DAY TEN, PART TWO: SUNDAY, JUNE 21
Sorry, I took no pictures for the rest of the day. For some reason, I just wasn’t in the mood. Aliens could have landed and I would not have even thought about getting the camera out. But, for the faithful readers, I shall make sure to add a few other pics.
I know I blacked out for at least a few seconds because I remember the actual process of coming to. My riding partner still had not happened upon me and the accident scene. I lay there and evaluated the initial impact.
I had hit head first, over the right side of my forehead, square on. The angle allowed me to slide into the gravel instead of snapping my neck back. Later a doctor would tell me that I probably missed becoming paralyzed or dead by just a couple of degrees of angle; who knows. Fate…it sometimes can be kind to you in bad circumstances.
I remember the impact. Like every baseball bat in the world combined to hit me in the head at once. But no pain. The helmet did what it was designed to do…take the brunt force, and distribute it away from the head it contained. I wear a Shark Evoline 3 ST modular helmet. I’m a believer. Damn good product. It’s going to be my next helmet as well.
ETA: In fact, I just received a brand new one in the mail yesterday. Okay, back to your story…
Apparently the second thing to hit was hands/arms followed by chest then legs.
Very dazed for a few moments, seeing stars basically as I lie in the gravel. Finally, my mind started working again once it pushed the cobwebs out of the way. Previous training kicked in; I had years ago taken a EMT level training, and my mind went through what I needed to do to evaluate the injuries that had to exist. I started moving toes, then ankles, then fingers, and wrists. Legs, arms, hips. I ran through a body checklist, making note of what hurt, and what did not. When I took more than a shallow breath in, immediate pain appeared. STOP.
I realized it really hurt to breathe even normally. I spit forward since my face shield was missing to check for broken teeth or blood. Nothing bad there. Time to just wait for help unless breathing became worse and I would have to chance changing position to make it easier. Help would be along soon; no way Jeffrey could have passed the bike and I lying down across the entire road. So I laid there and waited for hours and hours.
Well in actuality, it was probably just seconds, but time just doesn’t comprehend right when the testosterone quickly disappears. Eventually the breathing problem worsened and I had to try to change the position I was in. I tried rolling over and immediately realized that my chest, right side, and back had some new problems that they did not have only a few minutes before. Somehow I got up to a kneeling position, struggling to get where gravity worked with the body and not against it. And waited again.
I would guess at least another ninety seconds passed before Jeffrey came riding around the curve and I watched him come to a stop and dismount his own Vstrom. He walked over and asked if I was okay. How does one answer this question?
I told him I was having problems breathing and asked him to look me over for obvious broken bones or blood. None found. I slowly made my way to my feet and knew I had at least some cracked ribs (much more on this later). I eased my helmet off as well as my Klim riding jacket, and started doing a more comprehensive inspection of my body. No head pain, very light neck pain, bad chest/side/back pain. Arms good, right shoulder very sore but not with intense pain. Palms of hands already swelling and bruising, must have gotten them up in front of me to try to cushion impact. Can just imagine the damage had I not been wearing gloves with palm pads.
Hips, light pain. Legs/feet good. Vision clear once the stars went back into the heavens. Mirror check; teeth all present, chin red. Biggest problem is the breathing, especially inhaling. Possible collapsed lung, I’m thinking. Lift shirt, lots of pain. Right side starting to bruise and some swelling obvious. I started worrying about internal organ damage, forced self to keep reevaluating the pain levels there.
Of course, being a true adventurist, I yell at Jeffrey to get a photo of the motorcycle and the gravel crash scene. He immediately thinks that Faith is leaking her fuel all over the road. We both grab bike and get her up, which about sends me back down in another bout of blackness. I feel around the fuel filler area. No leaking. No funny pictures of this bike lay down to show.
Look bike over, and it’s a mess. Went down on right side, apparently dove into gravel rocks and just stopped without sliding along which is what causes bike tumbling and massive damage that happens on smoother asphalt. Right mirror destroyed. Right side crash bar did its job and protected the engine but sacrificed its paint, the extended highway peg also protected core of motorcycle. Windshield in two main pieces with one still being held on by three bolts. Handlebars bent; right side about four inches further back versus left side. Right turn signal assembly in pieces. Right hand guard trashed. Horn button annihilated. Right headlight intact but plastic housing scratched bad. All the expensive plastic cowling and pieces on right side of bike and front with bad scratches and gouges. Left front has evidence of flying rocks hitting it. And my very expensive Givi Trekker Outback pannier badly crumpled in one corner, no longer ever a candidate for reselling. All in all, I’m happy that as long as I could get the handlebars yanked back into place a little, it should be ride-able if it will start once more.
Additional note: Went out to pannier yesterday to get something, and found more little Denali Highway rocks inside it. Another keepsake I guess.
I’ll jump ahead a little for a few moments, because I think it’s important to show how the safety gear acted for those of you that won’t invest the money into proper riding gear (I see it all the time nowadays). From damage to body, gear, and bike, I had twisted to the left at the moment of unwillingly dismounting the motorcycle.
A couple days later, I took photos of the riding gear I had on when the accident happened.
The Shark Evoline 3 ST helmet:
Firm believer that this helmet saved my life. The chin bar has deep gouges too…which would have been a broken jaw most likely had it been ridden with it in the up position. Looking at scrapes, I’m sure most of the right side of my face would have been peeled open on the rocks had it been exposed. The face shield received a number of scratches and was found forty feet or so from the motorcycle. My Givi XS308 tank bag, that mounts to the actual fuel filler area, was found around 125 feet away from the bike.
The Klim Latitude Misano jacket:
You can see the impact to right shoulder and right chest area. This jacket has shoulder armor but no chest armor. I believe without the D3O shoulder armor, I’d have had to been airlifted out with a broken clavicle and other injuries in that area. Five days later, I was still very sore there…but nothing broken.
Since it has no chest armor, the rib cage took the entire force of hitting mirror and windshield and the impact with the ground. I’ll jump ahead with the chest details after a CAT scan completed nearly three week later…ribs 5 and 6 bruised with cracking, ribs 7 and 8 broken. We’ll get more into this later.
The Klim Misano pants:
Fared really well, the armor in it at the thigh/knee area took any impact very well.
Can’t find the pictures of my gloves now, and gloves were discarded that evening (I always carry multiple sets for different conditions but always wear something no matter what). Wearing gloves with palm and wrist protection kept my bones there from breaking. Lots of swelling in both hands from the impact though which disappeared a couple days later.
Yes, all of this stuff is expensive, some of it shockingly so. But I walked away from an accident that I would not have been able to do so with lesser quality gear. Bite the bullet…give up Starbucks or McDonald’s for a few months and buy the gear that gives you the best chance to come back home from your rides.
Off the soapbox now.
Picked up broken windshield and other pieces on the road; jammed them into storage on bike or under the cargo net covering my 70L bag on back seat. Unfortunately, my extra sandwich had decided to make a run for it and had gotten snagged by a 6500 pound grizzly who walked by while I was taking a nap with my bike. We didn’t see it lying on the ground when we were picking everything up…so the grizzly snagging it from my grasp as I faded out will be the story I tell the staff in the nursing home when I’m 95 and waiting for that last ambulance ride out.
We picked up the tank bag which was around 125 feet away down the road. What I did not realize until a couple of days later was that all the oval stickers I had bought so far on the trip, which was in a Velcro flap in the tank bag window, had come out and become lost to the universe. Break ribs, lose hard-gotten stickers. Even the one I really wanted…the black AC one found at the Yukon River Camp that is not available anywhere else in the world apparently. Not sure which was mentally worse.
ETA: I contacted the Yukon River Camp through the email link on their website just a couple of days ago and gave them my sob story about losing this priceless item of my journey. Have not heard back from them; hope they respond. Would love to get that sticker.
Bike was ride-able but barely due to bent bars and all the overall damage. The real problem was whether or not I could ride it. Taking ten minutes to get my gear back on and another five just to figure out a way of how to mount the motorcycle, I finally realized I could ride it…if I could just handle the pain. In the middle of nowhere, I thought that I started this trip with my motorcycle, and I was going to end this trip with my motorcycle. So I tried to keep from passing out as I mounted it. Sitting on it, I found it was not as bad as I feared. Although it hurt, as long as I kept still (on a motorcycle mind you), the pain was tolerable. So off I rode; more like limped, but onward I finally went.
If you never had busted ribs before, it’s excruciating. Sneezing, coughing, moving, talking, breathing. If you do absolutely nothing, it’s tolerable. If you do anything, it is agony. And if you are a stubborn mule like I am and plan to ride a motorcycle five thousand miles home over some of the worst roads invented, it’s indescribable. I’ll take door number three please…the bike is going to make it home with me or I’m going to die trying. I said more cuss words over the next ten days than I have in my entire past or future life…guaranteed.
So Jeffrey and I putted along on our Vstorms the last fifteen or so miles of the Denali Highway. This wreck was my stupidity, my ignorance, and my problem. Just so you know, there’s an Alaska troopers office a couple miles from the Parks Highway on the west side of the Denali Highway. I gave a momentary thought about pulling in when I saw the sign…but what would they do? Call a ambulance and my trip would be stopped. No, I had to keep going. There was no damage to the environment, anybody else’s property, or any other person. This shame would be mine to bare alone.
And no, no plans to file an insurance claim. Sometimes one must suck up their own idiocy and deal with the consequences of their actions or decisions without the expectation that innocent parties will come bail you out for something that they had absolutely no responsibility for. Somebody asked why I didn’t just file and get the thousands back from the insurances. Because I am the one that must live with the choices I make, that’s why.
There’s a fuel station at the corner of the Denali and Parks Highway. This one was open. After sliding off the bike to fuel, Jeffrey and I talked about the available options. Our plan had been to camp on the Denali, but the accident ruled that out. Our overall direction plan was to go south towards Wasilla. Our other choice was to try to find a place locally to get a motel room. The fuel station clerk told us there were two choices for rooms within seventy miles and both had been completely filled up with fire fighters and construction workers. He told us both places had people sleeping in their vehicles waiting for rooms to open up. No choice…keep going south…if we could make it past one heck of a forest fire that was happening just past Mount Denali. The clerk mentioned some people were getting through, but we may end up getting forced to turn around and coming back. It was a chance we needed to take.
The ride south was slow. I could barely sit. Luckily the throttle is on the right side of the bike. I hung on for dear life as I rode, got the bike into the highest gear I wanted while screaming during shifting, and held onto my right side with my left hand. It was like this for the next two hours as we traversed the way to Trapper Creek where I couldn’t take it any more. We pulled into the Trapper Creek Trading Post and fuel station, that had a restaurant open really late. It was almost 10PM by this time, we had not eaten in many hours, and even with the pain, I needed some substance. On retrospect, not the smartest thing to do before insuring there was no internal organ damages. However, I wasn’t expelling any blood and the pain seemed to be localized to the actual ribs.
At this stop, Jeffrey started looking for a motel we could stop at with his phone. Everything in the area was booked full…so we would need to make a go for Wasilla. A call to the Best Western at Lake Lucille there in town told us they had plenty of rooms. Mount the bike and ride another one and a quarter hours hunched over trying to tuck behind a broken piece of remaining windshield. It’s an adventure, right?
On retrospect, I remember almost nothing about the Parks Highway ride. I remember a section where a pilot truck led the way through the fire zone, where damage had been recently done to the environment. I remember the food stop (must be because of the simply wonderful bacon cheeseburger we had at the Trapper Creek Trading Post; two thumbs up!), and that is about it. In my mind, this took almost an eternity to ride…but in essence was under three hours from when we fueled up in Cantwell.
We eventually made it into the Best Western parking lot. I could not ride another foot even if somebody had the winning lottery numbers to give to me down at the end of the street. No way, no how. I could barely get off the bike, which took minutes. Jeffrey went in, got us a room with two beds, carried my gear up, and helped me with bike repairs in the middle of the night. Kudos to the guy; without him, I’d have called an ambulance right there and let them cart me off and do whatever they wanted with the motorcycle.
We spent an hour in the hotel room patching the windshield back together. Windshields properly aligned remove the head buffeting that the wind does to you as you ride (most of you obviously know this…but I am writing this report for those that have never ridden before too). The current broken shield did nothing to prevent buffeting and my head had thrashed around just as if no windshield was present; adding to the chest pain. I had kept the large torn off piece of shield when I picked up other pieces. Two-part epoxy was mixed, applied, and left to harden for six hours.
No sleep came that night to me; the simplest movement would prevent that. In the morning we strengthened the repair with most of a roll of Gorilla tape that I carried for emergencies (oops, jumped into the next day’s report already). This stuff is probably 38 times better than duct tape, in my own opinion. This fix lasted the entire way home. The windshield will go onto the garage wall as a) my trophy of the trip, and b) a reminder that wearing safety gear will eventually save your life.
Rest assured, this is one Father’s Day I’ll never forget. What’s an adventure if everything goes perfectly?
Tomorrow, there’s no way around it. I find I can’t breathe except very shallowly; I need to get to an emergency room where no emergency room exists. We meet one of the most famous online Alaskan motorcycle gurus in the most unlikely place. We encounter a world famous pink truck. We eat one of the best meals of my life on the side of the road. And we ride one of the best rated roads for scenery in Alaska.
Mileage: 480 miles (most likely)
Areas traversed: North Pole, Paxson, Wasilla
Gas: $22.78 (may have missed a gas receipt this day)
Lodging: $0, Jeffrey’s turn to pay for shared room