Rider Down

Disclaimer: IT WASN’T ME!!! I’m fine.

Yesterday I took my bike on a beer run into town. As I returned to the La Posa South LTVA entrance, there was a Honda XR650 on its side at the intersection. As a fellow rider, I stopped to help.

My accident scene management training kicked in, and I partially blocked the road with my bike to keep traffic from running over the fallen Honda. There was a big puddle of oil under it, which I suspected was from the shift lever puncturing the side of the engine when it fell. Later we learned I was right when we moved the XR, but for now, we left it where it was as evidence for the police.

The rider was okay, walking around, and on the phone with 911. He’d been riding the trails that I’m just starting to explore, popped into the LTVA through the far end, and didn’t know exactly where he was. I gave the dispatcher our precise location.

He’d been waiting at the stop sign to enter Route 95. A U-Haul truck hit him from behind, knocking him down. The driver claimed his foot slipped off the brake. I didn’t buy it. If that was true, the truck would’ve idled into him, causing a light tap and a minor tip-over. The impact punted the bike 20 feet forward, barely avoiding the path of traffic going at least the 55 mph speed limit. It didn’t add up, but I didn’t argue with him. I didn’t want a confrontation. It’s not my place. That’s what the police are for.

Minutes later a Quartzsite police officer arrived. The people involved told their sides of the story. I made it clear that I didn’t witness the crash, and gave no opinion despite having some. I’ve been involved with minor crashes before, as a witness, participant, and innocent bystander like now. The officer was spending far more time than usual talking with the U-Haul driver. Something more was definitely going on here.

Another rider on a Suzuki DR-Z400 rolled up, stopped, and joined the party. Though physically unhurt except for a bruised elbow, the Honda rider was clearly shaken up a bit. We managed to help keep him calm and focused, and help the police understand what he was trying to say. What’s funny is that the three of us were on a Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki, yet brand loyalty didn’t matter. We were just bikers, sticking together. None of this “Harley or nothing” hype you sometimes see.

When a La Paz County sheriff and Arizona Highway Patrol arrived, we knew things were getting interesting. We ended up with seven law enforcement vehicles on the scene, plus a Quartzsite fire truck. The first words from the AHP sergeant were “Who’s got the XR? That’s a real crime.” At least a few of the officers on the scene were riders themselves, including the sergeant.

I was hoping that while I was standing at a high-traffic intersection surrounded by police that none of my friends passed by and worried about me. But sure enough, Patti drove in, and I gave her the short version of the story so far with assurances that I was fine. In talking with other people since then, it feels like just about everyone in La Posa South saw me at the scene of the crime.

I don’t use the word “crime” lightly. After a while, we saw them handcuff the driver and put him in the first Quartzsite police car that had arrived. They’d arrested him for DUI. Also, the U-Haul truck had been stolen from Colorado Springs on December 28. A flatbed arrived to haul it away to impound. One by one, the emergency vehicles left, the last one being the AHP sergeant who was just getting a few more details for his report. Then he calmly informed us he needed to go to a rollover, then peeled out, lights and siren blazing.

It wasn’t over yet. The owner of the now inoperable Honda asked me if I could give him a ride to his truck and trailer, which were along Plomosa Road on the other side of town. I agreed, so he hopped on the back of the KLR, and off we went. I’d forgotten to get gas during my beer run, and now I regretted that mistake as I took us seven miles down Plomosa Road to where he’d parked. As we convoyed back to La Posa South I had to switch my gas tank to reserve. I stopped at a gas station as we passed through town to refuel, which the guy I was helping insisted on paying for.

Back at La Posa South, another bystander helped us push the Honda onto the trailer as the sun set. The damage didn’t look too bad. It’ll need a new crankcase cover, clutch lever, and a bit of work around the license plate where it got hit, but overall it could’ve been much worse. Not that I’d wish this on anyone, but at least a dual-sport motorcycle can take a hit. A big fancy Harley or Gold Wing would’ve suffered much worse damage.

All I’d wanted to do that afternoon was relax, have a couple of beers, and fly my new kite. After the previous day’s adventure, I didn’t want another. Adventure found me instead. I didn’t have to stop, but I always do when I occasionally roll up on something like this. That’s why I took that accident scene management course (as well as first aid/CPR) after rolling up on a bike crash one time and not having a clue how to help. As a rider, as well as a nomad, I’m on the road a lot more than most people. That means I’m more likely to encounter a situation like this than someone who doesn’t get out much.

For all I know, that driver might’ve tried to flee if I wasn’t there, partly blocking the road and fully conscious of my surroundings, which the guy he hit was understandably not. Quartzsite Police and Fire, La Paz County Sheriff, and the Arizona Highway Patrol handled the situation efficiently, politely, and perfectly. (They also had no problem with me partly blocking the road the way I did, since it saved them the trouble of doing it! I did move once the area was flooded with police cars, though, since my help was no longer necessary.)

Mainly, though, someday that rider down could be me. In fact, it WAS me a bit over a year ago when I slid on a patch of sand I didn’t see and hit the pavement hard. I was on a group ride, and the people I was with took care of me, the bike, calling 911, everything. They even hauled my bike back to the ride leader’s garage when I ended up taking an ambulance ride (nothing broken, just bruised and swollen for a few days). We look out for each other. I’m just paying it forward and hoping I never need to be on the receiving end of such help again.

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