Thursday, October 16, 2008

Are You Always Nuts?

I had given my students a writing assignment about a time they were scared. They asked if I was going to write one also. Of course I was, I always demonstrate the writing process for my students. As usual they wanted me to read it to them after I was finished. At the conclusion of the reading a young fellow asked, “Mr. Malone are you always nuts?” Possibly, but sometimes a person gets a life lesson that changes them forever.

It was a cold February, Monday morning in Phoenix in 1982. When I woke up I was looking forward to the ride up to Snowflake, Arizona where I was working the graveyard shift at the paper mill. It had snowed in Northern Arizona over the weekend and my family suggested that I shouldn't ride the motorcycle up there this week. But, I was always looking for adventure, and I was about to find one.

As I left Phoenix it was brisk, the sun was shining brightly, the sky was a brilliant blue, and not a cloud was in sight. I was leaving two hours earlier than usual to allow for riding slower in case the roads were bad. It was a generic ride getting to Payson except for being cold and a little snow along the highway here and there, but the roads were dry and the sun was still bright.

As I turned onto Highway 260 to Heber I noticed there was no traffic and there was more snow along the road. Ten, twenty, thirty miles and the road began to get wet from the melting snow. This was fun and I started going faster and faster, leaning farther and farther until the pegs my feet rested on were dragging the asphalt. The unmistakable grinding noise of steel wearing on asphalt, a shower of sparks flying behind me as I pushed the limits of the motorcycle and elements. Dumping into the corners, left then right and feeling invincible as the speed increased to test the limit of my abilities.

Six miles north of Kohls Ranch in a left hand sweeper, in the shadows of the pine trees, it happened. ICE! The rear end of the bike started to slide out from under me. As I let off the throttle and sat up straight, it snapped back to the right and I ran off the asphalt onto the gravel shoulder. There was a guardrail coming straight me at 60 miles an hour. On the other side a 150 foot drop. In a heartbeat I leaned as far left as I could, downshifted, and cranked as hard as I could on the throttle, while praying I wouldn’t go flying over the edge. I got lucky for an instant as the bike responded and slid around parallel to the guardrail. I let off the throttle, started to apply the brakes, and than saw it. The mountain was directly in front of me and closing at 55 miles an hour. BAM! I slammed into it and was thrown over the bars into the mountain. The mountain spit me out onto the highway where I tumbled, rolled, and kept bouncing for what seemed like forever. When I stopped I hurt and couldn't move. I was worried about the motorcycle landing on me, but couldn’t turn to see where it was. I laid there, not moving, trying to decide if I was OK. Hoping a car wouldn’t come around the corner and run over me. Hoping, though, that someone would come and stop to see if I was alive.

After a few minutes I started to move my arms. They were sore, but didn’t feel broken. Next I moved my legs and they seemed to be alright. I tried to move my head, but the pain was too great. I thought I must have broken my neck. I laid there, in the middle of the highway, for what seemed like an hour. I finally unbuckled the helmet and with that done I could move my head a little. It hurt, but I tried to sit up anyway. I had to hold the helmet in both hands, roll to the right, and push up with my arms to finally be sitting up. A few minutes later I wanted the helmet off. I slowly lifted up and the pain was terrible, but I continued until the helmet popped off. I couldn’t turn my head or look up or down. My neck was in awful pain, but I was alive and didn’t go over the cliff. It was another half an hour before a car came by. After checking me they returned to Kohls Ranch to call the Highway Patrol and a wrecker.

The motorcycle was destroyed. It was bent, twisted, and several pieces were torn off. The bags and my cloths were scattered all along the highway. By the time the Highway Patrol arrived I knew I would be OK. It turned out that I wouldn’t be able to turn my head for over three weeks. The helmet did its job and kept my brains inside my head.

I was really lucky that day and it was the scariest thing that ever happened to me. That was also the last time I have crashed on a motorcycle. It is also when I started to believe in motorcycle rider training. I started riding like an adult after this incident, but the funny thing is I still like to dump Petunia into corners and spray sparks as the floorboards scrape the asphalt.


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  2. I missed the part that said "1982" and got really worried! I'm glad that you are a safe rider!

  3. LOL. what a ride!
    I remember about 2001 I was coming back fron Crown king and took that last big sweep a little too fast.
    I rode the gaurd rail line so close I could feel my jeans warming up from the friction. all I could look at was the view over the gaurdrail to a 100 foot drop. just as the gaurdrail ended I managed to pull up straight and continue on.
    I needed new jeans and underwear that day.