Keeping it Real… Again.

I thought today I would be posting about the anniversary of Snowpocalypse, what I learned, and how I changed my habits to be prepared for something like that again in the future.

But instead I am writing from a raw place of anger and pain. And that is not what I anticipated so soon into my transition towards motorcycle and women’s solo travel.

The background…

On Sunday I took my beloved bike out for a quick ride on a beautiful day after a slew of dreary winter rain. It was fabulous.

And on my return leg, not far from home, I stopped at a traffic light behind two other cars. As the light turned green I followed those cars straight through the intersection. I saw the car waiting to turn left. She was stopped. But as I made my way through, she began to make her turn.

val in real life
Not quite the “glamorous” outdoor adventure chick you’re used to seeing…

There was no time. Even going slowly, having just been at a stop, it was too late. I looked down and watched her headlight plow into my knee and crush it against my motorcycle. The next thing I remember was waking up on the ground, disembodied faces hovered over me as I writhed in pain. And the dreaded words from the driver of the car that hit me… “I didn’t see you.”

Help came quickly. I was fortunate that a nurse stopped. Linda was wonderful, helpful, and kind. And I’m so grateful for her. But even though she did a great job at keeping me calm, I went into shock as I felt the EMTs cut my riding gear from me. The reality of the situation came crashing down.

I was whisked off to the hospital. And shortly into emergency surgery to repair the femoral artery severed when my femur snapped. This is after they had to knock me out to resolve the fracture back into place, pulling at each end of my leg to realign my femur.

Fortunately during that surgery, the orthopedist decided he could install the permanent metal rod and screws into my leg instead of a temporary contraption to stabilize it. That saved me an extra round of surgery later.

And now I sit in ICU, simply healing, hooked to about a million tubes and wires. There are countless staples up both sides of my thigh. I’m in agony in spite of the drugs. And I’m processing what my life will be like for the next few months. And beyond.

The take-away…

Many of the first responses riders are subject to is the party line of how dangerous motorcycling is. That’s bullshit. Seventy percent… yes SEVENTY percent, of motorcycle crashes are the fault of a driver “not seeing” the motorcycle. So that isn’t on us.

I did everything right. I’m professionally trainied. I had proper, high quality protective gear. It was hi-viz. I keep proper distance from other vehicles. I watch what’s happening around me, diligently.

val in real life
Just the beginning of the challenges ahead for me.

But none of that matters if the drivers around you aren’t paying attention.

Motorcycling isn’t the problem. Complacency by auto drivers is. Seventy percent…

It reminds me of last year when much of the backlash after a woman was attacked on the Silver Comet trail here in Atlanta when so many of the comments about her were the victim-blaming “She shouldn’t have been out alone” type. I was filled with anger. It was so backwards and small-minded.

Blaming motorcycling for simply being dangerous is a cop-out. It’s a perfectly reasonable activity. Riders simply enjoy the sport, the engagement with the landscape that comes with riding, and the freedom a motorcycle gives us.

The irony of having to write this post now is that I was working on one that was a list of the things all riders want drivers to know. I’ll have to get back to that one in a bit.

I’ve always promised to keep it real here. Mostly my life and adventures are fun and hopefully inspirational. But when I look back at the things I’ve had to be real about over the last few years, I do laugh a bit… my tumor, the toe incident, the hand, and now this. Life is risky no matter what you’re doing. Living fully in the face of that is what’s important.

The upside…

The outpouring of love and support I’ve gotten through this has been overwhelming.

val in real life
My sweet boys visiting me in ICU.

As I sit here in ICU writing this and realizing I can’t even stand up, I’m overcome with tears. I can’t care for myself. I can’t care for my sons. I can’t even go to the bathroom on my own. I can’t do any of the things I love. The mounds of medical bills and legal hassles ahead… all because she didn’t see me.

For an independent person like me, it’s crushing. But the people around me are amazing. I’m very fortunate and grateful for all of them.

Please remember… there are real people under those helmets. Mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, friends. I beg you to pay attention.

And now for your moment of green…

great sand dunes - val in real life
Thinking back to a happier time and place…

24 thoughts on “Keeping it Real… Again.

  1. Val,
    Really, really sorry this happened to you – just when we get all the ducks lined up, some SOB kicks them across the room… I’m Amy’s dad, and she and I talked (o.k., texted πŸ˜‰ about your accident and all the details. She is mobilizing with your other friends to support you while you get past this. I posted one long thought about support strategies and things like that, and commented that was just me with my R.N. hat on. She avails of my R.N. advice line from time to time, and you are welcome to as well. I have lots of free time now that I am retired (from the Air Force, where I was an R.N. in several different capacities, and from the civilian hospital here in Sumter where I worked in the O.R. – taking care of people like you πŸ™‚ If you are ever sitting there trapped, with questions rattling around your head & would like to float them out, feel free to contact me, land line (o.k., cell), text, FB or carrier pigeon. I do hope your recovery is uneventful and you’re back on your feet (and your bike) in short order. I am really happy you weren’t hurt worse, and things will begin to fall into place for you. Meanwhile, hang in there, and don’t be reluctant to call on your friends. Please consider me a friend, too – I have four children & Amy’s 2 grands, and I am nothing if not paternal πŸ˜‰
    Cheers,
    George J.

  2. Val, I admire you beyond any words I can post, here. You’ve been, not only an inspiration, but a great friend and even giving me a boost in my own confidence at being an independent exploring, adventuring traveler – you have opened doors of possibilities for me just by being you. Things I just didn’t realize were options. I know I do the same for others, they’ve told me – and it’s hard to believe sometimes. I want you to realize it, though.. and know that it’s a true and real thing you’ve done for me. Following your adventures and befriending you in life, has made this incident heartbreaking for me. The first thing I thought was, “I hope this doesn’t mean the end of her dream…. I hope she can recover, physically and mentally enough to get back on a bike and go for it. I hope it’s just a setback.” And, that brings tears to my eyes, my friend. You have all my support. I’ll be visiting you regularly and hopefully we can do our part to help you get out and about and enjoy nature while you’re recovering.

    1. Thank you, Candy. It’s very nice to know that I’ve been able to inspire others the way I was inspired by the people I admire.

      It will take me some time to get back on track but I’ll get there. I’ve got lots to do yet.

      Thank you for your friendship. You are a unique, smart, adventurous chick. It’s great hanging out with you.

      Rock on, sister! πŸ™‚

  3. Sweetie, I love you and support you in all your endeavors. You said, “seventy percent of motorcycling accidents are the fault of the driver ‘not seeing’ the motorcycle. So that is on us.” I agree! But this isn’t about fault. Even if we lived in a world where drivers were as aware of motorcycles as cars, accidents still happen. Even if the rate of motorcycles accidents were the same as car accidents, there are still accidents. And I’m sure you’ll agree that on a motorcycle your injuries are more likely to be more severe. A study by the NHTSA showed that motorcyclists were 26 times more likely to die in a crash than passenger car occupants. Whether we are in cars or on motorcycles, we all take a risk when we get on the road. When you’re on a motorcycle, the consequences of that risk, if it is realized, are much worse. You are a strong, independent woman, but please consider those of us who love you and want to see you safe. Please consider those who depend on you. Where were your children when the accident happened? How do you feel about them having to learn that their mother was in a serious accident? What if it had been more serious? How do you feel about them growing up without your influence in their lives? Sending love and wishes of healing.

    1. This breaks my heart. I can feel your emotion, unohoo. I know where you’re coming from, but every single one of us, as adventurers, deals with this most difficult task. It’s a delicate balancing act, to allow our loved ones the freedom to do what makes them happy, what fulfills them. Is there risk? Shit yeah. Every time we wake up, there’s risk, but what’s worse? To deny those intrinsic joys? I don’t think so, but that is just one opinion. I truly don’t mean to diminish your feelings. I know exactly what it feels like to lose someone who lives deep in your heart. But at a time where, I’m sure Val is already feeling very low and scared about her road to recovery, I’m sure what she needs most is a warm hug or a hot meal, not statistics.

    2. There is risk in everything and, ultimately, we need to decide for ourselves where the line is. We could lock ourselves in the house and not go outside for fear of the boogieman attacking, but would that keep us safe? Nope – we can slip in the bathtub, hit our head, and die. We can sit in front of the TV, eating bon bons, and ultimately die of diabetes and heart disease. Is there risk involved with riding a motorcycle? Sure. Is there risk involved with swimming or boating? Sure. But what is the alternative? To live our lives in fear? That is not an option for me.

      Together with my husband and children, I rode my bike from Alaska to Argentina. There were those who criticized us for doing it. Those who felt that we were risking our lives (and our children’s lives) by riding bicycles. Those who felt we were the world’s worst parents for daring to hit the road with our kids. But you know what? Life is for living. Yes, we knew something bad could happen – but we also knew it most likely would not happen. Most likely, we would make it down to the southern tip of South America having had the experience of a lifetime and we would have learned more than we ever would have learned in Idaho.

      And you know what? That is precisely what happen. We pedaled 17,285 miles through 15 countries and all four of us are better people because of it. We have chosen not to live in fear of the boogieman. We have chosen to grab life by the horns and live it to the fullest. We realize that something bad might happen, but something bad might happen if we play it “safe” as well.

    3. Unohoo, hooever they are, obviously cares very deeply about Val, as we all do. I feel compelled to take a moment to defend Unohoo.

      Although it is true that there is risk in everything, there is not equal risk in every activity. As one of you mentioned, it is about balance. Obviously, there is higher risk riding in the city with distracted automobile drivers than there is riding on the open road on a journey.

      I do not think that Unohoo is suggesting that we all stay home and curl up in a ball in fear of the world. They are just saying that we should all be conscious and realistic about the risks we do take and how the decisions that we make affect not just ourselves but also our loved ones.

      Love you, Val. We continue to pray for you during your recovery. xoxoxo

      1. Thank you for your thoughts, Audra.

        This conversation is a great example of how differently each of us view the risks of different activities. Risk assessment is highly individual.

    4. Thank you for your thoughts.

      One of my top priorities is to teach the boys risk assessment and management… to live fully and not let irrational fears rule their lives. In fact, over 30% of preventable adolescent/young adult deaths are motor vehicle accidents. Does that mean I don’t ever let them in a car because that rate is so high? Of course not.

      Motorcycling is out of many people’s comfort zones. That’s ok. There are many activities that are out of mine. It doesn’t mean that those things are unreasonable to do. And I wouldn’t expect anyone to hobble their life based on the fear of upsetting their loved ones. That’s not a life lived being true to yourself and it’s something I value greatly.

      Yes I want to make it home to the boys. But I want to show them how to live, too. I could play it very, very safe but my life would be so much less for it. And so would theirs. And whatever ends up getting me in the end, I want them to know I took every chance to savor life… and that I was as savvy about the risks as I could possibly be.

  4. Hey Val. I am so sorry that this happened to you. What a blessing that “nurse Linda” was there at the scene of the accident to help you. You are absolutely right about the fact that it’s cars/drivers that make riding a motorcycle dangerous, not the motorcycles or cyclists themselves. The skills or experience of a motorcyclist becomes irrelevant when the driver of a car isn’t paying attention and hits the biker. That is precisely why my dad and my brother only ride their Harleys on wide open roads and never around town or in the city. Too many crazy and distracted drivers out there texting, talking on their cell phones, etc. They’ve decided it’s not worth the risk.

    BTW…I am ready and willing to come up and take care of the boys and/or you for a few days or a week. Just let me know. You are on the prayer list at our church, and Sean and I both have our bible study groups and our close friends praying for you as well. Get some rest. You are one tough chick. You will be okay. Love and hugs, Audra

  5. So sorry to hear you were in an accident! Hope you feel better soon. You are amazing… enjoyed reading your blog even though you really suffered for your art this time!!! I would like to meet you and if you could tell me what hospital, I will try to fit in a day when I can stop by to visit. I love the fact that you are keeping it real. Your writing really takes me there. I felt the same way about the news reports about the lady on the Silver Comet trail. I hike with my dog and it always gives me an extra layer between me and creeps. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you. I thank God you were not hurt worse.

    1. Thank you, Maria. I’m making slow, steady progress and trying to get back into a rhythm here on the blog. I hope we can catch up soon.

  6. Val – so sorry to hear about the accident. It’s so hard to be injured doing something you love, but I know you’ll be back on your motorcycle in no time! I wish I was down south so I could bring you food and keep you company.

  7. Val, I’m so sorry you had to experience this. I’m happy you seem to be pulling through. All the best for a speedy recovery, and may you find yourself back up on your ride sooner than you think!

    I’d love to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway. Maybe Tracy would join me. πŸ™‚

    S.

  8. Let’s breathe a minute and wish this woman a speedy recovery, a quick return to the life that she loves and hurls herself into, and stop trying to sort out whether it was her or the driver or the bike or the roads or whatever at fault. She loves her kids as much as I love mine and you love yours, and we are all better parents when we are also fulfilled people.

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