I had wanted to ride the Angeles Crest Highway, which is a two-lane segment of California State Route 2, for quite some time. The majority of the route passes through the mountainous terrain located north of the Los Angeles Basin. Its alignment passes through the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains. Segments of the road reach altitudes above 7,000 feet, with a summit of 7,903 feet at the Dawson Saddle. We were out for a long day of riding and had just turned off Route 2, and begun traversing a beautiful, narrow 2-lane twisty road towards the top of Mt. Wilson. The view was incredible and we were enjoying the mountain air and scenery. We had gotten the whoopee riding out of the way for the day, so I was just slowly and gently laying the bike from side to side carving through the twisties, when the unthinkable happened. We crashed! I had heard many tales of this kind of crash or near crash, the sand or gravel in the road, the heroic struggle for control, etc. Having just experienced such a crash, I now think that is romantic nonsense. There was no warning, there was no struggle for control, one second we were happily rounding a corner, the next, sliding on the ground on our sides watching the bike grind away from us.
Just like that!!
Everything finally stopped moving and then time itself seemed to stop for a second. For that timeless moment my mind ran with absolute clarity on two separate tracks. Track 1, what the hell just happened!? Track 2, what’s the next move!?
Black Beauty was lying on her side about 50 feet away, still running, and directly in the path of oncoming traffic. Patti was laying about 10 feet to my left and in front of me looking stunned, but relatively ok. My most immediate concern was that the bike was going to cause an accident, which, fortunately, did not happen because the next car that came around the bend saw it and stopped. I remembered from motorcycle school that when a bike is down and still running the very first priority is to kill the power, which I rushed over and did, then made my way back to Patti. She was able to speak and stand up with a little help which was good news. By this time the couple in the car that had just stopped had walked up to the scene. Our higher power was looking out for us as usual because they turned out to be hard core hikers and had a lot of first aid knowledge and a great first aid kit. I felt comfortable that Patti was in good hands and went to check out Black.
She had fared amazingly well! The RH freeway peg was ground off and the engine guard was broken to the point where the valve cover had significant cosmetic damage but she was still perfectly sound mechanically. “Thank the maker,” as C3PO would say, we had been wearing riding gear and our injuries were minor. I had gone down with the bike and slid on my armor jacket and was basically uninjured, except for my pride. Patti, unfortunately, did not fare quite so well she was thrown from the bike and landed on her knees. Although she was wearing jeans they were of the very thin variety and had torn through leaving a nasty road rash on her right knee. And, we had been shooting a ride video, which meant her right hand was ungloved at the time so it took a pretty good beating.
Anyway the Good Samaritan couple got her all patched up. The concern was, as is the case in most motorcycle injuries, the road grit embedded in the wounds. Well, that and the psychological shock. After Patti got patched up, physically, the shock of just what happened hit her and she started to weep and shake a little. A little TLC cleared that up and soon we were headed for home.
However, as we rode down the long hill Patti began to report additional discomfort. Just down the road was a large trail-head parking lot where we received our second major God-Shot of the day. Sitting right there next to the alleged bathrooms was an LA county ambulance. The crew that belonged to the ambulance stepped out of aforementioned alleged bathrooms while I was shutting down the bike. When they heard our story they agreed to look Patti over.
They, of course, had all “the right stuff” and it was obvious Patti felt better after being looked over by professionals. All the above would be enough of a God Shot in itself but get this. We found out from the Paramedics that they had been down at the bottom of the hill and received a call to come up which had been cancelled just before we arrived.
Where is the metaphor in all this, you might be asking yourself about now? Here it is: For me, the crash was the most direct experience I’ve had with powerlessness.
On page 43 the Big Book of Alcoholics anonymous it says, “There will come a time when we will have no earthly defense against that first drink.” And that’s exactly what the crash felt like. Meaning, Black Beauty is kept in exquisite mechanical shape and had just been thoroughly inspected the morning before we left. I was driving correctly and well within my skill limit. Road and weather condition were perfect. In other words I was doing everything right and yet we still went down!! Which proves, once again how motorcycling mirrors life…at least for this addict/alcoholic. Without God to spot me through the hidden sandy bits, I’d be down for the count for sure.
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