I'd finally gotten my 1979 Kawasaki KZ1300 ready to register. It had been a long winter's restoration, performed by Bobby Thompson, Master Tech at Winter Haven Honda here in Florida and the best mechanic east of the Mississippi. I chased down parts all over the world on eBay while Bobby wrenched them on. Result? One beautiful bike!
So, I'm riding back from the DMV on Route 92-a four-lane cement highway-around 2:00 p.m. in light traffic. The weather is okay: 60 degrees, threatening skies, just right for my ballistic nylon jacket and pants. I'm in the right lane doing 35-40 mph, when all of a sudden an orange Chevy pickup in the left lane pulls into mine. No signal. No horn. Nothing.
Holy expletive deleted! I ease toward the shoulder, but there's a curb. I think of hitting the horn for a split-second, but the truck is on my left-hand mirror. Bang! My front tire hits the curb and I'm down in a nanosecond. No telephone poles or road signs, just fairly soft grass. I'm flat on my back, staring up at people saying things like, "I'm sorry. I never saw you" ... "I'm certified in CPR. Please lay still" ... "Leave him alone, he's just pissed. I know, it happened to me once!"
I sit up and look for my bike, but the horizon spins so I lay back down. A cop asks my name. I struggle to get my license. My left hand doesn't work, so I hand him my whole wallet with the right and he fishes out my license.
"Anyone you want me to call?"
I don't reply. My wife will be frightened if she hears a cop on the phone. I'll call her myself later.
Thanks to his helmet and armored riding gear, author Vince Ciotti didn't tap into any of t
It's hard to talk through my helmet, so I struggle to get it off. Amazing how hard I hit my head! My forehead is bleeding. The face shield is missing. But aside from some grass stains, the helmet's shell is intact.
I struggle to a seated position and spot the bike, 20 feet down the curb on its right side, red lights still glowing on the dash. Worried it might still be idling, I mumble to an onlooker to please turn off the key. He does. I think of all the work I have to do in the office today. I have two friends coming into town from Texas this weekend to ride to Daytona. Another expletive deleted!
Here's the ambulance. They slide me onto a stretcher. During the short ride to the ER, an EMT asks where it hurts.
My left thumb is numb (must have snagged the handlebar going down), my right hip aches, I've got sore ribs, a stiff neck, a bruise on the right side of my head. It's going to be a good day for Blue Cross...
The cop reappears at the hospital, hands me the accident report and says I'm lucky. That helmet probably saved my life-he's seen what happens without one. My armored pants and jacket probably saved some broken bones, but I sure am hurting.
I'm still woozy, so they roll me down for an MRI. Negative. They X-ray my left hand, but there's nothing wrong there either. Then the most popular ER pastime: waiting, followed by more waiting. Four hours later, a doctor comes around to see me, reveals nothing and I'm discharged. Only comment I remember: "That riding gear probably saved your life." I guess they've seen less well-dressed riders looking worse.
The next day I'm down at the towing company yard checking out my bike. It's not too bad, all things considered. The fork can be sanded and painted, but I'll need a new stator cover, engine guard, number-six header and right-hand muffler. Other than that, it's in better shape than I am. Everything still hurts.
So where's the irony? Does the name Vince Ciotti sound familiar? Dig up the January 2010 issue of Motorcyclist, flip to the Street Savvy page and you'll see my story "A Dozen Ways to Die." Bit of tongue-in-cheek stuff on helmets, armored riding gear, etc. And here I am writing a follow-up on how all that gear saved my life. There were several letters to the editor after my original story, one praising it and two lambasting me for being a wimp. I guess that's the ratio in the bike world: 2 to 1 for the "freedom" of dying without protective gear. The editor had the guts to answer the second complaint, suggesting its writer read between the lines for the irony.
Irony. Good word.