We all know someone who has been hurt in a motorcycle accident. It’s the first thing that comes up when our friends find out that we ride. We deflect, we change the subject, we reassure – we’re safe riders, riding is all about managing risk, everything in life is dangerous, you can get killed walking down the street. You know the conversation.
Every once in a while, though, it hits hard.
My cousin Dave and his wife Linda were in a motorcycle wreck last week. Riding two-up on a 2006 Harley-Davidson through a small New Jersey town near their home, they collided with, or were hit by, a pickup truck driven by an 18 year-old boy. Dave and Linda have sustained major injuries. They will both survive, but each has had their left leg amputated. The pickup truck driver was not injured in the accident, and a police investigation is underway.
Dave and Linda will survive. Their injuries, though severe and life altering, are no longer life threatening. The impact of that collision will resonate far beyond that New Jersey street.
My cousin Dave is probably the reason that I’ve been interested in motorcycles, particularly Harley-Davidson motorcycles, for most of my life. When I was 11 years old, I helped Dave, then 20, load his chopper on a trailer behind his VW Microbus as he and his girlfriend left New Jersey to go off to discover America. The year was 1973, and that’s what people did back then. I’ll never forget how cool Dave was, how gorgeous his girlfriend was, how exciting the whole scene was. And the key to it all was the bike. I knew then and there that I was going to own a Harley someday, and it would be great. And it is.
When I finally got my first Harley in 1993, I rode out to New Jersey from New York City where I was living, and I showed Dave my bike. Dave, the experienced, dedicated biker, was very complimentary about my new Sportster, even though he and his friends were Big Twin guys. He offered some practical words of wisdom, and great support. I sensed that I wasn’t really the kind of biker he approved of – I was a bit of a Yuppie back then – but he was a good cousin, and only said good things. I vowed to myself never to be a poser, never to be the kind of rider my cousin would look down on. I worked on my riding skills, made sure that I respected the road and my fellow riders, and took good care of my bike. I can honestly say that I never left on a trip when a vision of my cousin Dave didn’t flash through my mind. I have always wanted to let him know how much he inspired me, and how his passion for riding infected me in such a positive way. I’m very sad that it’s a wreck that’s going to bring us back in touch, and that my words may fall a little hollow in the wake of life’s events.
Here’s the two part cautionary tale, part of which is about the road, part of which is not:
First, ride safely when you’re on your motorcycle. Gear up every time you ride, and keep your eyes and ears open at all times. If you’re in a car, the same rules apply. Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. No texting. No cell phone calls. No eating. Just drive, and watch out for motorcyclists.
Second, don’t wait to tell the people who matter to you what they mean. Tell that cousin, uncle, friend, teacher, that they made an impact. Let them know that their kindness to you paid off, and that you appreciate it.
I’m lucky. I’ll get a chance to tell Dave that he’s my hero. And I’m sure that Dave and Linda will inspire everyone who knows them as they cope with the effects of this horrible incident.
Who inspired you? How have you let them know?