Thursday, July 14, 2016

Expect the Unexpected

You’ve all heard the platitude, “expect the unexpected”, and no truer sentiment can a motorcyclist hold any time they head out on the highways and byways of this beautiful country of ours.  This, and skills training may keep you alive. On a recent motorcycling vacation through upstate New York, this tired platitude served us well.

We had just traveled the length of Skaneateles Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in Upstate NY.  Of all the Finger Lakes, this is the one with the highest altitude. And indeed we were even higher still as we could view this lake from the ridge on which we rode.

After riding down from the ridge to the lake, dipping our toes in the water to cool off and meeting some great people, we headed on our way back to the ridge, around the northern tip of Skaneateles, to the northern tip of Owasco Lake. Here our lovely two lane country road ended, and we dropped into the outer fringes of the city of Auburn. This is where we met Carol by “accident”. Carol, age 76 was parked along the curb right near the clump of trees inside the blue circle of the photo below.

As we came along, Carol pulled out. No directional, no rear lights to indicate she was about to move. Andy aggressively applied the brakes, squealing tires with the effort and attempting an evasive move into the opposite lane. But Carol wasn’t just pulling away from the curb. She was attempting a U turn. With no exit Andy’s front end met her car just behind the front driver side door.  Thankfully she stopped short and Andy in a very LOUD voice told her not to move as he was now pinned between bike and car. People appeared from every doorway, helped right the bike which was leaning at an angle against the car with Andy in between. Someone called the police. All of these people were very kind and helpful.

Andy is OK, and here is where I want to do a bit of lecturing. Andy did everything right and walked away as a result. He used the brakes. ALL of them. This slowed him down from 30 MPH to whatever it was when he made impact. He did not “lay it down” as some people claim them must do. If he had, he would not have been able to slow or reduce his impact. He had on his jacket, helmet and a pair of Kevlar riding jeans. Despite the jeans he did receive a puncture wound just above the boot where his leg met the petcock. 

After exchanging information, filing police report and calling the insurance, Andy inspected the bike. The tire rim did not seem bent and the motorcycle still rode true. The headlight was broken, but he still had the two extra lights working on the light bar. (We later discovered the headlight bulb had not broken and still worked. So we covered with a plastic sheet and protected the bulb.) We pulled the fender out with a crowbar and continued on our vacation. The motorcycle looks a bit bedraggled, and yesterday we discovered that the dealer considers it totaled. That is mostly because it’s a 2004 so the book value is low compared to what the parts cost to fix it. If Andy has his way, he will get it repaired.

Andy was determined not to let this mar his vacation and we continued on to enjoy Lake Ontario, tour Fort Ontario and more great roads around upstate NY. We ended our trip in Kinston NY where our daughter was taking part in her first ever triathlon. We are proud of her and happy we were able to witness her accomplishment.

I will close with my usual lecture. If you haven’t taken the basic rider safety course, do so. It’s never too late. Or take the experience rider course. A refresher is never a bad thing. Practice your skills in parking lots, wear your gear. Your daughter might be the next one waiting for you at her first ever event.