Repeat After Me
“None of us are going to die this year.”
It was late August 2009 when everything began going downhill. It started with Jose, his passing setting into motion a series of events that would become like an avalanche wiping out too many riders from this world, all at once, like a premature epidemic.
I remember when I met Jose and his wife. As an instructor of the MSF Basic Rider Course, I regularly meet new groups of eager fledging riders. While most students are quiet and keep to themselves, Jose and his wife stood out. They were newlyweds and so in love. Their play fighting and endless hugging throughout the class was like a constant vibrant flirtation. Their open courtship was enviable and unique, the kind of love very few of us get to witness, let alone experience.
A couple of months later, I saw that young couple again at a local bike night, Jose now the DJ and actively involved in the community while his wife was pregnant. They were both such sweet kids, excited about life and happy.
Less than a month after seeing them again, I found out through the local newspaper that Jose had crashed his orange Yamaha R6 while running from the police. He lost control of his bike and hit a fence, dying at the hospital later that night. The circumstances of his death did not affect the choking pain that I felt, but only made me wonder what he was thinking.
Less than two days after that, my husband’s best friend, Luis, passed away on his Suzuki GSXR600 as well, hitting the back of a truck on his way to work - the impact killing him instantly. His was the second loss in less than three days. He left behind his wife, two teenaged kids and his mourning friends, all of us wanting to know what happened.
There are no comforting words. No condolences or promises of help from anyone can possibly compensate for the pain and anguish that starts flooding into the lives of those left behind. The friends and family of the rider who died experience nothing but a river of unanswered questions and the incapacitating shock of an unexpected, premature loss.
We were thankful our friend’s death was quick and that he didn’t suffer too much, but that was little comfort, especially since the driver of the truck that hit him went home with little punishment, if any.
At the end of the day, his wife had to go to bed by herself, for the first time without her husband. She had to explain to the kids why Dad wasn’t coming home. She had to go through her husband’s belongings and smell his scent on his clothes. She had to make arrangements for his funeral before she had even come to grips with what happened. Nothing anyone can say will help Luis’s or Jose’s wives, because no one can bring their husbands back.
A couple of weeks later, another one of our friends, Raul, was rear ended by a drunk driver. He narrowly escaped with his life and after extensive surgery, we were assured that Raul would walk again. He was one of the lucky ones.
Within days, more riders started going down, most of them perishing. After the eighth death, we stopped counting, because the R.I.P posts on Internet forums and articles in newspapers kept coming, one after the other, like water forcing it’s way through a dam. It’s the like the blood of our dying friends was turning the highways red.
What upset me most was the way their stories were told on the radio and in newspapers. The stories were nothing more brief mentions, a three-paragraph synopsis about how the rider’s death backed up traffic for a couple of hours.
This made me angry. We are not statistics or numbers on a survey. We are motorcyclists and living, breathing human beings with families and friends who have to read those words.
I started having nightmares about my friends crashing and dying or being seriously hurt, the sound of crunching plastic and metal waking me up at night. That helpless feeling of being able to do nothing made me sick to my stomach.
I finally woke up one morning in late December and told God, “You’ve taken enough. Now it’s time to stop.”
2010 will be different. No rider is going to die this year. We may crash, we may go down and we may be injured, but I’ll be damned if one soul is going to leave this planet before they’re ready. So, that being said; repeat after me:
As a rider, I will:
Never ride drunk, tired or angry.
Think of my children (if you have them) each and every time I swing a leg over the seat, and I will ride responsibly so I will get home safely.
Listen to my instincts. If a voice in my head is telling me, “Today is not the day.” I will listen and park the bike.
Ride within my limits.
As a cage driver, I will NEVER:
Cross double yellow medians.
Run a red light.
Change lanes without using my turn signals in advance!!
Complete any turn without checking my blind spots and my mirrors twice.
Leave the scene of an accident or show no remorse.
I may seem foolish to make such proclamations. But if Tibetan monks can will their bodies to overcome exposure, sleeping in the frigid winter snow with only their patched cloth robes to keep them warm, then we can will ourselves to survive. Even if we have to take it one day at a time, we will pray to whatever God we worship that he will keep us alive every time we ride.
Maybe if we all sent up a unanimous prayer, God might spare us for just this year. No one will receive the “phone call.” No one will lose a friend or family member. No blood will be shed, not one body will be covered on some nameless freeway or surface street anywhere in the country for all of 2010.
Passion is an amazing thing. It helps us to overcome risk, to go on living how we see fit for the thrill of the challenge. Even though that passion can take us from those we love, we continue because that passion sustains us, fuels us, drives us and makes us who we are.
It is this passion that will keep us alive. We will survive every ride with a smile on our faces, for that’s what all of our friends, our fallen riders, would have done.