Friday, September 4, 2009

By a leg's breadth

August 31, 2009 - Monday

Thursday evening didn't quite go according to plan. I met Roger at the border in Kaiseraugst, on time, and we did a small 80 kilometer run through the Black Forest. Octavian, Susanne and Hampi had been on tour in the Vosges mountains for most of the day and we were going to meet them at 1745 hours in Todtmoos. Well, Roger and I got there early, and waited and waited and waited until the others finally showed up. This didn't surprise either of us; Octavian is a terrible tour guide. He relies far too much on his TomTom GPS which he doesn't know how to program properly and gets lost at least once per tour.
Finally, with our group assembled, Roger took over the lead so we'd get to the Bingo Bongo restaurant without further delays.
It happened on the Uriella stretch, one of my favorite sections of the Black Forest with broad roads in good condition. Roger was leading; I was second. I kept a suitable distance from him; a couple of times on the straights I moved aside in case Hampi, following me on his Ducati 1198, wanted to pass, but he didn't so I kept my spot. We were moving between 80 and 100 km/h.
Then Roger passed an old tan Mercedes just before a curve. Another car rounded the bend and he swung back into his lane, startling the Mercedes driver who hit the brakes hard.
I saw it, squeezed on the brakes and saw that car's back looming. There was no way I was going to stop on time.
The approaching car passed, I swerved the Beast the left. In my mind's eye I could already see my poor bike skittering across the pavement. Then my shin hit the Mercedes' bumper; the Beast skidded, I caught it and geared down. We were still upright, and my first sensation was immense relief.
My leg was numb with shock; that afternoon I'd read a story about a Japanese fellow who'd run into pylon, experienced excrutiating pain but didn't stop and only noticed a couple kilometers later that his leg was gone below the knee. Automatically I looked down and saw that all appendages were still attached.
It hurt pretty darn badly, make no mistake. For a couple curves I let the Beast roll out as I held the clutch. The foot peg was gone on the right side, but otherwise everything seemed to be fine. The gears adjusted; the bike drove straight. I knew that farther up there was a parking space on the right side, and when I reached it I rolled in and turned the bike off. Hampi was right behind me.
I was shaking and breathing hard; he helped me off the bike and told me to sit down; I was only half aware of what was going around me.
Octi and Susanne rolled in too, as did the Mercedes. It was driven by an elderly lady who rushed up to me half-hysterical, apologizing up and down, nearly tearful, asking if I was badly hurt.
Between gasps I assured her I'd be okay, that it wasn't her fault, she couldn't help it... And then just to make sure there'd be no involvement of insurance, I asked her whether I'd damaged her car.
She flung up her hands and cried, "Forget the car! It's got so many scrapes and bumps on it another one doesn't matter! Are you sure you're all right?" Which was just the reaction I wanted.
Just then Roger returned and parked his Rocket alongside the rest.
Hampi helped me remove my boot and sock. I had a light scrape on my shin and we saw where the foot would turn blue soon. I kneaded it gently and convinced myself nothing was broken; it loked like I got away with bruising.
Roger told me to put the footwear back on; if I left it off the foot would swell and I wouldn't be able to wear them later.
The elderly lady advised me to soak the foot in schnapps that night as it would help the swelling. I thanked her and apologized again and she left.
Now the question was what to do. Roger said I should probably get home as fast as possible. I said I wasn't doing anything of the sort. I needed a chair and something cold to drink.
Octi had a bottle of water under his seat and gave me a couple swallows from that; then we decided we'd find the next eatery and turn in there.
It didn't take long; Roger led us to a Chinese restaurant in Bad Säckingen.
Only after I'd downed a half-liter of ice tea did I regain full use of my senses. Susanne said I was deathly pale; I replied that I'd had visions of me picking up a further edition of the Beast. Susanne shook her head; Roger said he quite understood me. It still took me about half an hour to stop shaking. Two days later I realized that would have been a situation where a big ol' bear-hug could have cured a lot...
I called home to ask Löchen not to go to bed before I turn up so he could help me mount a sozius footpeg on the Beast.
We ate well there at the Chinese place, and when we left, I was feeling quite a bit better. Susanne insisted on driving almost all the way home with me to make sure I made it all right, which was very kind of her.
I came home to find Aleks and Löchen working on Aleks' Old Unreliable by the light of a worklamp. Florian put in the footpeg for me while I informed him what happened. He pointed out to me that the heel protector was slightly bent; that would explain the soreness of the back of my foot.
In the house, I tried to hide my limp but Mom noticed, of course. I was rather impressed she didn'tget more upset about the matter.
I cleaned up the kitchen and went to bed. The next day was Friday; a regular work day. When I got up I couldn't put any weight whatsoever on my leg and I wondered how on earth I was going to get to the office. Dad would have conniptions if I had to take another day of sick leave; I couldn't drive the Bonnie because I couldn't put weight on my heel and it was the gas foot that was injured; the only thing left was the Beast. My foot was too swollen to fit into my motorcycle boot but I was able to ease it into the wide tire-soled tennis shoes I'd once gotten as a gift from Cinzia. So despite all my good intentions, I ended up driving my bike in tennis shoes again after all.
Driving itself wasn't a problem. My foot rests comfortably on the footpeg; I just can't use the back brake which is a bit abnormal.
At the office, I refused to tell my coworkers what the cause was for my limp. At midday, I left for Opa's.
I went to bed at a decent hour on Friday in order to give me foot as much rest as possible, because on Saturday I intended to join a tour of Vosges mountains.
That worked out; with a vinegar wrap - Dad wisely advised me against using schnapps in case we got checked by police and they smelled alcohol on me - the swelling had gone down enough for me to, with patience and five minutes' time, ease my foot into the motorcycle boot and zip the boot closed.
To make a long and somewhat irritating story short, Octi led this tour too and finally convinced me to avoid any drive that he leads. Half of it was autobahn; straight, curveless, extremely boring. Sure, I wasn't driving 100% that day; after lunch my leg quickly showed signs of fatigue and would shake on and off, making me take many curves, especially right hairpins, like a bloody beginner. That doesn't mean I find flatland cruising any more appealing. When at the end Octi led us on a meandering tour of Freiburg, I'd had it. I'm not following his lead any more.
When we stopped for a last drink in Todtmoos, Roger alleviated my frustration by saying I'd driven well that day, considering what I'd gone through on Thursday evening. And he doesn't like driving city streets any more than I do. We understand each other.
Two BMWs had accompanied the tour; a 1200GS and a limited F650GS. The latter left us before Freiburg; the former was driven by a young fellow - I discovered this morning he's 21 - who, with all due respect, did know how to haul on the gas. But that doesn't change the fact that he drives a BMW.
I learned then over the Todtmoos drinks to differentiate between GS drivers. Guys like Walti have driven all sorts of machines and after decades of driving just want a motorcycle that works unconditionally. BMW's overdose of electronics let people who know how to drive tickle the last possibilities out of a bike. But somebody who starts out on one of those butler-bikes is never going to drive well. They won't learn how to brake properly; the ABS takes care of that. They won't know anything about shock adjustment; the GS suspension carries you like a couch. Something's busted? Take the bike straight to the nearest mechanic; there's nothing you can touch that doesn't have a electronics connection.
I don't know the guy's name, but he was bragging about scraping his footpegs and chasing supersport bikes through the Albthal and rather discredited himself with such talk. I was so tempted to call him out, but for one, I don't like dissing people I barely know and for another, I'd driven the 650GS but not the 1200er and like to back my criticism up with evidence.
Point being, the GS may be tall and heavy, but it's a doggone enduro, and enduros are just plain easy to ride. I rarely ever scrape the footpegs on the Beast; on the Ulysses, despite being taller and heavier, it was no problem. I may not be a fan anymore of fully-cowled bikes, but they are much harder to drive well than a GS and keeping up with - notabene, not passing - one on a tight-curve stretch like the Albthal speaks more for the racer's skill than the endurist's.
Now I kinda wish I'd said something to the guy... Ah well. I'd rather regret keeping silent than saying something unfit that I can't take back.
That was Saturday.
Sunday morning we had church, then Mom, Dad and the kid drove off to Scotland. They'll be gone until next Tuesday. I briefly considered taking unpaid vacation to accompany them on the Beastie. I've always wanted to go to Scotland. But day-long autobahn driving isn't in the least appealing, and if I take the bike somewhere I want to be with another biker. So I'm still here to take care of things.
In order to cover some kilometers that day I'd agreed to go driving with Steve. Kevin spontaneously joined us. I'd thought about doing a lengthy tour over the Ibergeregg, Sattelegg, Schwägalp and Hemberg, but in the end we just did a short round of the first pass and the Etzel and called it good. For one thing there was way too much traffic out; for another, they weren't really much fun to drive with. I led the way and took it easy (foot is still swollen); Kevin kept up more or less but we kept having to wait for Steve. He's a typical Sunday driver. His Buell XB12Ss was customized by his mechanic; he bought it for way too much; he wears camo and a black visor and sits on it like he's a super streetfighter and yet he doesn't have a clue about leaning into curves or giving gas. No wonder I didn't drive with him for months and months, and I'm in no hurry to do it again.
Kevin hasn't gotten any wiser either; his comments over our drink stop smacked of naïvité and I got so irritated with his entitlemend mentality that I was glad to hit the road again.
Granted, I don't spend much time with my peers anymore and don't have a broad base to choose from, but whether it's old colleagues or new acquaintances like that BMW driver, something about them always irks me and usually it's lack of tact and experience. It's going to have to be a very special young man to get me interested in my age group again.

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