Kelly’s Korner: Gear Good, Whiskey Throttle Bad
GEAR GOOD, WHISKEY THROTTLE BAD
As I type this, there’s more feeling on the left side of my face than there was last week and only a bit of the black eye remains. The left arm still twinges if I move it in certain ways but I can do back squats again, albeit with some discomfort. That’s all okay, though. The dirt ride that resulted in these war wounds was one of the most amazing until the moment of impact.
Three days before New Year’s Eve, a friend asked T and I if we wanted to join his family’s desert campout for the weekend. Friend’s wife was turning 50 and they planned a seafood boil, a Burning Woman, fireworks and an overall Khaotic (that’s a shout-out) good time with lots of crazy people. This sounded so much more fun than a night at a club or a restaurant; we were in. One rented RV, two dirt bikes and three dogs later, off we went to Box Canyon.
Friday evening, about an hour before the sun set, T and I were itching for the first ride. We threw on the gear and went zipping through the desert until dusk fell – no headlights, you see. We couldn’t wait to get back on the bikes on New Year’s Eve day, despite the overnight rain. }
And so we did.
The ride up to the canyon, which we didn’t quite reach, was moderate and I took the trail with care but not trepidation. (For some reason, almost every time I ride on the dirt, my brain and body don’t fully “take” until the return. That’s usually when I’m warmed up and able to loosen up, mentally and physically.) Some rocky washes, some flooded road, some rutted, gravely hills (and one steep one), some grazing cows. No biggie. We stopped at the top of one of the last hills before Box Canyon to rest and shoot some photos.
We turned around to go back to camp. And of course the first downhill was the one uphill that had given me butterflies, tripping replays of the recurring nightmare of going up an angle so steep I fall over backwards. I froze. It was the silliest series of moments of frozenness ever. I knew I could navigate the hill – I’d done far more daunting and come out intact. But there was something about it that kept me sitting on an idling bike for, oh, I don’t know, five, seven minutes? T came back up to talk me through it, all stuff I knew yet couldn’t get past until I just told myself to get over it and get down the hill. I did, at last, and sped off on the best 15 or 20 minutes I’ve experienced on dirt, ever, after that little psych-out.
Until my helmet met the ground.
Here’s what I’m told happened, by the one person who witnessed the crash: I came up out of a wash, got crossed up and when I landed, lost the front tire and flew off the bike.
All I remember is the “Oh, $*^#!” moment right before my visor slammed into the dirt, my left arm twisted around me and my left foot under me. None of that felt nice. Strangely, though, because I have had one other decent crash before, on the street, I was able to stay calm instead of launching into Insta-Panic. I lay, staring into the dirt, telling myself to breathe and asking if anything seemed broken. In the background, I heard T yelling,” Are you ok? Are you ok?” I got a little mad because he couldn’t hear me say “No” and he kept asking if I was all right. Tip: When you’re with someone who crashes, just get over to them without asking in the process if they’re okay. I was all right but had the wind knocked out of me.
T later told me he was terrified because my left arm looked as though it was broken, the elbow pointing up. Turned out, the force of the slam knocked my upper body armor around; it was the elbow pad. Still, my whole left side was pretty beaten up.
Then I stood. And the blood came gushing out of my nose. And I couldn’t see correctly out of my left eye because it was swelling. Which was a little scary because there was a contact lens in there. And my neck was stiff with mild whiplash. And my left foot felt sore. And then T pointed out the sudden and impressive formation of a black eye that, if I say so myself, remained pretty epic for a couple of weeks.
I rode back to camp where we figured out that the bleeding was coming from the swelling below my eye, not my nose itself. The contact popped out after a couple of tries. The overall aching set in but let’s face it, was totally worthwhile. That ride was my most exhilarating so far on dirt until the crash … and of course the crash makes the story.
What really matters to me about this tale is gear. Thanks to gear, I don’t have any broken bones or – I hope – permanent problems. My goggles gave me the black eye because of how my helmet hit the ground, but I’m good with that. Had I not been wearing armor and a helmet, I would have stayed in a hospital that night, not a cozy RV in the desert. And I’m not so sure my neck wouldn’t have broken. The boots did their job too. I’m seriously grateful and will not relent on the message of the power of gear.
Now, almost a month later, my face remains swollen but every day it feels and moves a little better. The black eye has gone from “punched by Chuck Norris” to “What’s that mark on your face?” even though I had to sport it proudly at Chuck Norris levels during my first week on the new job. (The new employer is based in Indianapolis so I got to travel through airports and other public spaces, and meet my new colleagues, all with a black-and-purple beacon on the left side of my face. What can you do? Own it and laugh.)
And yes, the CRF 230 survived the crash – better than I did!
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