I’ve been in love with the idea of riding a motorcycle for as long as I can remember. I begged and pleaded with my parents to let me get a scooter when I was 15, but they wouldn’t budge. They insisted I’d be killed. Every few years I’d test the waters again, requesting permission to ride a motorcycle, and every few years it was the same routine. They forbade it while I was living under their roof.
I moved out at 23, and at the time I was in a serious relationship. I turned my attention to imports, acquiring and modding a 2002 Acura RSX Type-S to be a drag and autocross beast with some flair. She was my obsession until 2004 when I traded her in for a Honda Element. At that time I was engaged and was thinking about my future, and realized it was going to cost too much to continue with my hobby. As much as I try to live with no regrets, just lessons learned, I do regret getting rid of that car, or should I say I learned the lesson of “never give up something you love because of a woman.” I got into R/C cars and trucks (nitro) to quench my thirst for modding and toys, but they didn’t do as well as I thought they would.
After going bankrupt in 2005 from a history of abusing credit cards and the lost money from a cancelled wedding (a whole other story), I thought that was it for the toys for a while. In 2006 I made my triumphant return to the import scene, picking up a 2006 Candy White 2dr GTI. LOVED that car so much, and modding it was so much fun. Issues with the fuel pump follower design, faulty pcv valves, and a useless stock diverter valve prompted me to sell and return to Honda. Picked up a 2008 Element. In 2009, at age 30, I finally decided to pursue my dream of riding a motorcycle. I took the MSF course, and obsessed over technique and safety. I read every book I could find on riding properly, watched the Ride like a pro series multiple times, and even picked up cones to create tracks for myself in parking lots to hone my skills. I wound up picking up a 2009 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom. OMG I was absolutely in love with her, and riding was something I did not do out of obligation to get to point B, but out of sheer desire to be on the road. I rode everywhere, as much as possible. I was living to ride, it was my greatest obsession, and the most wonderful feeling I have ever had on wheels.
Wound up getting rid of the Element and picked up a 2009 Accord V6 Coupe in blue with navigation. Nice ride, but not thrilled with it. It did the job at the time, though, as my bad weather/passenger transportation. Issues with the VCM system made me trade it in after only a short time. Did I mention I went through cars faster than some people go through underwear? Yeah, I have a problem. Didn’t matter though, I had Lucile (The Vulcan), and she was the 2nd love of my life, with the 1st position taken by my girlfriend whom I was head over heels in love with at the time, and even though we were only together 6 months at that point, I was already looking to the future.
August 17th, 2009. After work my girlfriend and her friend were hanging at my place and we decided to head down Deer Park Avenue on Long Island (where we lived) to go to the new Buffalo Wild Wings. I was only riding since April so she wasn’t allowed to get on with me as I was not comfortable taking a passenger yet, but she said I should take my bike because a mutual friend was riding there with some other riders. I was thrilled that she was so understanding and hopped on my bike while they lead with her car. Approaching the CVS/Starbucks shopping center on DPA, I see on the opposite side of the road a Hyundai Elantra waiting to turn left. I checked my mirrors, covered my brakes as I was taught in the MSF and moved to lane position 3 to get my headlight right in the kids face. Didn’t make a damn bit of difference, he pulled out at the last possible moment.
It was slow motion. I squeezed the front brake as I applied pressure to the rear in the panic stop situation I have practiced so many times before. We’re taught to brake or swerve never both but I knew I had just enough traction to try and angle to the right in the hopes he’d stop when he realized what he had done. No luck. A few words flashed in my head right before impact. “You didn’t”. I couldn’t believe he just came out like that. How did he not see me?! That was a split second as I continued the stop, and got just far enough over to the right to hit his fender. My body folded over and my head smashed the windshield. I watched it shatter through the face shield of my full face helmet, hearing the female passengers scream bloody murder at the sight of a 235lb man slamming into their car at almost 30mph. The side view mirror dug deeply into my left side as I bounced back off the car landing in the street. The bike ricocheted right and hit the curb. I looked up to see her laying on her side, the safety switch for such a situation cutting the engine and as I looked at her for that brief moment, I knew I would never ride again.
Despite being a safety nut, having worn a full face helmet, armored jacket, Kevlar lined jeans, knee and shin guards, and riding boots, I was in an immense amount of pain. Breathing was extremely difficult and I felt like someone stabbed me in the back with a knife, had it still inside and was twisting. A Good Samaritan who introduced himself as Mike, stopped and talked to me. He tried to keep me calm until help arrived which was seemingly very quick from my perspective. Having been a volunteer fireman myself and responding to calls like this it always seemed us to take forever to get to a scene, but I digress. I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t move beyond breathing and writhing in agony, and could barely speak. I had to keep my left knee bent and my left hand under my back for support. It was the only thing that helped at all. Thoughts of death ran through my head, but only for a brief moment. I started forcing myself to analyze the situation to keep myself from panicking. “It’s a few broken bones in my back, but I can move my toes so I’m not paralyzed. Most likely internal bleeding but they’ll get it under control at the hospital, I just have to make it to the hospital. Oh my God what about my girlfriend? She didn’t see what happened or she’d be here already. She’s going to freak. Whatever I do, just have to tell her it’s going to be ok, keep her calm. Am I going to be ok? Is this it? No, it can’t be. I’m going to be fine, I just need to get to the hospital and into the O.R. They’ll fix me.”
The ambulance arrives and loads me up. Once I was settled in, I gave the paramedic my phone and asked him to call my girl. He gave her the information as the ambulance passed where they were waiting for me. Her friend drove her to the hospital a little faster than she should have, but she got there not long after I did. While I was lying there being assessed she showed up and found me. She asked me if she should call my parents, which only took a minute for me to agree to since this this was probably pretty serious and they would have killed me if I didn’t. I reassured her that everything was going to be fine, but she saw in my face and the way I was starting to fade out that it wasn’t. Still in immense pain, barely able to speak, she knew I was lying. The time in the emergency room seemed like forever, and time seemed to slow to a crawl. They finally wheeled me in to the MRI and I was asked to hold my breath as they scanned for internal injuries. I laughed in my own head “are they kidding? HOLD my breath?” I don’t know how I was able to manage it but I did, and they got their scans. What made it worse was that the IV they started got snagged on the table as it was being fed into the machine and I had to use that hand to hold the tube and keep it from pulling out. The scan was quick, and they had me out and back into the ER again waiting. The pain was intensifying rapidly, and my tolerance was waning. I begged for something for the pain, but until they knew what was going on they refused. It seemed like an eternity, but the doctor finally spoke to me. “We’re going to give you something for the pain now, please try to relax”. That was it, no info on what was going on. At that point I didn’t care, I couldn’t take the pain anymore and I was begging for mercy. I gladly accepted what they gave me, which knocked me out almost instantly. Fuzzy memories from there, but I remember waking up just a little to hear a nurse saying “he’s vomiting” and I felt myself throw up but I could still breathe. Weird sensation for sure. Couldn’t open my eyes, or fully wake up, so when I realized I was still breathing, I went back to sleep.
The next time I woke up, it was to the doctor explaining to me that they needed me to exhale when they pulled the tube out of my throat. My dad was there as well telling me that I was ok and that I just needed to follow their instructions. I coughed a few times which was excruciating, but I could breathe on my own. I tried to speak but no sound came out I was just able to whisper “what happened?” to my dad. He thought I meant I didn’t realize I was in the accident. I knew I was, I wanted to know why I had a tube in my throat and what the damage was. No answers, so I went back to sleep. Didn’t have to fight it, I was completely exhausted and had no energy at all.
Next time I was woken up, it was by a couple of nurses whom I thought were unbelievably hot. Maybe it was the drugs I was on, or maybe they were something out of a movie, but either way their beauty faded as they helped me roll over so they could wash me. A wash of intense pain came over my entire body and I was barely able to breathe. I suffered through the cleansing, but went back to sleep immediately after. They must have pushed more drugs. I was out.
The very next time I woke up I was more lucid. I had visitors and it was wonderful to see my family, even if it was in the ICU. My girl was right by my side. I came to find out later that when everything happened, only my parents were allowed to see me. She was an absolute wreck over this, and understandably so, but so were my parents over what they were dealing with. Once she was allowed to be with me though, she never left.
Doc comes in the room a few days later, and his first statement to me was “Wow, you look pretty good for someone who lost a few organs!” Wait, WHAT?!?! What weren’t they telling me?!? Dad looked at me with this look of troubled sadness, and told me that they had to remove my left kidney and spleen. I sat there in horror as he explained the extent of my injuries.
Severed kidney, irreparable.
4 cracked vertebrae
4 cracked ribs
Both lungs collapsed
21 units of blood lost to internal bleeding
Multiple surgeries to repair the damage
They kept me unconscious for 6 days because they said the pain would be too much to bear, even on medication. The kidney was hard to swallow, the spleen I could give 2 shits about, but knowing that my family suffered watching me in this condition was traumatic. I can’t imagine the pain they must have felt, or the immense relief when they finally woke me up.
The rest of my hospital stay was painful, but I walked, a lot. Tried stairs a few times, and was able to get around fairly well for someone whose mid-section was split open stem to stern. The morphine helped a lot. The pills when I got home were ok, but it didn’t take long to get off of those. Never became addicted to them, which was a miracle. It only took me 2 weeks to get home to be miserable there, and 2 months to get back to work. Having a desk job has its perks sometimes. It’s been 8 years since the accident, and by looking at me you’d never know anything happened. The only marks on me are from the surgeries, none from the actual impact. I’ve had 2 more surgeries since then, both abdominal hernia repairs since the muscles never completely closed, but everything is fine now. The kidney I have left is strong and working well, and my life got back to normal fairly quickly. Wearing all that gear saved my life, as did the doctors who worked tirelessly to save me. I am and will be eternally grateful to them for all they did.
I was told stories during my stay and after I got home. Stories of my girlfriend on the floor of the emergency room inconsolable when my parents were called to be by my bedside as they didn’t believe I would survive the night. My father, who I have only seen cry once in my entire life when my grandfather died, sobbing over pictures of me outside the emergency room. My best friend who refused to leave the hospital until he found out I was ok, and brought in blankets for my family that were staying as well. It broke my heart to hear what my friends and family went through, but my decision to ride put us all in that situation, and I swore to them never to ride again.
The problem is, I missed it. Every goddamn day I missed it. Every time I saw a bike, or a group of riders enjoying a beautiful sunny day. Every time I heard that rumble, it made my heart leap. I yearned for it. This is something I’m told only riders will understand, and it has proven to be the case. Even hinting to my wife at the time, or anyone else that knew me and loved me, that I may one day ride again, would result in a barrage of stories of what they went through when I was unconscious. Every time I see a rider with no gear on it baffles me how someone like me with all the preparation in the world could have this ripped away in a split second. I tried filling the void with a 2005 Honda S2000, but it didn’t last long. Had a few other imports since, wound up with a Volt that turned out to be a lemon, and picked up a nice boring Ford Fusion Titanium.
My girlfriend and I wound up getting married, and we moved from Long Island to North Dallas, Texas a few years ago. We settled down nicely in a town called Little Elm. I made a few friends that ride, and one in particular kept pushing for me to get back in the saddle. I really wasn’t ready, not then, but something happened that would change that. He picked up a new KTM 1290 Super Duke R and, one beautiful day at work, he asked if I wanted to sit on it. I said sure, no harm in that right? Next thing I know he starts it up. Normally I wasn’t into Naked or Sport bikes (I was a cruiser lover at heart), but something about the feeling of this magnificent beast springing to life woke something up inside of me. The adrenaline started pumping, the endorphins were released, and I felt something I haven’t felt in a long time. I think it was a combination of 98% excited 2% scared, or maybe it was the other way around, but that’s what made it so intense. It was so, confusing. Yes, I stole that from a movie, work with me here. I sat there for a moment, then gave the throttle a little blip. Oh my. He takes a few steps back and tells me to creep toward him. I recognized this technique from the MSF course, he was having me walk the bike to get a feel for the clutch. I obeyed. He took a further step back and did it again. He looked at me with a shit eating grin on his face and says, “ok, now take it around the building”. What? I couldn’t! I didn’t have ANY gear on, and my wife would KILL me if she found out! I shouldn’t. I really, really, shou…click back into 1st, checked that I was clear and off I went. 2nd gear, 3rd. The feeling washed over me like a wave of pure bliss. I was riding again! I never wound up leaving the parking lot, but there was a stretch of road around the front that I was able to get going at a nice clip, and one small turn to lean into. I made my way back to where he was, backed into his parking spot, shut her down and, with my legs shaking, reluctantly removed myself from the saddle. I grabbed his hand and pulled him in for a bro hug and whispered ever so softly, “Thank you.” He knew what he was doing, and he accomplished it. I was bitten, HARD. I NEEDED to ride again, it wasn’t a question any more. I needed to be back on 2 wheels.
It’s been over a year since that ride on the Super Duke, and a lot has happened since then. A few bikes, a divorce, and a new motovlog channel that seems to be taking off. To see the rest of my journey, you should really watch my videos 🙂