That’s the motorcycle grave yard, one must never go there.
Well… unless… things are looking pretty bad for your motorcycle. Which they might be for me.
Two falls, two major crashes within five minutes of eachother. You might be wondering how.
I was lane splitting to the front of the line of cars. The light was red, it just turned green. A red boxy car signaled to switch lanes. The woman claims she looked behind her, but who knows. She decided to move into the spot right next her, problem with that is the line of cars wasn’t moving forward. There was also a motorcyclist behind her. The crowd was inching, it wasn’t going anywhere. I saw her put her right turn signal on and I hit the clutch and then the brakes. I saw her start to shift position, she moved forward maybe ten inches as she slowly eased into the right spot, stopping both lanes of traffic. Meanwhile, I broke, I swerved, my back tire swished and swayed, and I managed to move into the right space she was attempting to inhabit. Had I veered for the shoulder instead of continuing to hit the brakes I could have stayed up. As it was I ended up skidding out on the right side. I heard someone honk and then I was on the ground. I was now the cause for the stopped traffic in the right lane. I got up, I picked up Little Wing and pushed off to the shoulder. Traffic started to flow again, and at that point I heard two voices ask if I was alright. I turned around and someone had their head out the passenger window as they slowly passed in the left lane. I nodded, the driver slowly accelerated. The other voice came from a woman who had parked her truck on the shoulder. She approached me and repeated the question, I said yes. Another voice came from behind me. I was facing into traffic off the shoulder. When I turned around I saw the woman in the red boxy car that had switched lanes. She appeared to be smirking. I didn’t answer her. I turned back to Little Wing. I looked down and saw the footpeg laying on the ground. I saw the brake was warped. The woman from the truck asked again if everything was ok. I told her I thought I was, but I pointed at the bike folornly. She gave me a sympathetic smile in response, and the woman from the red box decided to ask if I was ok again. I turned to look at her as I took off my helmet, and then silently turned to make another survey of the bike. Her face had taken on even more of a smirk. I don’t know if the smirk was due to nervousness, or gratitude that I was standing and talking, or if it was sheer cruelty, but I took it as the last hypothetical. I chose to answer, and I told her I had already answered that question, and her face didn’t sober up. I got mad, I felt my cheeks flush. “You are supposed to look!”
“I did.” She said as her face got the slightest bit more contrite.
“You are supposed to look, and the traffic was stopped!”
“The light was green!” At this point she raised her voice.
“It had just turned green! The traffic wasn’t moving!” I responded, voice raised and turning squeaky.
At this point the woman from the truck stepped in and said we needed to exchange info, and she said we were both at fault and neither of us should be raising our voice. I looked at her blankly. I told her the footpeg was a pricey fix, as were the brakes, but I doubted her insurance would cover it. The woman in the truck said we should still exchange. At this point the woman who drove the red box started to back away and said “well as long as you are ok. I’m not going to stand here arguing.” She turned and started walking to her vehicle.
The woman from the truck didn’t like the red box woman saying that. She got out her smart phone and said “that’s not right. Here, I am going to get a picture for you.” The woman in the red box turned back around and the two started to debate what was right. I examined Little Wing and the woman in the red box brought me back into the conversation. She said she wouldn’t exchange info unless I wanted to. She said it three times more before she finally paused to hear my answer, which was yes, I wanted her info.
This was the first crash I have had where I have had to exchange info. I have never been hurt because of another person and I haven’t caused damage. Well, as I always say, go big or go home.. actually, I don’t think I’ve ever said that. Being small I actually find that rather insulting. Whatever. Anyway, I crashed once last night and exchanged info. I then got back on Little Wing, broken footpeg, warped brakes and all, and I rode to my next crash scene.
The sky was darkening by the time we finished exchanging info. I decided to ride the last ten miutes to Andrea’s. I was trying to take it easy and take my time, but I was high on adrenaline and in a rush to get to my friends house. My brain wasn’t functioning well enough to be back on the bike. I took the far right lane wanting to be in the slow lane. The traffic had expanded to three lanes about two traffic lights after the first accident. I made my way to the farthest right lane, and a stop light later it started to merge. I noticed this too late. I was expecting the traffic to keep moving, but the traffic in front of me had stopped. Had my back brakes been fully operational I would have been just fine, but they weren’t, something I only found out in that heart stopping moment. I remember thinking “fuck, not again” and then I was down on the pavement. I aimed away from the car that I knew I was going to hit, and at the same time I aimed away from the concrete wall on the right side of the shoulder. This ended up in another skid and washout on the right side. I felt my front tire hit the car in front of me. My tire bounced off their’s, and I skidded further than I had in the first accident. It was a faster crash than the previous one too, due to the lack of braking. I felt it more. I felt the bike feel it more. I heard all my commitments come loose of the bike and skitter down the pavement. I stood up, cussing. Adrenaline kicked in again and I picked up Little Wing for the second time. I realesed a litany of cuss of word. I looked around to check out where my stuff had gone and when I turned around (I, once again, was pointed into traffic, the same as the first accident) I saw a man approaching. I took off my helmet and asked him if it was his car I hit. He nodded.
“I am sooo sorry” I sort of wailed. He asked if I was alright and I said no, but I was fine physically. I asked how his car had faired. He said it was damaged. I cussed some more and asked if he wanted to exchange insurance info and he said yes. I got mine out and he said we should walk to his car to do so. As I took a step I felt that there was something off about my left boot. I looked down at my leather boots, which I thought invincible, and I saw the left one was torn. I nearly broke down with this observation. Things worked out. We filled out the info and then Joe, fore thats what his name was, asked if I wanted him to wait with me while I waited for Andrea to come with the truck. I told him that would be wonderful if he didn’t mind. He helped me move my scattered gear out of the middle of the shoulder, and I parked Little Wing by the concrete barrier I was fortunate to avoid. It turns out I scratched the right side of his bumper up pretty good. Further inspection this morning would lead to him finding that I had scraped up the right panel pretty good and did some damage to the mud flap.
It would turn out that my frame under my pipe had damage. My rear brakes have some amount of damage, and my drive belt hub was damaged. One might ask what the solution to all that is, I would respond, good question. We shall see.
I have a small amount of damage myself. I have bruising on both knees and a pretty good bruise on my left elbow. I have some side bruises too, but nothing major. My pride, however, that’s a different story. As always I am ashamed of going down. I’m saddened by the apparent inadequacy of my riding and I am irritated that I have more work on the bike to do.
However, all those negative emotions are outweighed by the gratitude I feel to be fine; not in the hospital. I learned a lot with those two falls, firstly, don’t take off after a hard fall. Secondly, how to fill out insurance info. And thirdly, the road is unpredictable, something I already knew, but I learn best from observation, so there it is. I have observed it now.
So now what? Well I’m at Andrea’s in Oceanside. I am going to go take a crack at cleaning her garage and then I am going to set to tearing Little Wing down.. again. And I am probably going to make a trip or two to the motorcycle grave yard.
Now, how has the rest of life been, you might be asking. Well, let me tell you. I just spent some wonderful time In Morro Bay, that is actually where I was coming from yesterday. A five hour ride, through L.A., to get me to Oceanside. I have a friend in Morro Bay, she is from Minnesota. Karen is a pal I made through the community radio station we both volunteer at. We had a great time hanging aound. We went for a walk to the Estuary on Monday. I got to see many birds, all breeds and colors. We saw interesting lichens. They were orange and soft. They felt like bits of fluff, not like anything I’d seen before.
I stopped to take a picture of a fire hydrant and a sailor paused his conversation to chat. He said “that’s a fancy hydrant, not everyone obeserves it. Most people don’t stop to get a picture.” He and his friend were leaning against a souped up truck. An old red truck with tall tires. The sailor who spoke was wearing sweats and a knit wool sweater. He had on a knit cap as well, and had a short, white, beard. He looked like an old fisherman, and he sounded like one too. His friend was quiet but he looked just as shaggy. It turned out the old truck was his. The sailor informed us he used to be a fireman and he had a friend who owned one of the fabled fire hydrant collections I have heard of. He gave us a brief tutorial on the difference between hydrants by region and then made an off hand comment about how collecting them was a man thing, because men are strong and can lift ’em and women couldn’t manage it. I made an off hand comment about how the size of the fire hydrant collection went right along with the size of the truck and what it meant for the collector. He didn’t like that, but the vulgarity was very sailor-like and we departed ways laughing.
Karen likes to stop and talk to everyone. She is a lot like me like that but even more so. We stopped to talk to an old birder too. He looked similar to the old sailor but he was more reserved and sweeter. He told us about the birds that we were looking at, floating along in the marina. There were many ducks and he told us there had been a loon on the water right before we had stopped to chat.
We made our way further along, and Karen and I discussed photography. I wouldn’t claim to be a photographer, but I like my camera. Karen is a photographer, and she was full of lots of advice. She showed me that I hadn’t even tapped into the zoom potential of my camera, and when I finally did, I got a great picture of a curlew. It was way far off in the distance, but my camera saw it for what it was, even when my eyes didn’t.
That was just the morning. We also had great discussions about life. Karen is wise. We observed that it felt like we had known eachother for ever even though I had only been with her for two days. Karen and I knew eachother from home. I lived in her hometown for a year, and we volunteered at the same radio station. She had come to a few of my art openings, but we hadn’t spent an extended time together. She and her husband, Richard, winter in Morro Bay. Just like all the birds we saw at the Estuary. It was nice to see a face from home after such a long time away. It was odd though. I felt taken a back a bit. I heard the lilting sound of a Minnesotans voice and we talked of home. I remembered back to all my other friends that Karen and I share and I thought of our last interaction. For a second I felt like who I was just a few months ago, and with that memory I realized how different I have become. Traveling has really done a number.
The day before we went to the Estuary we walked down to the morro that Morro Bay gets its name from. A good long walk, something I always enjoy. It was hot, even early in the morning, so I wore shorts. I haven’t wore shorts in public since I left Minnesota. It has been too cool, or it has been hot but I’ve been riding. It was nice to just walk about leisurely like and be comfortable. We stopped at some of the art galleries and we paused to take many pictures. On the Embarcadaro we spotted sea otters lounging about, that was awesome. I haven’t seen otters in the wild yet, and we saw a whole herd of them. With babies. Too damn cute.
We made our way to the morro and the beach. There were surfers and many out of towners (like ourselves) soaking in the rays. We walked along the beach where I found two perfect sand dollars.
I almost had enough to buy something to drink at the sand bar.
Haha. Haha. It took Karen a minute to get the joke. It did for me too the first time I heard it. I heard it from the two Michaels on Pismo Beach when we searched for sand dollars Christmas night. Terrible, terrible joke, but that’s California humor for ya. Anyway, Karen spotted a dollar bill on the ground and when she picked it up she found it was two folded together. I had two sand dollars, she had two sandy dollars. She traded me currency and I was two dollars richer for a real drink at the real bar.
Our exploration seemed to be coming to an end, it was too hot to keep walking. Richard came to get us in the truck and he took us to another beach. This other beach had pebbles instead of sand. There were small, rounded rocks, instead of the miniscule sand granules that had made up the other beach. There were big rocks mixed in and many rocks for climbing. I climbed them, and marveled over the magic of the waves that had eroded them.
It is fairly interesting the way that the force of the ocean plus time can change rocks they take away the sharp corners and make them soft and round. They put holes in some rocks, just the way a drill might do. Humans worked long and hard to build tools to do what the ocean can. I will be using tools built by people who were inspired by the ocean to fix Little Wing. Or maybe not. Maybe that is a romantic notion, or maybe I’m the one inspired by the ocean. Who knows.
Anyway, Richard collected me a whole bunch of stones that had holes eroded all the way through. I forsee making necklaces out of them. It was quite the charming find.
My time in Morro Bay was peaceful, but before that I was in Santa Cruz. I stopped in to the same hostile I had stayed at before to visit my Chilean friend Rainy (I wrote a blog starring him earlier). Before going to the hostile I stopped to see the butterflies at the Monarch Gardens. They are the most fascinating creatures. They generally have short life spans, all of them except the ones that migrate. The continuation of the species is dependent upon the butterflies that are born to migrate knowing innately that they must go find milkweed. I didn’t see many in the garden, it was late in the day for them, but I did see some. They like the sunshine so they were hanging out high in the trees absorbing it. I stared up at their delicate little bodies as they flitted amongst the trees. Orange flecks of satin against a blue sky, only daring to catch flight where the sunlight shone. Timid when footsteps approached but actively dancing for the onlookers when silence reigned.
They were beautiful. I was disappointed not to get a good, close up, look, but I was to see many of them in the coming days. They love the California coast as much as the rest of us, and on the sunny, 80° days — Saturday and Sunday — they were out in hoardes. On Saturday I actually was shown a monarch caterpillar on my second ride through Big Sur. A woman spotted me chasing a monarch with my camera as it basked in the sun outside Nepenthe, a restaurant built by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright (it looks out over the ocean. It was gorgeous and busy). She informed me she had a monarch farm and told me about it as she reached into the milkweed patch I had been stalking the butterfly around and pulled up a leaf. There, sprawled out on another leaf, was a monarch caterpillar enjoying the cover from predators. I didn’t get a good shot of the butterfly, but I was happy to photograph the caterpiller.
The night at the hostile was just as cool as the first I spent there. I was pleased to meet even more fascinating people. I met a Canadian named Vincent, named after the Vincent Black Shadow, his grandpas first motorcycle. He had moved to California for a few months to work as an intern for Zero Motorcycles, an electric motorcycle developer. I also met two Spainards from Catalonia. They spoke Spanish with Rainy while I sat back and pretended to get it. Eventually they realized they would have to switch to English because I didn’t actually understand. There was a French cabinet builder there named Ben. He had took a year off, just like me. His year was so he could travel around the world and surf. Ben liked to take photographs with old film. He was untrained, he was very good. I also met two Brazilians who were there for school, and an accordian player from Kosova. One of the only other gals there was a woman from Aitkin, MN, the capital of my home county. It was so weird to be faced with a bit of home in Santa Cruz, CA. Of course conversation turned to our other homie, Cherly Strayed. The one chick from our area who had made it big.
Rainy and I talked about life, and I was so happy to that life had gotten better for him since the last time we met. He had been hard up the first time and I had helped him out. He called me an angel and said I saved his life, but then he went on to get a job and figure out how to save money. He used a small portion of the savings to buy a long board which he he showed me how to use. He is a great guy with a big smile, and I think his energy and positivity saved his life. I told him so. I know he will go far.
The next day was a ride through Big Sur again. I made my way from Santa Cruz to Morro Bay in 80° heat. The small snuffle I had going on from my last cold was greatly diminshed by the weather. Riding winding roads is always great for the spirit and it was a fantastic ride. Morro Bay welcomed me after that safe ride.
Now I am looking into the motorcycle grave yard. Will I have to go there? I hope not. Today, while typing this, I was also cleaning out Andrea’s garage, making room to park and disassemble Little Wing. I dealt with insurance agents all day and talked to Joe over the phone (the man whose car I hit). Andrea and I invited him over for a visit on Friday, and I am glad to know that I might have made a new friend through my shitty evening. I analyzed the causes of the accident and I am coming up with future solutions. I have been counting my reasons for gratitude, and they are many. I have learned a lot from the chaotic evening, and it can only help. I’m alive, which means I’m learning.
I talked to my bike fixing buddy, Dan. My go to, genius, mechanic pal. He advised me on the next steps and now I’m moving forward. I got Little Wing in the garage, and with the help of Andrea’s kind farm manager and his son I got Little Wing up on blocks and the rear tire off…again. Time for some mechanic-ing; my favorite (I am being only slightly snarky). As Dan said, I am having an adventure.