A pleasant little side-on-high in Arkansas by Ryan Hulslander

Steve and I decided to take off a couple of vacation days and go for a ride in Arkansas. Beautiful weather, feeling in wonderful health and spirits, we head out Thursday, ride a little and on Friday, get an early breakfast and GO!

Here we are, about 170 miles of everything from 15MPH hairpins to 50MPH sweepers, never knowing which one would come up next - gee, it was like Christmas morning every 8 seconds, twist to the left, heel it over to the right, continually gaining confidence in each turn, loving every minute of it.

On Highway 27, I set up for a left hander 40 MPH sweeper that Steve just bolted through and I see him disappear around the bend. My speed is perfect around 55, (for my skill level anyway), nice lean angle, press with the right foot and left hand and look through the turn, adrenaline pumping, the bird surging under my fingertips and me knowing this is the reason I have this beast,

then it happens...

The "unseen gravel" same color as the road in a nice patch along the edge of the turn is right in my path. I feel the ass end of the bike fishtailing and dancing like a Spanish Flamenco, I think "Shit, get it under control, baby" and I did the worst thing a person could possibly do in that situation - I touched the front brake.

That's all it was - just a touch, and that was all it took. My Bird tossed me like an airport baggage handler moves boxes marked "Fragile". I was grabbing air to make Michael Jordan proud then came the hit - "Whumpf!" right shoulder/arm neck and head and began the endless tumble - all I could see was "ground, sky, ground, sky, ground, sky, ground, sky, ground, sky". At the same time I'm tumbling I can hear the "Bam Bam Bam" of the bird nearby endoing and flipping like Shamu at SeaWorld. I had a fleeting thought while screaming "Fuuuuuuck!" of what was left of my bike landing right on top of what was about to be left of my banged up body.

Silence. No wind, no cars, no running motors, just the sound of my own breath, while I peer upwards at the sky through a scratched and muddy visor. It was eerie.

At this point I went through my mental checklist of questions - "Am I conscious?", I answered yes since I was able to pose the question and continued with my line of immediate questioning. "Can I feel my feet?" Left foot wiggle, right foot wiggle, yep, I can feel them. Okay, now on to the other extremities. "Can I feel my fingers?" Yep, I tapped off each digit in my Violator gloves to my thumbs and counted the taps. If I counted more or less than 8 taps to thumb and fingers I would stop my line of questioning and simply close my eyes and wait - cuz' I wouldn't have wanted to see it. All there, so I continued. "Can I move my neck?", I roll my head left and right - no pain no problems. Okay on to the torso - any ribs sticking out or are any of my feet looking like I should have two left or two right boots? Nope. Then I started to get up. After I stood up I thought of the late Chris Farley of Saturday Night Live going, "Ooo, that's gonna leave a mark", and the stiffening pain hit - I felt like a carload of Circus Clowns had just beat the living piss out of me.

Next thought - "Where is she?", and lo' and behold about 30 feet away was the Bird, rolled into a barbed wire fence, with every extremity smashed and the side of the tank looking like it was hit by a telephone pole. A horse had trotted over to see if anything on it was edible since it started to munch on my front tire peeking through the fence. Seeing my tank bag and various items stretching about 50 feet or so in a trail leading back to the road I kind of figured where I got tossed. I walked over to the bike and turned off the key. I felt like I was turning off the life-support machine on a loved one.

A passerby moments later screeched to a halt and an old gentleman and a lady got out to see if I was okay. They said another biker that passed them going the other way probably didn't see me. I told them, "Yeah, he'll be back when he doesn't see me in a minute or two". Sure enough, moments later I hear the familiar wailing whine of the Erion Racing pipe on Steve's F4 coming back like he was being chased by a cop. He handled everything like a Saint. He made sure I was all right, was okay and not in shock, handled calling the insurance company and helping to load what was left of the machine on the flat-bed wrecker. I must say that the people out there in the sticks of Arkansas are some of the biggest sweethearts you could meet.

Several hours later when we got back to the house we were staying at and dumped the bird into the trailer, Steve took me to the ER so that I could get checked out. When the nurse explained to the Doc that I fell off a Motorcycle, he was expecting to see ground beef. Nope. Not a visible scratch. All I can say is thank God for full gear. The Kevlar jacket with armor plating and the riding pants did their respective jobs. The gear and helmet are now unusable mind you but it sure beats the hell out of a few broken bones and severe road rash.

After X-rays on the hips, shoulder and right arm, I was told I had some deep tissue injury but no broken bones. I was told I would feel like hell for a few weeks while ligaments, etc. repaired themselves. And to keep movement to a minimum. Yeah, right. When I stop moving for any amount of time I seize up like a Harley without oil, so needless to say I feel like shit. I can barely lift my right arm chest high without crying like a baby and my left hip feels like someone poured acid on it.

Also, needless to say the machine is totaled. I would even hazard a guess that the frame is a bit tweaked.

But above all else - my ass is LUCKY. DAMN LUCKY that I didn't get really severely injured. After looking at the scrapes on the helmet I realize that if I wasn't wearing proper gear I probably would have been either in ICU or at least a bloody mess.

SO - in the meantime while I heal, I shall be reflective of all the things I could have done differently, and look into a couple of race classes where I can learn how to "unlearn" those automatic reactions that get people killed or busted up. I am not going to let this scare me into stop riding, no way, only to learn from my past mistakes and hedge my bets against the odds with a bit more instruction and time.

Ryan Hulslander
'93 ST1100
'97 CBR1100XX in a pile