

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Helmet selfie! 🙂

I used to balk at the price of helmets and all the safety gear, but since my accident, I gladly just hand over the money.  My life is worth way more than what this stuff costs and I’ll never complain again.  Instead, I am grateful to be here to replace my helmet and ride another day!

 

 

Alaska – The Crash

After we checked into our lodgings near Paxson, the plan was for those interested to do a few miles on an “easy dirt road” to Maclaren Summit, which has a nice mountain view.  I’m no expert dirt biker, but have done enough dirt roads that I feel comfortable standing on the pegs and navigating them.  I don’t get crazy with my speed and maneuvering, but I don’t panic either.

We headed out from our lodging and soon were on the unpaved section of the Denali Highway.  I was the fourth out of five riders and the front three quickly left me behind.  I was used to this by this point and knew that it was important for me to ride my own ride, at whatever pace I feel comfortable.  There wasn’t much car traffic so I knew I wasn’t holding up a line of people by simply going the speed limit.  A couple times I thought about stopping to turn around and head back.  I couldn’t see the group ahead of me and the person behind me was long gone from my sight too.  I finally decided I was going to crest this last hill and turn around; that’s when I spotted the other three bikes parked at the summit

The last rider in our group arrived shortly after and seemed unhappy about having been left, as I was. We took in the views, took some photos and even had a prairie dog come see what we were all about.  Pretty soon the rider who arrived last headed back since she felt she was the slowest of the group.  Shortly after that two others took off, leaving myself and one other rider.  We headed back pretty closely behind the first group but I never saw them again.

I estimate that we were about half way back when I came upon an RV that was traveling awfully slow in front of me.  I checked for oncoming traffic and seeing none decided to pass the RV on the left. Next thing I know, the RV is coming closer and closer to me until I was at the far left edge of the road and the RV is right there too!  I admit that I panicked knowing I was about to be hit I probably grabbed the brakes hard.  That’s a bad idea on dirt and gravel because the front end went into a wobble.  The last thing I remember is thinking “oh **** this is bad, now what do I do?!”

Apparently I flew quite a distance from the bike and landed face down, unconscious.  The rider behind me came to my aid as did at least one other person.  The RV continued on as if nothing happened, so I have to assume they never saw me.  Since the rest of my group was so far ahead they had no idea anything had happened.  There went the possibility to capture the RV’s license plate!   An ambulance was called and a medical helicopter, plus Alaska state patrol.  Since we were so remote, it was at least 2 hours before they all reached me.  I am very fortunate that more folks stopped to assist and they were able to use a ladder to carry me up the embankment I landed on while I waited.  It had been getting cold pretty quickly on that hill.

Trying to fly

I landed pretty far from the bike – these ladies are on either side of me as I lay on the ground.

I remember bits of conversations while I laid there.  I remember the kindness of total strangers who offered up blankets to keep me warm and those who kept me talking and awake as I likely had a concussion.  I also remember my tour guide saying she was going with me to the hospital.  Another call from her boss conveyed that would not be happening and that I needed to figure it out on my own.  Maybe it was the head injury or the emotions of the whole experience, but I felt scared and overwhelmed.  I was already confused, I didn’t know what was going on and now I was going to have to navigate this on my own too.  As it turned out, there was barely room in the helicopter for me, my camera bag and one packing cube of clothes, so there was no way she could have gone anyhow.

One person that stopped to “help” sticks out as being decidely not helpful.  As I lay there on the ground obviously in pain, this person came over to me and said “you know they’re going to cut your gear off at the hospital, right?”  I couldn’t help but notice the sneer in the facial expression and the tone of voice.  I may have had a concussion, but I’m still aware!  I next heard one of the EMTs tell that individual to leave.  I’m not sure why they thought poking me about having my gear cut off was necessary, but they did.  Now it strikes me as a very cruel and strange thing to say to someone.  I suppose some people just despise motorcyclists.

Soon I heard a helicopter in the distance and the EMTs made sure I was covered with a blanket so I didn’t sustain further injuries as the helicopter tried to land on the gravel road.  Dirt and gravel went flying from the rotors and the photos show quite a dust storm! The pilot didn’t like what she saw there and took the helicopter back up and moved a bit further away.  After the EMTs from the helicopter checked me out,  started an IV and traded my helmet for a neck brace, I was loaded into the regular ambulance and driven a short distance to the helicopter.  The people taking care of me said it would feel very strange to be loaded into the helicopter, like I was going to fall to one side, but they assured me I was safe and they had it under control.  I’m glad they warned me because as I lay on what felt like a very narrow support, I was convinced that I was about to slide off and land on the road again.

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Helicopter 1st landing attempt

Thankfully the helicopter ride was uneventful, at least for me.  I was flown a couple hours away to the ER in Palmer, Alaska.  I heard the hand off from the helicopter EMT to the trauma team and remember him saying they had to give me something because my vital signs took a turn for the worse.  The trauma team was very careful, but efficient with removing my gear and no scissors were necessary!  After checking me over, the doctor sent me for a CT scan to see what was broken or damaged.  Until the scans came back there was not much they or I could do.  I couldn’t even get up to use the bathroom!

Around 2 AM the CT scans came back and the ER doc came in to say he had no idea how I was alive, let alone escaped this crash with nothing broken.  He was sure something had been overlooked and proceeded to check my hands and feet again to be sure.  He then told me that my Klim riding gear and my Shoei helmet had saved my life!  I think at that point, I just broke down in tears of gratitude.  Again.  Since the rest of my group was hours away and it was after 2 AM, the ER staff let me stay there for the rest of the night.  The nurse even brought me some food, water and a Coke since it had been over 12 hours since I’d eaten.  I’d never spent the night in the hospital before, but I can tell you there is very little sleeping in a trauma center!  By then I was just grateful that I didn’t have to figure out where to go at 2 AM in a city and state I was not at all familiar with.

Around 6:30 the next morning as the staff was preparing to end their shifts, one of the nurses brought me some coffee, took off all the monitoring devices and helped me pack up my things so I could leave.  I had no plan about where to go or what to do next.  I was obviously not able to ride and the bike was hours away anyhow.  I didn’t yet know that the bike was damaged enough it couldn’t be ridden anyway.  I looked into flying home early and it was over $1,000 to change my ticket.  I enlisted a friend to help me find a hotel in Palmer so I could get some sleep, but none were available until after 3 PM.  Calling some rental car agencies turned up nothing either.  I truly thought I was going to be stranded in the hospital lobby until I could get a flight home the next day!

A couple of hours later someone suggested an app that allows people to rent out their own cars.  I checked and found one that was near my location, but was not available until the afternoon.  I completed the reservation and then on a whim sent the owner a message and asked that he contact me if by chance the car became available sooner.  As luck  would have it, it was available soon after.  I wasn’t even sure if I could or should be driving, but in that moment, I just wanted out of the damn hospital.  I was exhausted and hungry, but I needed a plan for the day that didn’t involve trying to sleep in the hospital waiting room!  I picked up the car that morning and started the journey to Valdez to catch up with my group.  I’ll write about the rest of the trip in another blog post.

It has now been 18 days since the accident.  The bruises are slowly fading.  The muscles are slowly healing.   When I was healed enough, I saw my massage therapist and acupuncturist to work on realigning and releasing muscle tension.  There is improvement but nothing is normal yet, so the journey will continue.  Next week I am seeing a chiropractor to see how far out of alignment my bones are and what can be done to remedy that.

A couple of well intentioned people have suggested that I stop riding after this experience.  I can tell you that most certainly will NOT happen.  I have discussed with my riding partner what the plan is once my body has healed.  I will return to riding in my time, at my pace.  I trust my riding partner implicitly and I know that he will push me just a little as I am ready to be pushed.  I also know that if I have a melt down, he’ll be there to support me and help me find my love of riding again.  While I hope that I never have another accident, I know that life is not without risk.  I am so exceptionally grateful to be here, I can’t say that enough times.

Alaska – Day 6

Chena Hot Springs to Paxson – approx. 240 miles

As we left Chena Hot Springs, the blue skies quickly gave way to rain clouds, again.  After riding all day to Fairbanks in rain, I felt like I was pretty prepared.  Little did I know that this day would bring rain like I have never experienced before!

Our first stop of the day was at North Pole and a group visit with a Santa Claus that darn near made me believe again.  He was quite jovial and had an answer for each of our endless questions about his flying altitude, where are the reindeer and does he wear a helmet and protective gear!  At first I felt a little silly going to see Santa at my age, but I have to admit, it was a fun stop.

We also encountered our first real road construction this day and were waved to the front since there was a pilot car.  I don’t recall ever experiencing this before, but apparently the road construction folks in Alaska want motorcycles at the front so that the pilot car can see if a bike goes down and assist them.  We rode a long stretch of dirt behind the pilot car with most of us standing on the pegs for stability and control.  It wasn’t difficult riding, it was just different and for me, it was good to be on the dirt again, using those skills I don’t use often.

After we left North Pole, the skies opened up and we experienced rain such as I have rarely even driven in, let alone ridden in.  I was very grateful for my goretex gear and have to say that it help up admirably!  We had a planned lunch stop at a picnic area near a lake which is probably amazing on a sunny day.  On this day with the torrential rain coming down, we all took cover under the eaves of the building that contained the outhouses!

We decided to press on to our next gas stop in Delta Junction and see if the rain would let up so we weren’t also eating lunch in the rain.  As luck would have it, there was a laundromat right next to our gas stop!  I have never seen so many biker ladies pile into a laundromat so enthusiastically before.  We all dried our riding jackets and other layers to get some relief from the cold.  We even became the topic of a couple photos with all the bikes parked outside, surely people wondering what could we be doing?  We had lunch right there in the laundromat while everything dried – no fancy lunch stops for this bunch and I know that I was just thrilled to have warm clothing again!

The afternoon was wearing on me and then we came to a pull out to gather the group together again.  As I turned left into the parking area, I noticed the view and my jaw literally dropped!  I could barely park my bike I was so excited to capture this view.  At the same time, my tour leader saw the joy and amazement on my face and captured an incredible shot of me!  At last, I felt like I was seeing Alaska!

We stopped one last time at a scenic overlook and our tour leader reminded us that this was likely our last spot for cell phone service for about 24 hours.  We were that remote and I was excited about it!

Once we arrived at our lodgings and unloaded our bags from the chase truck, most of us headed out for a little dirt riding on the Denali Highway.  It was about 15 miles out to a scenic overlook and we wanted to check that out and be back in time for dinner.

In that moment, I had no idea what lie ahead for me.  It’s going to take me a while to write the post about it, so I am going to say simply that I am ok.  I’ll save the rest for the next post.  Please, bear with me as I work through the emotions that seem to leap to the surface as I describe what happened on that gravel road . . .

Thanks for reading!

Alaska – Day 1

Day 1 – travel from Denver to Seattle to Anchorage

Once I booked my Alaska tour and the trip had enough people registered to be locked in, it was time to think about airfare.  I knew it was a long trip and would be expensive, but I didn’t know just HOW expensive!  I finally settled on a flight with a layover each way to make it more affordable for me.  As I was heading for the Denver airport, a text came in that my flight was now leaving 30 minutes later than scheduled.  My layover was only 60 minutes in Seattle.  Gulp.  I started to question my choices in saving money on the flight.  As we sat on the runway in Denver, an announcement from the pilot: there was too much traffic coming into Seattle and we were going to delay our takeoff another 20 minutes.  Oh boy, 10 minute layover now!  Yikes!

I tried to put all of this out of my mind and just relax for the flight.  Nothing I can do anyway, right?  I can’t fly that plane and the pilots were doing the best they could to get us to Seattle safely.  As we started to prepare for landing in Seattle, the woman across the aisle from me asked the flight attendant about connecting flights.  It turns out she was on the same flight I was scheduled on into Anchorage.    What annoyed and amused me about their conversation was the passenger asking if the connecting flight would be held since we had left late and then been delayed again.  The flight attendant looked at her and said of course not, it’s not OUR fault.  Now wait just a moment here!  I could only shake my head at that.

Upon leaving the plane, we found there was no airline representative waiting for us in Seattle.  The lady across the aisle looked at me and said is that good or bad?  I had to assume it was a good sign that we were not all rebooked.  Regardless, my suggestion was we make a run for the next flight and cross our fingers.  Within minutes there were 10 of us from the Denver flight sprinting to the next gate.  I was surprised to find the flight there and the door still open when we arrived despite it being only about 1 minute to the scheduled take off.  As more and more passengers came on the plane, I learned there were at least 25 people on the flight from Denver that were on the same flight to Anchorage as me.  Ahhh, now that is enough people to make an airline hold a flight!

I was so grateful to be on the ground safely in Anchorage, but it was nearly 3 AM in my time zone.  I had been awake for 21 hours and I was feeling every minute of that.  I guess the chaos of the day had finally caught up with me because I found it nearly impossible to sleep on either flight.  Luckily my suitcase came quickly and I called the hotel shuttle for a pick up.  A few minutes later, there was the shuttle and I was on my way.  Oh, but you knew it couldn’t be that easy, right?

The shuttle brought us to the hotel and I remember thinking hmmm, this isn’t quite what I was expecting for the big pile of money I paid.  Then I chided myself for being so judgmental and decided to just get some sleep.  Except the front desk had no record of a reservation for me!  A few more questions and we realized that I was at the wrong hotel!!  Aggghhhhh!  The “correct” hotel has a similar name and was just a short drive away.  The very patient shuttle driver assured me this happens all the time and she insisted on driving me to my actual hotel.  In my sleepy brain I was eternally grateful for her kindness because I’m not sure I could have navigated those streets on my own at that point.

Once I had my room key at the correct hotel I vaguely remember dragging my suitcase in the door, texting the group that I had arrived and that was it, I was asleep at last.  The real adventure would begin the very next morning!