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A Dangerous Move

A Dangerous Move

Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment
Joint Force Headquarters
Indiana Army National Guard
Indianapolis, Indiana

We all know moving is a chore. What I didn’t realize, however, was getting my motorcycle to our new home would be the most difficult part.

It was dusk when I faced a decision: Should I ride my motorcycle that evening or leave it behind and return for it over the weekend? The motorcycle was the last thing I’d need to move and I really didn’t want to leave it, so I decided to ride it. In retrospect, that was the wrong move.

The weather that evening was clear with temperatures in the low 40s. I had all my safety attire, including a helmet, jacket, gloves, jeans and riding boots. While my gloves were warm, they weren’t wind resistant, and I wasn’t wearing a thermal layer to protect my legs from the wind. But this was only a 23-mile trip, and I would be riding on state and country roads at no more than 55 mph. How difficult could it be? With my wife and daughter following, each in separate vehicles, I led our convoy out of our old neighborhood and onto the route that would take us to our new home.

At mile nine, more than one-third of the way to our destination, we reached an intersection that had a gas station. It would have made for a good warm-up spot; but with darkness upon us and the temperatures falling, I decided to press on. I wanted to get this bike home before it got much colder.

We’d made it several miles past the gas station when I noticed my hands were really cold. By now, however, we were on a stretch of road without any public places to pull off and get warm. If I needed to stop, I’d have to tough it out for 8 miles more. A few more miles up the road, though, I began shivering and losing feeling in my hands, legs and feet. Still, I kept on. Then a wave of dizziness washed over me.

Up ahead, I noticed a traffic light. I found myself hoping the light would turn red so I could put my feet on the ground and catch a little warmth from the motorcycle’s engine. But as I neared the light, it turned green, so I continued riding.

When I crossed under that stoplight, I realized I was in bad shape. My shivering had turned to shaking and the dizziness was unbearable. I knew I was going to have to stop, but where? Ahead, just one-tenth of a mile, was another traffic light. “Will it turn red?” I asked myself. “Will it allow me a little reprieve?” As I approached, it did turn red! I slowed, came to a stop and placed my feet on the ground.

The intersection wasn’t busy. The light had changed to allow a car coming from a parking lot to enter onto the main road. Waiting for the light to turn green, I took note of my condition. I was in rough shape, so decided this is where I’d have to stop. If I didn’t, I may crash. So, while still astride the bike, I pushed off onto the road shoulder. My wife and daughter followed suit.

When my wife arrived by my side, she asked if I was all right. I told her my symptoms. She offered to finish the ride for me, but I declined. She then suggested I get in her car to warm up for a while. I agreed and started to dismount my bike.

With my dizziness and cold shakes, I focused all my effort to get the motorcycle kickstand into position. I managed to move it downward but was having trouble getting it fully extended due to road’s unevenness. I knew leaning the bike in the opposite direction of the kickstand would remedy the clearance issue I was having.

After several more unsuccessful attempts, I uprighted the bike and tried to find a better spot of asphalt to get down my kickstand. But as I leaned forward to start my push, I began to fall. My wife, still standing next to me, noticed I was crumpling like a rag doll and went into action. She grabbed my coat and tried to hold me up, but I went to the ground with my bike.

I stirred as my helmet hit the ground. I heard my wife yelling orders at my daughter to call 911. I started to move and noticed my shoe was pinned under the bike. I informed my wife, and she helped pull me free. Despite my wife’s protests, I tried to stand but soon thought better of it.

Paramedics arrived shortly afterward and examined me on the side of the road before loading me into the ambulance. Due to my involuntary shaking and slowed blood movement, they weren’t able to get any medical tests taken prior to arrival at the hospital. It would take several warming blankets and a few hours at the hospital before the doctors released me. They determined I’d been on the verge of hypothermia due to a lack of nutrition (I hadn’t eaten all day), the cold temperature and my lack of warm clothing.

There’s a good reason veteran cold-weather riders wear multiple layers of clothing, leather outerwear and even electrically heated riding suits to help insulate them against the cold. The combination keeps you warm and protected from the elements, creating a more enjoyable riding experience. Also, most heat loss occurs at the extremities, especially your head, so a full-face helmet will keep you warmer and less susceptible to wind chill. I failed to properly prepare to a ride in cold temperatures, which was the wrong move. It was an experience I don’t want to repeat.

  • 12 February 2023
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 201
  • Comments: 0
Categories: Off-DutyPMV-2