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The Alloy Steed

It was a quiet Sunday morning. I was still in the military then. I did not know that day would be a lesson of humility and pain that would result in months of physical and mental anguish. I learned a harsh lesson in physics and learned why the laws of the highways are established the way they presently are.

On that day, I was very weary due to my being awake for over twenty-four hours. I was on Staff Duty call. I maintained a desk from 9 o’clock Saturday morning to 9 o’clock Sunday morning. With another soldier, I was to make sure the soldiers in our unit’s barracks were behaving properly. We were also there to be prepared for any emergencies that may deploy us to any of the numerous troubled countries around the world. We were required to do this without sleep. My eyes were red, like an angry bull’s, but the only thing I wanted to do was ride my motorcycle, my alloy steed, instead of sleeping to make up for the lost slumber.

Instead of going to sleep when my tour of duty was over, I washed my bike. Washing my bike before a big event was a tedious affair. The bike had to sparkle. It had to shimmer so much after washing that whoever looked at it would have a religious experience. I spent all of my time that morning washing the tires, cleaning the wheels meticulously with an old toothbrush, waxing the fairing_ and huge gas tank, and doing general detail work. I completed the bike's cleaning by 12 o’clock and the bike meet was to start at 2 o’clock.

I changed clothes and ate lunch. By 12:30, I was on my way to the Kawasaki motorcycle dealership, where our bike group always met. I was the first to arrive but did not have to wait long before the air was humming with approaching bikes. I took out the borrowed video camera and started taping the approaching cycles. I wanted to document the beginning of a fine meeting. I shot video footage of all types of bikes, from Italian Ducatis to American Harley Davidson cruisers. People were greeting each other and looking over the nice showing of bikes, making comments and trading cycle secrets. We mingled for about forty-five minutes before we all were anxious to ride the hills and countryside.

Since the group was numbering thirty motorcycles, we decided to split into groups of ten, to make our group less obvious to law enforcement and less intimidating to car drivers. We rode to the far side of the city, and stopped at a gas station for those who were low on fuel to refill their tanks. From there, we started our journey through some of the most beautiful scenery and countryside in all of the United States. We casually rode by green shrubbery that turned into green tunnels of hundred-year-old trees that swallowed most of the sunlight and filled the air with a "green", pollen smell. We cruised by horse farms, farms fielded by hundreds of acres with tall corn, and even an ostrich farm. We followed twisting, turning black tarmacs of road that motorcycle riders enjoy so much. We were graced with warm sunlight that danced around our scenic traveling like a frolicking jester.

Because I had no sleep the night before this journey, the affect of the beautiful scenery on me was devastating. I was not alert and fully awake. In a car, a person has to be aware, but on a motorcycle, the rider’s life truly depends on his state of awareness. At this time, the journey changed into a more spirited ride. The other riders started going faster, increasing the pace. The speed demanded more and more of my attention as we came close to doubling the posted speed limit. It demanded more attention than I could consciously spare.

I was doing ninety miles per hour now. I had tunnel vision. What I saw was just a narrow path of road, with the sides blurred by speed, the demon of that day. I did not see an upcoming crest of the hill I was climbing. When a rider sees a crest when he is aware of his surroundings, he usually slows his pace because he does not know what is beyond the crest. Not I. When I crested and saw the sharp left bend in the road, I panicked and became fully awake, but by then it was far too late. The situation changed into slow motion. Objects going in a straight manner at 90 M.P.H. tend to not want to deviate from their path, because of gravitational forces acting on the mass of the object. The same applied to me as I struggled to make the bike turn, to bend it to my will. The alloy steed reared its now ugly head and tried to buck me off. I decided to lean it into the curve, but I didn’t do it smoothly, jerking the bike to the left instead of coaxing it. This upset the steed and it lost traction and headed for the gravel right shoulder. Before it left the road, it bucked one last time, tossing me out of its saddle. I saw the ground rush up to me and then it became dark. The world then became a camera’s shutter, clicking open and closed as I rolled on the asphalt and came to a stop.

At that time, I realized that there were riders behind me and that a fellow motorcycle rider may hit me. I stood and ran to the shoulder of the road, then looked at my arms. They looked like uncooked hamburger. I collapsed. Since the alloy steed had, upon leaving the road, plowed through a lady’s yard and continued, to rest in a cornfield, the lady was obliged to call the paramedics. The emergency technicians couldn't seem to get there fast enough for me. My body started to tremble with pain. Other riders stopped and tried to help me. They didn’t want remove my helmet, until I begged them to take it off because I was having difficulty breathing. When the medical team arrived, they evaluated me, telling me to move my fingers and toes, seeking for damage. I found that I could wiggle them, but they still attached me to a board and put a neck-brace around my neck.

The ride to the hospital was slow. The technicians put bandages on my arms but they still bled profusely, soaking through the coverings. Once I arrived at the hospital, I was first X-rayed for broken bones. Miraculously, there were none! A motorcycle wreck at 90 M.P.H. that did not yield broken bones is truly a miracle, but there were other problems. I had lost a third of the skin of my right arm and I had numerous abrasions and contusions on my left arm, knees, and even chin. There was also a very large bruise on my pelvic bone.

I eventually healed, but upon reflecting the happenings of that day, I found that all of this could have been avoided if I had gone home and slept. My priorities weren’t as they should have been. I was so fixated with riding that I had lost focus on the fundamentals of riding safely. Riding safely means being rested enough to give your full, undivided attention to operating your vehicle. In addition, had I been rested, I would not have let my weakened judgment get the best of me by allowing myself to reach speeds approaching 100 m.p.h. on a rural highway. It took an accident, which totaled my bike, and a lot of pain to make me realize that I wasn’t a very mature rider. The accident made me realize why speed limits and laws that govern operating vehicles exists.