Close call

Every once in a while, you get a reminder of how dangerous our sport can be.  I got a reminder this morning.

When I left the house at 6:40am, the sun was shining, temperatures were in the high 60s, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. So I slipped on my sunglasses, lowered the face guard on my Shark EVO helmet, and took off into the rising sun. As I was leaving town, I ran into a fog bank that was as thick as a blanket. On the parkway out of town, there is one stoplight, so I knew it was ahead of me somewhere. I couldn’t tell where, though, exactly, because the fog was so thick, I really couldn’t tell exactly how far I was down the parkway, because I couldn’t really see any landmarks.

I slowed down from 55 to about 40 and started to peer ahead for the stoplight. I wasn’t really anxious though.  It was early in the morning, and the stoplight is almost always green for the parkway I was on, rather than the little rural road that crosses it.

Then, I ran into a really thick bank of fog, and my faceshield began collecting water droplets so fast, I was almost blind. I took one hand off the bars to wipe my faceshield with my glove, and ended up just smearing water around. A few more wipes, and I could see better, and then, popping out of the fog right in front of me was the stoplight, red, with cars crossing the intersection. I reached down to grab the bars with both hands, and stood on the brakes. The ABS worked, but I stopped about 15 feet past the white intersection line. Fortunately, this is a fairly rural area, so the intersection lines are set pretty far back from crossing traffic, so I didn’t enter the crossing lanes.

In the space of about 10 seconds, visibility dropped from about 250 feet to about 50 feet, my faceshield got completely fogged–I was also wearing sunglasses, which didn’t help in the dim gloom–and I hit the intersection. All these factors, visibility, fogged faceshield, having one hand off the bars, not having time to slow down even more, and the light being red instead of green, as it usually is, all conspired to nearly put me right into an intersection with cross traffic.

Fortunately, I rode away from this one with nothing but a nasty fright.

It’s the tip of a very thin wedge you’re living on when you ride a motorcycle, though.  All it takes is a moment of distraction to cause a disaster.

A few years ago, an acquaintance of mine was just out having a leisurely ride with wife. One minute she was riding behind him, and the next time he chacked his rear-view…she was gone. Going through a turn, her Sportster ran into some sand that had been washed into the road, the rear wheel came lose, and she went down. Sadly, she died in that crash.

We all know this story, because almost all of us know someone this, or something similar, has happened to.  We’ve all had close calls.  And we still get on our bikes every day and ride.

Some people call us crazy.

Me, I just think that most of us would rather live our lives, even at some risk, than to simply exist in safety.