August 3, 1971, 4:00 pm on a sunny afternoon .. the day I graduated from college then rode straight to my death in an 80mph impact bike/auto head-on collision. I was only wearing a stolen pair of green/red bowling shoes with the 10 1/2 size on the back, cut off shorts, a T-shirt and a good Bell helmet. Totally stupid aligned with bad karma. The impact sent me 80 feet through the air with the handlebars still in hand .. ripped from the bike that was now buried in the grill of the car along with 8 1/2 inches of right femur. My helmet hit a curb just above my forehead and my shattered body flipped into a parking lot.
My life has become one incredible journey .. an endless stream of “adventures” wherein only I can debate my reasons .. my sanity.
The collision had ripped off my right foot; severed my right femoral artery; splintered and lost 8 1/2 inches of my right femur; shattered nine ribs; crushed three fingers on my left hand; crushed my left elbow; fractured my left tibia; split my left thigh; produced five compound fractures in my right tibia and fibula; fractured my right patella; and left me with a severe eight-inch skull fracture .. not too bad .. huh?
Yep …. it was quite a jolt. I was only conscious for a few minutes .. lying on my back with what was left of my leg up around my shoulder .. bleeding profusely from the severed artery, nose, mouth, ears, left leg .. didn’t realize how much blood one could produce. When I looked up and saw everyone gathered around me .. it was like playing sandlot football with everyone huddled and looking for a play .. yet with a look of absolute “horror” on their faces. It only took me a moment to realize they were looking at me …
Suddenly .. I was 10-15 feet directly overhead looking down at my mangled body … I can never forget the view .. it was one of many times I would leave my body .. but I saw it .. and understood what had happened. Diana Shaffer was a guardian angel who had witnessed the accident. She rushed to my side and reached into my open thigh and pinched off the severed artery with her fingers until the ambulance arrived.
On the way to the hospital .. and at my moment of death .. I fought them violently. But when we finally arrived .. I was clinically “dead on arrival” … no pulse .. no blood .. no breathing … I watched it all.
The first time I died was 4:15pm .. but the ER’s heroic efforts revived me and frantically continued to stabilize me until 11:00pm, when I was able to undergo 11 1/2 more hours of surgery. They lost me again on the table .. as I watched it all.
Ironically, the girl I was living with at the time of the accident came upon the scene and saw the bike. When she saw my bowling shoe .. with my foot still inside .. she knew it was me. She rushed it and the femur fragments, removed from the grill, to the hospital. Dr. Leland G. Brown put “Humpty Dumpty” back together again that night.
To make a long story short .. I was in a coma for 35 days .. hospitalized for 7 1/2 months .. and underwent numerous additional surgeries, including a “re-amputation” after gangrene had set in. Two years later, I was walking again. This time, on a prosthesis.
In the last few years I’ve ridden over 160,000 official H.O.G. miles all over the United States, not counting three months riding in Central Europe. I’ve survived additional “near death” experiences .. each one with another incredible story. But I am a survivor .. and that’s what it’s all about. Survival. We are all in the same boat .. doing whatever we have to do each day just to survive. Some days are just a little tougher than others.
For me, the best way to truly feel “alive” is to face unimaginable challenges .. including death itself .. and survive. If they claim “whatever you endure that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” .. they’re right. And we all face our own daily challenges .. each unique.
When asked “why we ride?” .. we all have our own reasons for that, too. For me, straddling an 825 lb. pure torque time machine and riding off into another “adventure” takes me right to that fine line dividing life and death. At any moment in time, it’s less than a heartbeat away .. no matter what “time machine” you’re traveling in.
My life has become one incredible journey .. an endless stream of “adventures” wherein only I can debate my reasons .. my sanity. My passion for riding may be stronger than most, as sometimes just “pushing it to the edge” is not quite enough .. but dangling one foot over that edge may just be that common thread amongst us.
Until next time .. ride smart .. ride safe
and the Adventure continues …