Three Days, Two Hospitals .. Part II

After a very poor nights sleep I decided to change my plans. It seemed foolish to attempt an eight hour circumnavigation of the San Juan Skyway, and I decided to settle on a trip directly on to my second night’s capground in Ouray, followed by a little light exploration of the Million Dollar Highway. The last thing I needed was any more excitement. What could possibly go wrong with that?


Anyway it was a pretty chilly morning, not unexpectedly. The miracle product for these occasions is an electrically heated fleece which plugs into the auxiliary power socket of your motorbike and keeps you nice and toasty underneath your riding jacket. It also help to have something to wrap around your neck — keeps both cold winds and insects out, but is not long enough to wrap around your wheel and decapitate you. That’s always something I look for in riding gear — lack of decaptitation potential.

The ride westwards from Gunnison is very pleasant. Spectacular scenery, good quality roads, not much traffic. With the occasional photo opportunity I made good time and after topping up the tank at Montrose I was at my next campground by 11am. Having made it all the way to my designated camping spot without being stung, stabbed or eaten by the wildlife I had another campground meal and put the tent up. That took a load off of the bike and let me relax nicely.

Ouray is a very small town (that will be significant shortly) but has some wonderful open air hot springs that are open until 10pm, with great views of the surrounding mountains. A leisurely ride down to Durango and back would set me up for a long soak and maybe a glass of wine that evening, followed by sound slumbering until dawn.

The road south to Durango has a scenic overlook of Ouray. I stopped and talked with another rider for a while — he was on a longer trip from Pennsylvania, and had been a little startled by the interestingly curvy road he had just ridden northwards to Ouray.

About five minutes later, I found that I too was startled on a reducing radius turn that would probably have been comfortable at ten miles an hour, but at the fifteen I was riding at it started to become less comfortabe by the second, until …

Well, just a word about dynamics of cornering and whatnot. If you’ve ever seen the extraordinary lean angles achieved by MotoGP riders then you’ll appreciate how much they owe to the benefits of a nice bit of hot sticky rubber in contact with a clean road surface, but even with standard tyres the limit on the cornering ability of a motorcycle is often its geometry — after a while something other than tyre touches the road and hilarity ensues. Anyway, cornering with perfect balance and smooth control inputs and whatnot is a lovely thing, and in my mind’s eye there are all sorts of little force and velocity arrows showing how the lean angle perfectly balances the centripetal force from the tyres and the gravitational force of the thingamyjigs. All of this happens at the pleasure of the laws of physics and is subject to a number of possible problems.

For example, the touching down of some other part of the bike might reduce the downforce through the tyres and reduce the cornering power. A little gravel might remove nearly all of that cornering power. So when either of these events occurs  nearly all of the little imaginary arrows of force and velocity promptly evaporate, leaving behind just one or two very big ones.

So thus it was — long story short, just before the apparant apex of the corner my left footpeg lightly brushed the ground, and a little gravel brushed away the lovely invisible arrows, and everything got very noisy and very dusty very quckly as the bike dumped on the ground and slid off the road and through dirt and gravel, neatly lodging the back wheel under a guard rail.

Now at that point, I might have said a very bad word indeed.

Well, there you are lying half underneath 500lbs of hot motorcycle in a cloud of dust, on the outside of a blind corner with your shoulders and head resting gently on the asphalt. Not a psychologically comfortable position to be in, let me tell you, and as all limbs appear to be working you slide the leg out from under, hit the engine kill switch and leap nonchalantly to your feet. At this point the important thing is to get the motorcycle upright as soon as possible so that other riders cannot arrive on the scene and start patronising you in just the fashion that you would apply to them. The bike has to be dragged out from under the guard rail and hoisted back upright without external assistance, and many is the person who has blessed the magical substance known as “adrenaline” at such a time — remeber, I had had an extra shot just the previous night! With a little care it’s actually not too tricky, although as the adrenaline wears off you can come to regret hasty actions the next day.

Fortunately there is nothing that keeps the adrenaline going quite so well as a slight nagging pain from an elbow, and the realisation that there is a small but respectable hole worn in the lower sleeve of the riding jacket below the elbow armour. “Ah ha”, you think, “my armour slid up my arm and exposed my elbow. That can’t be a good thing”. Well, slipping off the jacket shows that there is not only a matching hole in the shirt underneath but a significant amount of some form of reddish-brown fluid dripping off of your sleeve. “That’ll be inconvenient”, you think, taking care not to drip on your dusty but still respectable (and seemingly completely undamaged) motorcycle. Poking around in the hole in your sleeve you find a small but respectably deep and completely filthy hole in your actual arm, just below your elbow. At this point, you may well be forgiven for saying that same very bad word a couple more times.

Following a good long drink from your water bottle it is time to make a New Plan that involves some place where you can get a temporary anti-leakage wrapping followed by a ride to, yes, another hospital emergency room. At around that point, you wonder whether phoning your wife might just be the sort of thing that is best delayed as long as possible — no need to be hasty!

Thus it was that I put my riding jacket back on, cinched up the sleeves very tightly indeed and started riding back north towards the nearest civilisation.

Next episode: “General anaesthetic? ‘Tis but a flesh wound!”


11 thoughts on “Three Days, Two Hospitals .. Part II

  1. I read in the paper a couple weeks ago there was a car/bike accident in Dulzura – then another group of bikes came around the blind corner and crashed into them, then a second group came along and crashed. One guy died. But I couldn’t find it in the online edition, so I guess it never really happened. Dang, I wanted to post a Lemmings snark to

    Isn’t shock great? I remember seeing one idiot on a DP run a stop sign, t-bone a car and go flying over, then he wanted to just get on his bike (forks broken) and ride away. Walking around on a broken and swelling foot/ankle.

  2. Isn’t there something in the MSF course about limiting cornering speed so you can safely come to a halt by the vanishing point of the curve? OK, I’m not really in a place to be talking about such things at the moment, but still …

    Yes, but shock enhanced by a previous day’s adrenaline injection is even better! My heart rate was still 115 ninety minutes after the accident.

  3. From the amount of text you have been publishing recently I gather you have not suffered too much physically. Although the damage to motorist ‘self’ will be considerable. To say the least. Touching the road with anything other than rubber and/or foot is never good for your self esteem. But you are already writing about it, so it is not that big a problem I suppose.

    I am impressed though by the gear you are packing. Heated fleeces and all. Oh no, I am not jealous at all, not me. But what I don’t understand is the stuff you seem to be eating. It may be light and small, but I can’t imagine it is a meal to savour. Being on a bike you travel through a town now and again. Some of those towns must have some sort of store where you can get fresh food. One of the pleasures on vacation or a short break for me is making myself tired all day long. Be it on a motor bike, a human powered bike or just plain hiking. But the reward comes in the evening, getting a good meal! I know the problem is that you have to plan ahead, and you don’t want to plan when riding freely through the country. But planning for food I would consider acceptable. Or am I just being too ‘Belgian’. Which means someone who is very dedicated to living the good live in my native tongue.

    There is another thing I found somewhat striking in your story. The picture with ‘scenic overlook of Ouray’ contains some beautiful country. With a lot of curves and rounded rocks. But the town itself is completely straight lines and angles. Not very ‘organic’, I think. Is that common sense in american town building. Then I will stay here in Europe, where there where no bulldozers to cut out the roads when they started building the towns. Makes for a lot ‘softer’ town-design with more gentle curves and strange angles between roads. But I am probably old-fashioned.

    Looking forward to the next episode.

  4. Eric,

    Very astute observations there — I justify the cost of all that riding gear by my relatively uninjured state after a good slide across and off the edge of a road, but by the way it keeps me riding through winter as well. Winter’s here can be suprisingly comfortable — dry and sunny but with low air temperatures that really bite at speed. Also they don’t put salt on the roads round here, they use gravel instead, which takes us back to the issue of slide protection :D I might be trading in my current jacket for a kevlar alternative after this though, if I can find one in a shockingly eye-scorching colour without stupid logos all over it.

    “Amen” on the food. If I stood a chance of being able to go to a Proper Restaurant for a meal during the journey then I would have leapt at it. Most of the eateries up in the mountains are really not very special though — the same fatty or bland comfort food of burgers, pasta, steaks and whatnot that we are surrounded by at home, and to be indelicate for a moment, the thought of riding around all day with a big pile of half-digested steak in my gizzards doesn’t appeal much :D My wife and I are always thinking back to some of the meals we’ve had in tiny restaurants in the mountains of Italy (wild boar chops, pizza from a stone oven etc) and cursing the lack of the same here. It’s not exactly a hotbed of culinary competency, I’m afraid.

    Besides which, it would have to be within walking distance of the campground so I could have a couple of glasses of wine — no taxi services, and I’m not riding with alcohol in the system, especially at night.

    So you’re right — the food I was eating was pretty horrible, but it represented the lesser evil of the available options.

    Hey, I really like that red colour of your Tiger — nice job. That red looks nearly as fast as British Racing Green :D You might like to get some Touratech bars on there to protect it for the next fall-over though ;) they’d look really good sprayed the same colour.

  5. Oh yes, the straight roads. All of these Colorado towns are built on a grid system wherver possible — they tended to suddenly grow enormously from glorified tent sites to gold rush mining towns with extraordinary speed, so maybe that explains the lack of organic growth. More gold was taken from the Cripple Creek and Victor area than from the Alaskan and Californian gold rushes combined, and there is still good gold panning to be had now. The towns tend to be on very flat ground with few obstacles to be built around, and probably any obstacle that was there succumbed to the ready supply of explosives. The history of some of these towns is very interesting, and there are heaps of mining-era ghost towns to explore, often complete with bottomless shafts of certain death.

    Around the new neighborhood where I live the roads are deliberately made to appear organic, but the result is that when expecting guests they are always late, and phone us from some street we have never heard of about 100 metres away to ask directions.,-104.694815&spn=0.022747,0.054245&om=1

    You’d think that there could be some happy medium between the two extremes.

  6. It’s good to know I’m not uniquely disadvantaged in that respect. Here they spread house numbers out over multiple streets, and they’re not consequtive either. So one street might have 100 houses with numberts between 1000 and 1485, then the next street (different name) gets 1500 to 1876. I think the house numbers are something to do with distance if feet. The numbers are spread out over different streets because … I give up, no idea.

    I do prefer the simplicity of the US 5+4 ZIP code system to the UK’s post codes, having had to deal with validating both of them in computer systems. From watching the Simpsons I learned that the extra 4 digits that sometimes appear after ZIP codes are actually “Citizen Relocation Codes”. hmmm.

    Here’s a very nice dynamic ZIP code map —

  7. I live near the corner of Vista Grande Drive and Warmlands Avenue. There are 3 other same intersections within a mile (one is a Terrace and one is a Place, but one is also a Drive). The east/west and north/south street numbers are similar too, and all the streets wind in different directions, some stopping and starting because of hills, or grouchy landowners (I could technically block my street, because the offer to dedicate was never consumated – and one side of the street is city, and the other is county – and some published maps are just plain wrong). Plus, up until recently, my mailbox was across the street and nothing I could say/write to the post office for ten years would convince them to let me put it on my side of the street – it was like it would totally mess up their distribution, judging from some of their reactions (it was fine with the guy actually delivering the mail). Then one day they mysteriously relented, after some new houses were built on my side of the street.

    Does make me appreciate grid layouts, though. There’s an expensive neighborhood nearby that’s all on narrow private roads with only one way in, they will have serious problems when the fire comes.

  8. >> There’s an expensive neighborhood nearby that’s all on narrow private roads with only one way in, they will have serious problems when the fire comes.

    Or when the proletariat rise against them, of course.

  9. >> I might be trading in my current jacket for a kevlar
    >> alternative after this though, if I can find one in a
    >> shockingly eye-scorching colour without stupid logos all
    >> over it.


    Take a look at

    An unnatural color to slap BDCs in the optic nerve, armor in the front(!), back and elbows (down almost to the wrists), more pockets than God’s smock, and permiable to air flow for cool riding in the summer. Buy the liner if you want water/wind-proofing.

    Mine stood up to a get off much like yours with no abrasions, no tears, no bloody elbows, nothing. No signs of asphalt surfing at all. Very highly recommended.

  10. Pingback: And I Thought I Had A Bad Journey « The Oracle Sponge

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