To make motorcycle stories funny...
-or any story funny- for that matter there must be an element of truth and a real zinger of an event or occurrence. That said this story should be very funny, because it is very true and it is the zinger of all zingers
Well before I had established any motorcycle camping stories I rode a Honda XR 100. I was a total badass on it… to me. Well there were a couple others that agreed, but as for me… yessiree… I was not only a badass, I happened to also be THE badass. Granted, being the only kid with a dirt bike in a town of roughly 4 kids helped the odds… but I wore the crown no less.
AND it just so happens that I was also completely invincible. Thats a combo you can’t buy. Invincibility was easy…it was just how I rolled. Until the day I ripped my leg off and got attacked by a dog anyway. That kinda, sorta revoked my invincibility card—not to mention leveled the ‘badass’ playing field around town.
About this whole rip the leg off thing… I have to admit, there’s a wee bit of hyperbole nesting up in that statement because in truth the skin held. Everything else, well the skin and femoral artery held, everything else … not so much. All in all I will say though that if a person is going to lose their invincibility card AND their town badass crown in one day…. you gotta do it in style.
Here is how I did it…
Whether for horses or dirt bikes I was a part of blazing many of the trails that exist to this day in our hometown. We ‘machete-and- post-hole-diggered’ paths and bridges through forest and stream — dragging the wood in by horse and a fella named Roger's Jeep Scrambler when we could find the bastard. Actually I was 11 so I didn’t call people bastard or really even look for for people for that matter but I definitely remember my dad looking for him and muttering something of the sort more often than seemed reasonable.
In those days however 11 was plenty old enough for a machete and post hole diggers. And use them we did to cut many a path running north and south into the state forest. As for the trails that run east to west along along the main beachfront road in our town… whats left of them…. that was all me and some other town kids on their 4 wheelers—oops, I mean 3 wheelers. ( showing my age here. )
And that brings me to that epic Sunday morning when I set down the crown and lost my invincibility card the real hard way. This day only an amazing 4 years before I'd set off for the first time on an adventure ride, motorcycle camping around California for a year. After what you are about to read you will understand why my mom was less than pleased to hear that announcement.
Back to cutting trails and ripping legs off...
The north / south trails we macheted… but I cut the east / west trails the easy way. I used an XR100. After a time it was a perfect path dipping out of the woods to the shoulder of of the road way and back so as to gain vantage points to spot the Po-Po. Which at the time was literally THE Po-Po… as in one. Our beloved officer Steve Sunday. If it were not for the compassion and understanding of that saint I can guarantee you that I’d be a product of the system today. He had me dead to rights on many occasions when instead of taking me and my buddies off to juvy by the ear, he instead spoke into our lives and caused us to at length be able to pluck our heads from our arses. I’ve made a point over the years to make sure he knows that and I sure hope he does. Being much older now than officer Sunday was then I understand that knowing that sort of thing is how a fella smiles when he’s casting a line or falling to sleep at night.
So there I was weaving my law breaking way...
...from Camp Creek to the Village Market, about 4 miles away, for some fuel. By this time that path WAS the back of my hand. There was a little stretch of it just past a lakee on the north side of the road where I had cut it straight as an arrow in case I was going too fast trying to outrun Steve ( That never happened. I think it was just a fantasy of mine. ). Leaving the woods on the east side of the lake, and a B-line on the pavement over the bridge to the west side of the lake … and then by design, that straight shot dash back into the cover of the woods. I’d done it 1000 times if I’d done it once. Today would be slightly different however.
Winding out a dirt bike is it’s own joy. Most of ya’ll reading know that. And as for the XR100 thats about 54mph give or take. And so there I was having come across that lake, officer Sunday in hot pursuit in my imagination, winding that lil Honda out with a tail wind putting me at every M, P and H of I’d say 54+. Just as the path before me plowed it’s way back into the state forest… that’s when this day first began to notably differ from every other Sunday.
It started with a sound I’d never heard....
...kind of like the low string of a 500’ long banjo being plucked and immediately tuned… along with a snare drum almost in unison however it was immediately following. THEN… silence. In that silence however there was no shortage of entertainment. It seemed that the sky itself had heard these beginnings of the concert too and in it’s haste to find a seat had tripped and fallen. The sun was in my face then at my back and in my face etc. Imagine my surprise to discover that it was no clumsy sky at all… that It was instead me flying through the air. Which honestly at the time it made more sense for the sky to be falling ass over teacups because as I mentioned earlier... it was well known.. at least to me… that I was invincible. As it turned out however... I was not invincible... I was ... vincible? I'm not sure what the right word is at that point. The great banjo pluck was a guideline from a telephone pole that had been set that morning and the snare drum… well I’ll be damned if that was no snare drum at all…. THAT was my right femur snapping like a twig as it caught the handlebars upon my launch.
Here’s the thing about a good launch… it means nothing without an equally impressive landing. And I’ll say this about that… between you and I …. not tooting my horn…. but I nailed …. NAILED the landing. A 10 from all judges I assure you… Or hell, you tell me. How many landings have you heard of like this one?
Once the sky had regained it’s footing I lay on my back looking at the sun, still sort of wondering how such a grand thing like the sky could stumble. Keep in mind, I’m about 3 seconds in to this ‘new way of life’ having recently been THE badass with complete invincibility flowing on tap. I was …. adjusting… for lack of a better way to put it. I started crunching numbers doing my best to get to two and two. All I… KNEW… was that my leg felt odd and that my neck felt whiplashy.
After a few seconds I reached up to rub my neck...
... if anything a little perturbed that the sky had caused me to lose my footing as well. I rubbed just behind my ear where there was a biting pain. My hand bumped against something that I assumed was a tree root. However upon further evaluation I remembered that tree roots don’t have rubber tread patterns. I reached up more to get my hand around the odd root…. And wouldn’t you know it… it was my shoe! Haha. I had knocked my own shoe off. I remember thinking… what the hell happened?! I needed to get to the bottom of it. I went to grab my shoe. The plan: put it on, get up, check my bike and start checking boxes until I understand this odd experience.
Here’s the thing about plans... They don’t always work out. There are many great examples of that life-fact and this is no exception because the darnedest thing happened at that point. I went to pull my shoe out from under my head and if I’m lyin’ I’m dyin’ … wouldn’t ya know there was still a foot in it. Oh you just wait... this... this gets... ummm.. bad.
But let’s step back inside my head for a second at that moment… I KNEW I was invincible… yet I also knew that I had not lost consciousness when the sky tripped a few seconds earlier. Now… I’m no great detective but I also quickly surmised that there is no way in hell someone had put my shoe on and quickly put their leg under my head.
I reached deeper… yup, theres an ankle. It was then that I turned my head the other direction and at roughly chin level and much to my surprise naturally… was the back of a knee. I reached over to it and remember the sun was beginning to get hot. I remember that the birdsong was giving way to the cicadas also. And I distinctly recall the very moment my right hand followed from a knee down to a connection point at my very own hip.
I LOVE dogs. Well... most of them anyway.
But the ones I do I sure do. I don’t know if you know that about me. I always have. Hell, I love animals in general. When I was 5 I had an imaginary litter of tiger cubs. I believed they were as real as my own existence. I can literally still see them in my hand when I think about it. I also thought I was Popeye for an entire year but that’s another story for another time. DOGS. love em. But not all dogs I regret to say. There’ve been one or two that I just didn’t ‘click’ with you know. It’s a strange dynamic when a person and a dog don’t see eye to eye. It can be intimidating too as you know if you’ve ever been faced with that situation.
There was this one time I recall when exactly that happened to me. Long story short I had just been in what I had recently discovered to be a horrifying accident on an XR100 having run headlong at full speed into a telephone pole guideline that had just been put up that morning. In fact the workers were off getting some food for a break and headed back later with the bright yellow covers they put on them— or so the story goes.
And so there I lay trying to process what at this point I could only feel with my hand. Which was that upon impact with the guideline I went over the handle bars… well most of me. Like 70% or so of me I’d guess. The other 30% hung back a bit and in it’s haste got caught behind the handlebars. As all the inertia and momentum came to opposition it was plenty to snap the femur. That released the initial tension… but my body was still going forward hell or high water…. so when the femur snapped… that leg kept going forward too … which you know… is fine… but the problem was that the rest of my body was going forward. Which seems like… hey… well thats good… all your body going in one direction is good right? To which I’d say… ya BUT there is a 3/4” cable between those two body parts that isn’t going along with the whole matter. It’s being all stationary and what not. So long story short the leg lost the tug-o-war and while it had already wrapped backwards around the cable almost kicking me in my own face it was then immediately ripped from that coil because my body was just plain ol heavier than my leg.
So effectively…as a result… not only was my femur splintered in two... all the muscle and tendon from my hip to my knee were ripped clean from their mooring at the knee and were now a huge spasm ball on my hip. My hip was dislocated and the femur, about half way between the knee and hip joint was in two, skewering a section of muscle, sticking through my pants and planted about 3” straight into the ground. Get your brain around this…. The femur had it not been broken would be pointing towards my head nearly parallel with my torso …. Which put my knee at nearly chin height… which ultimately provided the meaty calf muscle pillow that I mentioned earlier after discovering my right shoe was by my left ear…. With MY foot in it.
SO…. Dogs… I mentioned I love em. Love em, love em. But not all of em. One in particular I happened to meet that very same day.
I laid in that ditch from around 9am to 11am...
It got warm lemme tell ya. But with all the ants and beetles to admire I hardly noticed. Eventually I heard these words… O DEAR GOD!!!! I looked and saw a jogger. He was panicking. Here’s the thing…. At this point… I still hadn’t freaked out. And I still really didn’t feel anything but numbness. I never went into shock either. I think I was exactly arrogant enough to believe that this wasn’t happening.
The jogger yells that he will get help. He turns to his currently well behaved, demonic, German Shepard looking, black eyed, hell hound asshole, of a disgrace to the name dog, and says.. STAY…. And takes off running. I poop thee notteth … this guy didn’t get 50 paces into the mile he’d have to go before Cujo growled at me. THAT got sketchy real fast. I was like… RUFKM right now? The dog came over to me bristled up and tried to lick my leg. As you can imagine we are talking about a very serious wound. I shoo at it and it bares it’s teeth and snaps at my hand. I’m in complete disbelief that this is going down at that point. This shooing and snapping and bared teeth continues with increasing intense aggression until the jogger returns in a car with some people. Cujo instantly goes full Benji / Lassie.
I was livid and started yelling at the guy…
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOUR DOG AND HOW COULD YOU…. Then the sirens…. the chirping tires… my mom yelling WHERE IS HE!!!??? My dad consoling her as their voices got louder.
I don’t recall if they were there or not when the paramedic untied that noodle of a leg before putting me on the stretcher. I do know they were there for the next 2 months in the hospital.
My first memory there was waking up from surgery,
with God as my witness, the first words from my mouth were .. How’s my bike? Can I ride tomorrow? My dad looked away immediately… It was then the sadness hit. I knew it didn’t make it. XR100 down. I didn’t even know at that point that there was an 1/8” hole drilled through my shin with a bolt through it attached to cords and pulleys and weights and that I’d be laying there without moving, pooping in a pan, for 7 weeks and then learn how to walk again.
P.S. I honestly believe that if that dog had found me alone it would have won the stand off. Whatever that means I’m not sure but it was going to win the argument.
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Billy J is co-founder of Story Moto ADV, a dual sport / adventure riding brand with strategic initiatives serving the health of the adventure touring community in order to develop a unified voice for speaking resolution into motorcycle land closures in the U.S. due to overcrowding and other public land use conflicts. He has been a rider for 45 years, an extreme adventurer for 31, and an avid dual sport adventure rider for 20. His first time living on a motorcycle for more than a year was in 1988 and most recently for 16 months living and riding full time with his wife Bonnie J and their kids on a tour that wrapped up in the summer of 2019. The are plugging away at the Story Moto ADV compound for another round set to commence in the Summer of 2020.
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