By Mark ‘Buck’ King — Wednesday, August 14, 2013, started off with great anticipation and excitement. It was the eve of my departure on a long planned and highly anticipated Four Corners ride. Several of my friends had invited me to have lunch with them so they could ‘send me off’. None of us knew at that time that the sendoff was really for the trauma unit at Vanderbilt Hospital.
I really do know better than to ride through Green Hills in the middle of the day, lunchtime traffic. To get back to Franklin from downtown Nashville I have always gone around Green Hills using Belmont Boulevard or Granny White. What possessed me to go right through the middle of Green Hills this day I don’t know, but it is now on a pretty long list of things in my life that I wished I had never done.
I was headed south on Hillsboro Road and had almost made it through all the traffic with only one more light to go through before I would be in the clear. As I approached the light at Hobbs road I was watching an old white Ford van in the left hand turn lane of the oncoming traffic. I had the green light and was on track to go right through the intersection. As always when I am on a bike, I was trying to anticipate what I would do if the van pulled out in front of me. I was playing through scenarios when to my shock and surprise he did actually that. In my mental game I slowed down as best I could and tried to dodge him to the left as the back of the van crossed in front of me. The way we plan things in our minds almost never matches up with the real world and that fact was painfully verified on this day. As I initially applied brakes and the van moved broadside directly in front of me I could then see the piece of reality that blew up my mental plan: The old white Ford van was pulling a long landscaping trailer.
At that point I remember thinking “Oh Shit, I’m going to hit the trailer!” Instinctively, I grabbed all the brakes I had. That was probably a mistake, but at this point you aren’t thinking, you’re just reacting.
The scooter slid down and from what witnesses said I literally tumbled head over heels down the street. The last tumble must have been a head first dive into the pavement. I was knocked unconscious.
I must have been out several minutes because when I woke up there were people all around and I could hear the siren of the ambulance that just pulled up. I had to ask the witnesses if I had hit the trailer or missed it. They told me that I had barely missed the trailer and that the person driving that van did not stop.
I laid on the asphalt face down until the paramedics got to me. I knew my shoulder hurt, but beyond that I wasn’t sure what my injuries were. The paramedics rolled me over onto a back board and at that point I knew from the pain that I must have a broken rib.
The first ambulance took me to St. Thomas mid-town where they determined that my spleen was bleeding. Because of that they transferred me to the trauma unit at Vanderbilt. The ambulance rides came straight from Hell. As those vehicles went over speed bumps, I sloshed around on the backboard with the broken ribs causing the worst pain I have ever been in.
At Vanderbilt my wife, Jerrie, and several friends were waiting for my arrival. While the doctors evaluated me, I was given enough morphine to make the pain go away. The drugs were strong enough that consciousness became sort of a game of tag. But anything was better than the pain. I remember one doctor coming in and telling me I had ten broken ribs and I asked him how many I had.
I spent three days at the hospital mainly so that they could make sure that my spleen stopped bleeding. The sum total of the damage was ten broken ribs, a broken collar bone, broken scapula, cracked spleen, a concussion, and some nice patches of road rash on my left shoulder, left leg and right hand.
Luckily, if that word is even appropriate, the broken bones lined up well and the doctors said no shoulder surgery was necessary.
Now three months past that fateful day, I am beginning to get back to normal. My friends have chastised me for this statement saying I was NEVER normal. So I guess the right way to say it is that I am getting back to being the way I was before.
The police never tracked down the guy that caused this. One of witnesses got a trailer plate number but the police said that number was pretty useless.
I was on my little Honda Elite 110cc motor scooter. This is my 92 mpg weapon against high gas prices. Many have asked if I would have been better off had I been on my Goldwing. The answer to that question is an unequivocal YES. First of all the Wing is bigger and the guy might have seen me and second, with antilock brakes, I probably could have gotten it stopped and stayed upright.
So what are the lessons from this? First of all always wear a helmet. Without the helmet I would have been much worse off, if not dead. Second, protective clothing can save your skin, but only if you wear it – I should have had more on. Third, I will be wearing a high-visibility vest the next time you see me on the scooter. The most often occurring motorcycle accidents are caused by people in oncoming vehicles turning left in front of us because they don’t see us. As riders our best defense against this is to do everything we can to make ourselves visible on our bikes.
The next question I get asked, mostly by my non-riding friends, is if I will continue to ride. My answer:
This story’s titled is adapted from one of our all-time favorite children’s books: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst.