Bryan Lipscy, a co-worker of mine, mentioned that he was impaled on one of his motorcycle rides, and on my request sent me a copy of the ride report. While his ride ended in tragedy, it captures so much in it that I couldn't help but ask if I could repost it - life, death, how things can change in a moment, and how the things in life that really matter are not things.
I was on a fairly long (~700 mile) ride with some friends on July 17th. We had started in Kingston, WA at 3am headed for Cashmere, WA via Oregon. We stopped in Elma to take our morning meal at a small roadside diner. It is one of those diners that would be featured on Food Network. Small & homey with good food and great service. We turned south from Elma heading for the Astoria-Megler Bridge. This bridge is the longest continuous truss-bridge in the United States. The view of the Pacific Ocean from mid-span was phenomenal bringing back a wave of memories from my Navy days. Astoria Oregon is a quaint little town that beckons anglers and antique collectors alike. Such dawdling time was not for us. The siren of good roads beckons to the three of us. Tom lead us into some great roads outside of Astoria with tight corners and through the inspiring picturesque farmlands near Tillamook.
We entered into a series of tight curves south of Astoria as evidenced by the big silly grin splattered across my face. Leaning over so far through a curve that my foot pegs left a trail of sparks as they ground against the pavement. Back to the other side pressing on the throttle a little more and leaning a bit harder hoping this road never ends. Looking up a deer mindlessly wanders into my path with me closing in very quickly. Downshift, rear brake, front brake with a slow steady squeeze bringing my bike to a sudden stop for this deer that decided to wander into the roadway. It stopped right in front of me almost daring me to hit it with my bike. Tapping the horn only seemed to further its resolve to stand there. Not sure if the deer was suicidal or just nuts but it eventually finished crossing the road and I went on my merry way to catch up with my friends. After putting along in Portland we headed back into Washington. We cruised through the Gorge and north along the Klickitat river. It was about 90F with a bright yellow sun and clear blue skies. I was enjoying the rhythm of my engine rising and falling with the flow of the road. The crisp smell of the Klickitat river entwined with waves of the hot desert air to fill my senses with a scent that is so alive. The occasional critter would scurry out into the road only to beat a hasty retreat so that it may live to cross again. Kind of reminds me of that TV commercial with the critters conspiring to create mayhem on the roadway. Guess a big guy on a big red bike with really loud pipes changed their little minds. It was a good ride. Asphalt therapy at its finest. We stopped in Klickitat for a water and butt break. I took this opportunity to stow my leather jacket in the trunk bag. It was a beautiful, hot, eastern Washington day. We headed north out of Klickitat and through Goldendale. Eventually we rode around Hanford and stopped for construction delays.
We had turned eastbound on SR-24 about 8 miles SW of Othello. It was a long straight away. I settled back into my seat and rested my ankles on the pegs. It was a beautiful ride so far. I regretted that my camera wasn’t working for the run through the canyon. One of the pins broke when I was plugging the camera into the recorder back in Kingston. Sounds like a good excuse to make another run through here. We had completed about 600 miles so far when an object came off the lead bike and bounced off the road. It flew over Mike and I lost sight of it in the clear blue sky. No worries. Thump!
I felt the thump when it hit my chest. I normally ride with no windshield so I am fairly used to small birds and road debris hitting my chest. When I looked down to clear what hit me I saw something sticking out of my chest. Despite my first aid training, extensive military first aid training, and just general good sense I pulled the object out of my chest which then started spraying blood. Found out later from an ER nurse that this is an instinctual reaction.
So now I am sailing along at 60mph on a beautiful day in the midst of a beautiful ride with blood spraying out of my chest. Thinking I really need to pull over soon the bike seemed to understand what she needed to do. Miraculously a smooth gravel parking area appear seemingly out of nowhere. No sure how the bike got parked but given the blood spurts it didn't seem important at the time. After securing my bike I was able to start first aid on myself but unable to contact EMS. The blood soaked keys were slippery making dialing those precious 3 digits a challenge. When I looked at my cell it appeared that I had no signal and no help. I tried flagging down other motorists for help while trying to open my first aid kit but no one would stop. My hands were so slippery from all of the blood that I could not get a grip on the zippers and had problems dialing on my cell. I later found out that I did get into my first aid kit but for some reason my mind, hands and eyes were not communicating well at that moment. With blood still spraying through my fingers I pushed two fingers into the wound to try plugging the broken blood vessel. When I realized that was not working I went back to direct pressure. Dizziness from the blood loss and onset of shock started to set in so I laid down on the side of the road before passing out. Not sure how long I was laying on the side of the road until someone stopped to help me. I had been calling out for help for what seemed several minutes as cars and a few trucks whizzed by. I stopped screaming for help when the realization that I may not see my family again started to creep in. I thought about my daughters growing up through their formidable teenage years without their Daddy. I thought about my grandkids. I thought about my wife being devastated, missing her touch and the feel of her warmth….. until I heard an engine slowing down near me. Then I started screaming for help again. One last desperate call. The people that stopped to help was an off-duty police officer with a retired EMT in his car. I later found out that according to witnesses I refused to release the direct pressure I was applying to the wound until Mike got me to let go and relax. At some point I started having a hard time breathing. Couldn’t inhale or exhale – could only hear noise around me. I don’t remember much except people pulling my eyelids back and rubbing their knuckles on my sternum. I do remember wanting to hit that person because that hurt but I couldn’t lift my arms. Found out later that I would have bled out in about another 10 minutes.
I was taken to Othello ER then flown to Kadlec Medical Center in Richland. Don’t remember much about the flight except the debate whether to fly me to Spokane for a thoracic surgical team or to Kadlec for a different team. The flight crew that was at Othello didn't have enough hours to fly me to Spokane so they were going to fly in another crew. Once a doctor determined that my lung was not injured the decision was made to send me to Kadlec. The only thing I really remember from the flight is seeing a rotor blade and thinking “Oh crap I’m flying without a parachute”.
I ended up with one broken rib, a large hematoma in my right pect, and a 7cm laceration through my chest that is roughly 5cm deep. The knife was later found on the side of the road locked in the fully extended position. The knife had entered my chest blade first. The one broken rib prevented the knife from puncturing my lung. The surgeon at Kadlec cleaned me up and stitched me back together then sent me home with my wife once she arrived.
The Washington State Patrol is investigating this case but they, along with two major insurance companies, have never seen anything like this before. No one knows quite how to categorize or qualify this event. Since I was able to maintain control of my bike and able to bring it to a safe stop without crashing it is not a true motor vehicle accident. According to WSP I most likely would have died if I lost control of the bike.
While all this was going on the other two riders had pulled over ahead of me on the other side of a rise. The lead rider’s passenger had started showing signs of heat exhaustion so they had to get her cooled down and re-hydrated. I later found out that they thought a piece of plastic had flown off the lead rider’s bike and I had pulled over to retrieve it. Mike came back to tell me not to worry about it he saw what was going on and got the lead rider back to the scene. Mike said that I told him to tell me wife I love her and take care of my bike. They, along with some other friends, were able to get my bike back to Cashmere.
I am not sure that the leather jacket would have changed events much. Most certainly it would slowed the knife until it breached the leather. Maybe the knife would not have made it all the way to my rib cage. The blade is still fairly sharp so I am guessing that I would have still ended up with some sort of injury.
I am back on my bike. The old forward controls have been replaced with stock floorboards and I am happily grinding them on pavement at every opportunity. My wife has me SPOTted so I can let her know all is well or call for EMS where ever I am at. I am still skittish in group rides but time will heal that as well.