My first ride after my recent accident was to a Team Oregon instructor training event about 20 miles away. When I took off from home early in the morning, it had just gotten done raining from overnight. I geared up and hopped on my trusty old cop bike and headed out. I’d spent part of the evening before making sure the tires were up to pressure, battery charged, etc. etc. Roughly 60 seconds after departure, I’m on the Hawthorne Bridge while it’s still wet. For those reading that aren’t local or aren’t familiar with this bridge, it features and open steel grate across the full width of the bridge, and from end to end. Approximately 3 minutes later, I’m on NE Grand Avenue heading for the I-84 eastbound on ramp. To get there, one has to cross …….. deeeeeep breath ……… streetcar tracks. Streetcar tracks at an odd angle, semi-parallel to your path of travel. Streetcar tracks that, at that moment, seemed like the most evil things on the damned road. They were shiny and wet and I could just imagine them lurking there ready to reach up and grab the front wheel of whatever stupid motorcyclist was about to pass over the top.
Once I got on the freeway, I started to relax a bit, but upon reaching my destination and pulling in to a parking lot to grab a coffee and a bagel, i could feel every little pebble and chestnut pod under my wheels. The coffee break was good and the ride from the coffee shop to the classroom was short. Class was great – it’s always nice to get together with friends you haven’t seen since last fall and trade stories and talk about the upcoming season.
By the time I left for home, it was sunny and almost warm, and all the roads were completely dry. I even took a couple of detours on the way home just to make the ride last longer. I pulled in to the garage and parked the bike and headed upstairs to my apartment.
It wasn’t until about 30 minutes later than I noticed that my hands were shaking.
My last injury accident was way back in 2002 and I experienced a little anxiety getting back in the saddle after that one too, but it was almost 20 weeks between crash and first ride that time. One of my first rides was to the physical therapist’s office (she was not amused …. tee hee). I think the sheer length of time, boredom, two surgeries and whatnot may have had the effect of sort of taking the edge off or something. When I got back on the bike, I got back on with gusto. Within a very short time after starting back up again, I had taken that bike on a coast-to-coast-to-coast road trip and was riding daily.
I was also 14 years younger when all that happened, too.
This time around, my physical recovery has been fairly rapid – remarkably rapid some would say. The hardware in my shoulder certainly helped that along, but I’ve barely had time to process what the hell even happened on the day of the crash. From a purely intellectual standpoint, I know what happened, but from a psychological standpoint, my mind is still struggling with the idea that one second everything was perfectly fine and the next moment, faster than you can snap your fingers, I was staring at the pavement sliding past my face shield, having a hard time breathing, realizing my foot was stuck under the bike and then realizing as I got up that my shoulder wasn’t working quite right.
The intellectual side of my mind understands what happened. It also understands that I was lucky not to be hurt worse. Since the crash, I’ve driven back to the scene and I now know absolutely what happened. The heavy railroad freight tracks on the street I was on are surrounded by badly busted up pavement and nasty chuck holes that, when filled with water, aren’t as obvious as you’d think. So, lesson learned. I wasn’t paying sufficient attention to what we call “surface assessment”. So the factual, logical side of my mind now completely understands that I didn’t actually slip or slide on wet railroad tracks, but rather that my front wheel dove in to a deep chuck hole that I didn’t see and that had the same effect as if I’d simply slammed on the front brakes full force.
As a multi-thousand mile rider and a professional motorcycle safety instructor, I know the risks associated with this sport. I’ve taken on the responsibility to dress in proper gear and keep up continually active scanning while I’m riding in order to see problems coming before they reach out and slap me in the ass.
But sometimes, just like every other human on the planet, you make a mistake. This time, this mistake cost me a few hundred dollars worth of replacement parts for my bike and a number of visits with members of the medical profession.
There’s no splint or cast to heal the mind, but it will get there. It’s well on the way. I’m talking about the issues – and writing about them – and getting back on the bike and working toward getting full confidence back. We’re heading in to spring and summer and the confidence built back on dry and warm days will serve me well when we head back in to the wet and sloppy days next fall. I’ve accepted that I have a very mild form of PTSD and that I have to take an active role in dealing with that or I’ll never get back to riding like I want to be able to.
It’s all good. We had a partly sunny weekend just past and I got about 100 miles in over the course of the two days. It’s a start.