Lesson Learned

After years of wanting to do a trip to Crater Lake and Yosemite national parks I finally had the time off, the weather didn’t look bad and so I packed my motorcycle with all my camping gear. After working so much I really needed this “motorcycle therapy”. Thursday I was too tired to pack, I had just returned from my work trip to Venice, Italy and that was 24 hours of traveling between there and Montana. I got up early on Friday, loaded the bike without rushing and headed out around 11am. First stop for the night Boise, Idaho where I would see my old Jackson Hole friend Kevin who I had not seen in about 10 years. 25 minutes into the road, out of nowhere it starts hailing. I can’t see much and it’s hurting my arms, feels like getting shot. I turn around. I get home completely soaked, change clothes, get something warmer and make lunch. Decide to wait a bit. The weather is nice again, the sun is out. A little voice in my had is having doubts about this trip. I usually listen to the little voice, this time instead I ignore it. At 2:25pm I had out again, waterproof jacket and pants, warmer clothes,  it feels good to be riding in the sun. I pass Ennis, Montana and the mountains are looking good. My favorite mountain, Sphinx mountain just had a little brushing of snow at the top from last night, it looks great. Before arriving in Island Park, Idaho the sky turns black, I see rain in the distance but not where I’m heading. A few more miles and before I know it it’s raining hard. Light in the distance under the clouds on the road ahead, looks clear. I push through the rain, lots of traffic. All of a sudden the road is slushy and the sides are completely white with snow. I tense up a little bit my Africa Twin is doing great with its Anakee Adventure tires, they work well on wet. The rain ends, looks clear ahead. I take a right out of the main highway to a road that avoids Idaho Falls and passes through Craters of the Moon national forest, another of my favorite places, where I’m planning a photoshoot with the Africa Twin. Miles into the forest the pavement ends, the dirt road is packed, not a big deal, I’ve done worse. Few more miles down the road there are more potholes than road. I start getting concerned about all the big mud pools as I ride at a semi slow pace. All of a sudden the mud gets deeper, in my rear view mirror I see a car not far from me. I move a little to the right to get out of the way and my bike struggles in the mud that is now nearly 7 inches/15cm deep. It starts sliding left and right until I lose control and end up with my left leg under the front of the bike, on the left side, dragged for about 6 or 7 yards/ meters. The mud made me fall but it also cushioned my fall. I can’t move my leg is trapped and my knee is twister under the front tire. It hurts. The car behind me passes me and immediately stops and drives in reverse. The driver asks me if I need help, I tell him that I’m trapped and I can’t get my foot out. He helps me lift the bike and I’m free. My ankle is twisted and so is my knee. I stand up on one foot and together we get the bike straight up. I decide I had enough and he helps me turn the bike around towards where I came from. Only problem is that the weather still looks very bad. Once he’s assured that I’m at least partially ok, the nice well dressed guy from Arizona leave. I stand there looking around for maybe 15 minutes, deciding on what to do. Thinking that I could’ve been under the bike for a long time, until someone else drove by… or maybe a bear came to say hi. I try to move my leg, my knee hurts and so does my ankle, I hope it’s not the ACL. I have to go home, I can’t continue the trip like this. I rode about 150 miles,  over 200 since the morning. No cell phone signal either. I can’t let Kevin know what happened. Another car is approaching from the direction to which I was originally heading. It slows down and ask the driver about the road ahead. He’s a tourist and he doesn’t know the road well but he tells me the mud ends not far ahead and then it’s packed gravel and in 15-20 miles it’s asphalt again. Where I came from looks very dark, I don’t want to go through hail, rain and snow again. I decide to go forward, I know Interstate 15 is up ahead somewhere. I turn the bike around again and get on it (which, btw, didn’t get a single scratch) ignoring the pain. Shifting gears hurts like a bitch, it will be a long 230 miles home. It’s passed 5pm now, I think. I ride slowly, staying in the middle,  and paying extra attention to the road ahead, sometimes stupidly forgetting to look ahead not down. You’d think that after 15 years of teaching snowboarding and telling my students not to look down I’d be able to follow my own instructions…
I don’t want to stop, stopping hurts so much. At some point I will need fuel, I’m also feeling hypothermic. After about 15 miles, as the tourist said, I’m back on pavement and it’s forever before I come to I-15 (the interstate). I finally get cellphone signal and from here it’s 199 miles/320 km to home staying on highways. For a second I wonder if I’ll make it, but I decide to keep pushing until I don’t feel safe anymore and if I need a hotel so be it. 60 miles later I stop at a gas station. The whole shifting gears, stopping, getting off and on the bike, is a real torture to my foot and knee. I take advantage of the restroom to wear a fleece under my waterproof jacket. I’m cold but at least I’m not wet. I also wear some light waterproof pants on top of my riding pants, it will help stop the wind now. I also wear a balaclava, never ride without it, even in summer. I feel so much cozier now. I try not to count the miles, not to think of how much more road I need to do and before long I’m singing aloud in my helmet. When I do that it’s a sign I’m in my motorcycle happy place.
Darkness comes,100 more miles left to go,  and I get off the interstate to take the highway from Dillon to Bozeman through Whitehall. Familiar places… I’m getting closer, I can make it. The last 20 miles, I’m on the interstate… I smell rain… and it starts raining hard again. I can barely see ahead, I must keep my helmet half open. 432 miles / 700 km since the morning I pull in the driveway. With pain I stop and get off the bike. It will be a while before I find the strength to take my clothes off, and it will be a struggle. When I do I look at my leg, both my left ankle and knee are swollen. I realize now my lower back hurts where I hit the ground, as well as my neck and shoulders. I take a hot bath keeping the left leg out of the tub, which has now an ice pack on it. I go to bed and fall asleep almost immediately but it’s not a restful sleep. I wake up a few times work pain and an hyperactive mind that wants to analyze every single minute of the day.
In the morning I call an orthopedic clinic in Bozeman and luckily they can see me at 1pm. My neighbor drives me there and the clinic personnel treats me with kindness and empathy complimenting me for my sense of humor and positivism. They take care of the US Ski Team so I’m guessing I’m in good hands. X-rays don’t show any fracture, which is good, and the doctor doesn’t think it’s the ACL but there could be a tear in the MCL. We will need an MRI to ascertain that, I’m scheduled for next week and they provide me with a full length knee/leg brace.
The next day, Sunday, I’m feeling better. The excruciating pain now has been downgraded (by me) to: just pain. I can deal with that, I have a pretty high tolerance to pain. Thanks mom for that. 

It’s time to think about what went wrong and what went right. This was a typical case of bad decisions mixed with bad luck (the days after the ride the weather has been gorgeous, summer-like). I should’ve listened to my inner voice and I should not have ignored all the warnings, in the desire to do a trip I’ve been wanting to do for years. On the plus side, I was wearing impact shorts under my motorcycle pants, had high quality tall boots and a well protected motorcycle jacket. Things could have gone a lot worse. I could’ve been injured more, or I could have been out all night waiting for a passersby…or a bear. 


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