Dress for the slide, not the ride

By Darren Wright

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If you ride a motorcycle, you have either heard the saying “Dress for the Slide, Not the Ride,” or you’ve probably said it yourself. I know I have said it more than once.

It was late August; the riding season was getting shorter. My wife Sue and I had a four-day weekend away from work and the weather forecast was perfect. We just upgraded our 2012 Street Glide to a 2019 Road Glide Special. Wicked Red, 114-inch motor, it was a beautiful bike. The break in mileage had been met, and we took it to the dealership for its 1000-mile service on Friday morning. We left right from the dealership and hit the road for a weekend ride. The route was planned, the weekend was ours.

We headed south to Pendleton, OR, and then looped back up to Walla Walla, WA. Dinner and a good night’s sleep and we were back on the road. North on some backroads led us to Washtucna, and on to Davenport. We visited Fort Spokane and saw a deer wandering around midday which seemed odd, but we took her picture anyway.

Like most people these days, we were keeping our friends up to date on our trip through Facebook. One of my friends read our post and told us that we had to stop at Edna’s in Davenport and get one of their milkshakes. The best around, we were told. He was right!

So, we took a selfie in Edna’s with our shakes and prepared to head east on Hwy 2 towards Spokane. The weather was beautiful. A rare time where the weatherman was right. We started to gear up, and we both thought that it was way too nice to wear leather coats, or any coats for that matter. The sun was shining and if you know my wife, she is solar powered. If the sun is shining on her, she is happy.

Helmets on, I wore my gloves, Sue did not. Eastbound with light traffic, sun shining, wind in our faces; life was great. We have Bluetooth communicators and talk through most of our trips. We were both rather quiet. We had ridden nearly 500 miles over the two days, so we didn’t have a whole lot left to say. Sue, who is not the panic or overreacting type suddenly yells in my ear, “DEER, DEER, DEER!”

I consider myself a pretty good rider with decent experience. As a driver in general, I had never been in a moving collision in over 35 years of driving, and that includes over a half million miles driving for work. I scan the road constantly, and rarely miss something happening around me. I heard the urgency in her voice and started scanning as quickly as I could. The deer she saw were at a full run from our right, and just as she saw them and yelled, they were in the dip of the right shoulder, and out of my view.

At 60mph, you are travelling at over 88 feet per second. When the deer popped up into the road, two of them were in the road in one leap less then fifty feet in front of us. With less than a second to react, I didn’t even finish saying ‘Oh –.”

This was going to happen. Nothing I could do. We hit the lead deer square in the side. The front wheel was jerked to the left, and the bike went down hard to the left. At this point we are just along for the ride, or in this case the slide.

I remember sliding down the road, seeing the bike sliding to my right. I was sliding on my left shoulder and arm and thinking very quickly that this really sucks. The asphalt grinding away at my skin. I was able to get rolled over and get up on my hands and toes. Thank goodness I wore boots and gloves. It wore a hole through the toe of a thick leather boot, and eventually through the gloves, but by that time the slide was nearly over and the damage to my hand was minimal. My leather coat was doing a great job of protecting the inside of my saddle bag.

As I was sliding down the road, I was able to look back to see how Sue was doing. Before I was finished sliding, she had already popped up to her feet like a piece of toast. We were both asking each other in our communicators how the other was doing. Hearing her voice was one of the best sounds I had ever heard.

I came to a stop and looked around to see if I was in the road where I could be run over. Thankfully, there was a center turn lane in that spot. I got up and started running towards Sue. After a few steps I realized that running wasn’t an option, so I walked as quick as I could. When I got to Sue who was about 100’ behind where I slid to, she was standing there looking around in a slightly dazed state. I asked her if she was ok, and she said she thought she was. I could see a pretty good cut on her left arm, bleeding profusely. She asked me how I was, and that is when I realized my leg was hurt and told her, “I think my leg is broken.” It turns out it was not only broken, but also had a complete ligament tear and two tears in the meniscus of my knee. We walked together to the shoulder of the road where she had to tell me to sit down.

We were surprised and thankful for all the bystanders that stopped to offer help. One off-duty EMT started bandaging the hole in my left arm, turns out we had matching holes that got matching stitches. Another family gave us some bottled water which was so needed and guzzled down almost in one swallow. Then there was the guy that wanted to help, but I am not sure he had much to offer. He walked up and handed us one moist towelette, the kind you get in the small packet from KFC. I am not sure what he thought that would do to help, but it was kind of him.

An ambulance ride and an emergency room visit later we are on our way to recovery. The beautiful new Road Glide Special, well I am not sure she will make it.

Sue and I both have agreed that the choice to not wear a coat, was our choice to make. We also agree that we made the wrong one. The saying “Dress for the Slide, not the Ride” means a whole lot more to us now.

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