Russ Darr - Viva Mexico
A friend on a R1150RT and I on a R1200GS, traveled from Seattle Washington, down Baja, crossed the Sea of Cortez on a ferry to attend the Horizons Unlimited meeting in Creel. Chihuahua. Mexico. Creel is located in the heart of the Sierra Madre and the jumping off spot to see the Copper Canyon area. This area is very scenic and has some truly great motorcycling roads. The pavement is tight and twisty. The off pavement roads are fantastic. What more could one ask for?
This is a documentary of the outstanding help; friendship and caring extended to me after my accident by the gracious people of Mexico.
Thursday morning October 13, 2005, I left Creel and headed for El Paso, Texas. I planned to spend a few days in Denver to visit my children. At about 10:30 in the morning, 50 miles south of La Junta a red pickup passed doing about 80 mph. I thought oh boy a rabbit. I picked up my speed to match the rabbit's. I looked up from the speedo and there is a vehicle stopped in the road in front of me. I was hard on the brakes and realized immediately there is no way I could stop before slamming into the stopped vehicle. My only chance is to swerve to the right.
I almost made it. The front of the bike missed but the left aluminum bag caught the right rear corner of the vehicle.
The next thing I remember is I am lying on my back and several people are around me looking down. I didn't want to move any part of my body and was sure both arms were broken.
I can see the bike about 10 feet away. I asked someone to turn off the ignition. Then I remember a young man with a Coca Cola T shirt on asking me my name. He apparently is the only person there willing to attempt his English. I see a man in a police uniform but he is asking questions through Mr. Coca Cola. At one point, he asks for my ID.
I still am not going to move anything. My hands and arms are very painful. I tell Mr. Coke that my wallet is in my outside chest pocket. Someone tells me the amount of cash in the wallet. That is the last I see of my ID, cash credit cards etc for a while. The ambulance arrives. They want to take off my helmet. I say no. Out comes the scissors. Snip snip go the scissors. They start with my beloved Held gloves, jacket, windbreaker, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt. On to a backboard and into the ambulance I go.
Driving onto the pavement from the shoulder of the road was very painful.
We drive for a while and stop for gas. A man from the Red Cross gets on the ambulance and he speaks English. He informs me they are changing hospitals and are thirty minutes away. What seemed like forever then, we finally stop a private hospital, Medica Sierra in Cuauhtemoc. They get me into the emergency room. There is a young intern on duty. I let him remove the helmet and earplugs. It is nice to be able to hear again. He wants my home phone number to call my wife. I suggested we wait until we know the extent of my injuries. I thought someone at the accident scene told me I had been unconscious for twenty minutes. So that's what I told the Doctor. After X-raying my hands, arms neck and back, they transport me to a private room. I call my wife to let her know what happened and that I am ok. "I lied."
Now begins a saga of generosity kindness and caring that I have never experienced in the USA. The Resident Doctor comes into my room and speaks very good English. He even dials the phone for me and assures me that if there is anything I need just let him know. I must be getting better. I'm hungry. All I get is liquids. They are concerned about possible internal injuries.
The X-ray doctor used to work with Dr. Arturo Macias, the local host for the Horizons Unlimited meeting in Creel. A quote from Arturo: "My son Arturo is not a Doc. he is an electrical engineer, but since a kid, he can get any information from anything, what ever you need, so that's why we found in which hospital you were, the names of the cops, judges, secretary of tourism, doc's names that were attending you, etc. By the way he is also a Geologist, very bright son and good son. My father was a mining engineer."
Arturo calls me in the hospital and I tell him "I don't have any ID nor money because the police took my wallet at the scene of the accident. He says he will look into it. In fact, his son goes to the State Department of Tourism to try to get back my ID etc. Also, the X-ray doctor called the La Junta Police Department. Any way, my ID and credit cards are delivered to my room via bonded carrier. I was very happy to no longer be a person non-grata.
After dinner, a young man, his wife and three-year old son come into my room. He asks if I remember him. He is wearing a Coca-Cola ball cap. I say, "Sure you are Mr. Coke." We talk, he in broken English and I in broken Spanish, for two hours. Because he is also concerned about crooked police, he witnessed the policeman taking my wallet, watch, camera, computer etc. He says if I need a witness, he will testify in my behalf. What neat people. They leave and a person from the prosecutor's office comes in to take a statement about the accident from me. His English was worse that my Spanish.
He leaves and comes back with local police translator. After a few iterations we get my statement right. They leave.
Very soon after that three local police walk in and I am placed under arrest. One of them spends the night in my room. I guess that is to make sure I don't try to escape.
Fortunately, there is a couch in my room for him to sleep on. Have you ever seen a couch in a hospital room in the US?
At 8:00 the next morning, a young woman police officer comes in to relieve the first guard. She speaks some English. It was a shock to me that there are policewomen in Mexico.
About 10:30, two more police come in and hand the policewoman a piece of paper. I am no longer under arrest.
They all leave together.
Then it is off for a MRI to make sure there is no brain damage. Little did they know there wasn't much to be damaged up there. After solid food for lunch, I call Barb again. I meet with the hospital resident and director for some time.
They don't want to let me out until I am seen by the neurologist again. They didn't know I was already brain damaged. Other than that I am given a clean bill of health.
I asked when the neurologist was likely to shop up. They had no idea. I suggested I check out they said ok. Little did I know how much painkiller was in my IV. I should have stayed for another night.
I go down to the hospital office to settle up. The administrator also a doctor helps, explaining the bill in excellent English. My total bill including the ambulance, five doctors, X-rays, MRI and all hospital charges is about $1000.00 US. I ask if I can barrow the hospital gown to go buy a shirt. Remember they cut my cloths off my upper body.
Anyway the administrator drives home and brings me a brand new long sleeved T-shirt and polypropylene jacket. He would not accept any payment. Have you ever received that kind of generosity in a US hospital?
I was really concerned about the bike and all of my possessions. This is Mexico and thievery is common. So I get a hotel room downtown. After a painful night, I catch a bus to La Junta, where the bike is supposed to be. I walk to the police station fearing the worst. The officer, who was at the accident site, is on duty and not half as scary as he seemed at the scene of the accident. In fact, he spends the next three hours taking me around town. I am able to see my stuff, see the bike and get my passport and two credit cards hidden on the bike. We stopped by an auto repair shop near the wrecking yard where the bike was. After hearing my story, the proprietor said I was welcome to stay with them and asked if I needed money. My money and stuff are still in the city lockup and could not be released until Monday - this is Saturday. This policeman is a remarkable man. He went way out of his way to help me.
A most remarkable thing, all I was missing was a small Crescent wrench, which probably ended up out in the field at the accident scene. The left side luggage was opened up like a sardine can. The only other item totalled was a cooking pot. The bike landed on the right side. The windshield was intact but the mounts were broken. The headlights were a mess. The handlebars were way out of their normal position.
And the instrument/headlight mount was broken and twisted.
But the motor started right up and sounded good.
I go back to my room for some much-needed rest. An hour later the phone rings, it is Arturo, and he is a block from my hotel. He and Chicon had discovered I had checked out of the hospital and learned the bike was in La Junta. Because there are only two hotels in town he found me. The three of us go to the police station, look at the bike and meet with the city administrator. After a few phone calls by Arturo, my stuff is available for pickup, the bike is released and loaded into Arturo's trailer and we are off to Chihuahua.
They find me a hotel about 5 blocks from Arturo's friend's auto repair shop. On Sunday we drop of my bike and Arturo's bike at El Tio's shop. I spent the day resting. I was in need of a lot of rest. My arms and hands are still very painful. My right hand was really tweaked, almost no strength. My left hand was somewhat better. I couldn't walk without a lot of discomfort. With El Tio's, Arturo's and Chicon's help by midday Wednesday the bike is rideable. In place of the left baggage is a custom made bracket with a plastic crate holding two square 5-gallon tins and my stuff in plastic bags. This is the Mexican way. It worked all the way home.
During my stay in Chihuahua, I received calls from people at the rally. The first call was Grant Johnson the founder of Horizons Unlimited. Then, George, a dentist from Chicago, calls and asks; "do you know who this is?" We had some great rides together. He had my email address and Barb told him where I was staying. I got a call from Fredricco from Zapatechas he had gotten my phone number from someone else.
My traveling companion, from the first part of the trip, had found out about the accident from his wife. My wife had emailed her and she had talked to him before he left the rally site. So being in a foreign country two thousand miles from home, I have this incredible support network.
I never did get to Denver. It took me five riding days to get home. I could ride only a few hundred miles a day. I was still hurting and could only ride during daylight. My high beam was point toward the sky. The low beam was toast. So as I write this, the bike is back together. My hands are able to type this and my back is still healing.
Considering the speed I was traveling I was lucky. The only blood was from the glasses being slammed into the bridge of my nose and the knuckle on my right little finger. I attribute a large part of the limited injury to protective clothing, gloves, boots, pants, jacket and helmet. Other than the clothes cut off at the scene, the helmet was the only item damaged.
I have written this to share with all the true nature of Mexico and her people. I felt safe even - though thievery is common, not a single item was stolen. I have traveled in Mexico many times and lived there for a year and never had anything stolen. I wish I could say the same about the US.
Viva Mexico and her gracious people. Muchas Gracias!!!
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