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Assumptions will bite you

Posted By Pam Fisher, Wednesday, May 25, 2016

So, I crashed my beautiful, dependable, and beloved Gryndl, my Rockster 80th Anniversary Limited Edition #196 on Mother’s Day, on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). My sturdy, but broken, steed sits forlorn at a Tow Yard, near Fancygap, VA, waiting to be picked up as salvage.

Photo courtesy of Blind Kenny

My friend and I had had a great weekend at Mountain Moxie 2016. I got comfortable with twisty riding, again, but still can’t keep up with her Versys' flickability. We had a great ride on Saturday, got photo captured by (May 7). We got to hang out with gobs of lady and men riders, all in this AMAZING LODGE, The Switzerland Inn, in Spruce Pines, NC. The event included terrific speakers, orgasmically delicious food, shopping, and OMFG unbelievable roads. My friend and I have ridden thousands of miles together over the years, but very little of that travel has been on winding two-lane country roads.

My crash wasn’t a case of not being comfortable riding together. It was a case of not realizing we had different expectations for a specific situation. Each of us reacted as we thought was correct for what unfolded.

We had opted to take the BRP homeward, until we hit the closure at Roanoke, or got tired of it. My friend led, because I get stressed (yes, really), and she had her Garmin, which is better for routing. I didn't even bring my GPS, because Waze works so well for me - until you are out of cell tower range, I discovered.

Anyway, we were doing great. Having fun. The weather was perfect. Not too warm, mostly cloudy, but no rain. One must also understand that passing on the BRP is a challenge because of the winding road, with generally short sightlines. There are passing zones, but not a lot, and they tend to be conservative. Nevertheless, we didn't have to follow slow traffic for very long.

Background: When my husband, Chaz, and I are on roads like this, he usually leads. He'll choose the passing point, signal, move out, and accelerate past, with me sling-shotting quickly after him. If oncoming cars should appear, he'll twist harder to make sure he allows me room to follow/complete the pass. It is understood between us that once he pulls into the oncoming lane, he’s essentially committed both of us to the pass.

She and I passed like this, all morning/afternoon (or so I assumed). Until that last fateful attempt, we hadn't encountered opposing traffic so near to us, from around the next turn. I saw the oncoming cars, and being in “habit” passing mode, I twisted harder, but she didn't accelerate as I expected.

I remember suddenly being right on her rear-end, a snapshot of the back of her red jacket, and reacting. I honestly don't remember what I decided to do. But it seems most likely that I simply jerked my bars left to avoid rear-ending her, which sent me across the left lane and down the steep embankment. She didn’t see a thing. She was focused on the target car, which paced her briefly, then slowed to let her in. She thought I'd dropped behind the target car. But when she finally had a chance to pull off safely, the car behind her told her I'd gone off the road. She had to turn around and go back.



The EMTs came quickly, as did the Park Police. I was unconscious/out of it/in pain. They had to cut off my left Cruiser Works Boot. Those were my original motorcycle boots. They survived my 2004 big crash, see "Stepping Up the Ladder of Risk." I was a bit sad at that. My other gear didn't get cut. How they got my jacket off, I don't know. My helmet has a big round, grassy impact/scrape mark behind my right ear. No pavement marks. My head must have stuck one of the small tree stumps left from recent brush clearing on that curve.

I remember little glimpses from being on the ground, with the EMTs working on me, My friend’s familiar calm voice, in snatches. Apparently, I talked to Chaz on my phone, while lying there. I remember more from the ambulance ride: Mostly looking up at the inside, with a face over me, Pain as they poked and prodded. Got an IV started.

Then I was on a bed in the ER. Once they figured out I wasn’t in immediate danger of dying, it got really boring. We spent a lot of time waiting. There was pain as they put plates behind my injured shoulder for an X-ray image. The ankle, not so much. I was rolled out for a CT scan to check for internal and brain injuries. My friend waited patiently with me, saying Chaz was on his way, that she'd made sure my wallet and phone were with me, and the tow truck driver would secure my cases and bags. Bless her, she collected my earrings, etc. from the EMTs as they pulled them off on scene, and pocketed them for me. When I needed a bed pan (yeah, that, too!), after being in ER for hours, she helped me get out of the layers I was still wearing. As a former RN, she handled all the medical stuff with calm assurance. Then Chaz was there, and we waited some more, while more critical cases were taken care of. I was finally okayed to leave. Wrapped up in temporary bandages and sent off. It was so late, that we got a room at the local Holiday Inn.

Let me just tell you, that you don't have any idea how many critical muscles are attached to your clavicle, until your clavicle is broken. Breaking my right clavicle when I’m right handed is even more aggravating.

My injuries: I've got a semi displaced fracture of the right clavicle, a non-displaced fracture of the left fibula, and some damn sore ribs on my right side as well. I’m also dealing with poison ivy from my brushy detour, and the roadside triage. At least I’m not super sensitive to it. Just itchy bumps.

My broken ankle means I can't work for 6-8 weeks. My boss can't hold my job. That sucks. But I'll hope that whoever he finds in the meantime is only adequate, and I can get back in.

What I learned: No matter how well you think you know a fellow’s riding style, when riding in a new situation, it is worth talking about expectations before heading out with others. My assumption of her response to that pass, based on previous successful passes, could have cost me my life. I am truly blessed that I survived. My BMW gear, though years old, saved my hide from being shredded in the brush. Now my friend is dealing with the aftermath of our lack of communication, as well.

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katherine helmetag says...
Posted Thursday, May 26, 2016
Thank you, Pam, for the discussion!
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