North to Alaska

Days 5-11


Are you with us, Don?  Can you hear me, Don?   Don, are you with us?


“On Sage Creek Rim Road – The calm before the storm”

No, not really.  I am coming back, though, from a different place.  I wish I could remember more about it – it was not the reality I’ve come to know – and I hear these voices talking to me, but I don’t understand. 


Opening my eyes, I see faces bending over me – scissors cutting off my shirt – I feel oxygen in my nose – “Can you hear me, Don?  Stay with me, Don!


I can’t move.  My vision clears – and I understand I am in an ambulance.  They’re sticking heart monitoring devices to my chest – “Speak to me, Don.”


I remember that the day didn’t start this way.  It was a glorious morning and I watched the sunrise over the Badlands.  I had sourdough pancakes for breakfast – and this was the first real day of exploration on my way to Alaska.  I’m really looking forward to riding Sage Creek Rim Road again this trip – I remember how peaceful it was two years ago – I could hear noises in the wind – I could almost feel the blanket between my legs and the Pinto pony.


I’m in the pasture with Bison all around me.  They are gentle creatures – many calves are about – for centuries they provided sustenance for America’s native peoples – we slaughtered them for their hides.


“Call ahead and have Rapid City Fire Department meet us en-route – we need an IV here!”


“What’s your name?”  “Can you hear me?”


I feel the backboard – I’m strapped immobile on a backboard – and my head and neck are immobilized.  We pull over and stop – and EMTs climb in the back doors – I feel the needle – they’re hanging the IV.


I’m through the park – beyond the pasture – in South Dakota farmland – riding slowly, admiring the scenery, smelling the freshly mown hay – the front wheel drops in a hole covered with gravel and I am in a knee slapper.  In a heartbeat, I know I am not going to recover from this – first left – then right – then harder left – then I’m high-sided.


In the air, I’m thinking – I’ve got protective gear – then – I’m in the dirt.  The Valkyrie is on it’s right side – pointed back in the direction I came from – the trailer is on it’s left side – it did a three quarter turn.  I’m on my right side in the dirt – and as soon as I move I know, at least I have broken ribs.


Slowly, gingerly, I stand – feeling all around to see if I still have all my parts – thankfully the only other injury I can find is a small scratch on my right elbow.


Forty miles from nowhere, there is no cell signal – and I begin to wonder how long it will be before someone happens along this lonely road.


I hear the backup warning sounds – realizing that we must have arrived at the hospital – they are rolling me out of the ambulance and into the emergency room.  I can’t move – I’m beginning to think that the backboard and the head restraint are worse than the accident.  It will be three hours before I see a doctor.


A sheriff’s patrol car is coming down the road – or is it just my imagination – it has only been 5 minutes since I dumped my Valkyrie – could it be?  The lights are on – and a couple of volunteer deputies step out of the car to see if I’m O.K. – I’m not imagining their radio call – which summons an ambulance and rescue truck from Wall, SD.


More questions from the Doctor – and mercifully she begins removing the head restraints and loosening me from the backboard.  She confirms broken ribs and tells me that they are going to admit me for observation.


Wednesday and Thursday nights are spent in the hospital – and e-mails from VRCC members across the nation begin to pour in.  The nursing and volunteer staffs are perplexed at the volume of computer traffic generated by the “Connecticut Yankee” in Rapid City, SD.  They know I’m traveling alone and are surprised that Bill Wittington and his wife come to visit – not half as surprised as I am.


My wife calls to tell me that e-mails and telephone calls are flying all over the country trying to put together a chain of members to get me and my bike home.  It seems that the brotherhood of Valkyrie Riders is at work while I am in bed.


Did you ever think what it might be like to call a rental car company and say – “Oh, by the way, I need for you to come pick me up at the hospital?”  Nevertheless, they did – and it’s off to find a hotel room in a town full of No Vacancy signs.  Motel 6 is usually always there for me – and it proved to be true once again.


Rice Honda calls almost at closing time to tell me my bike has just arrived – and Les agrees to stay for a couple of minutes until I can get there to retrieve my clothes.


Saturday morning and its time to begin thinking about what comes next.  $6,000 in damage – two to four weeks to get everything repaired – is the Alaska dream dead?  Is this Valkyrie – who has taken me across and around this great country – ever going to ride with me again?  I have the weekend to sleep on it.  A visit to the South Dakota Air and Space Museum at Ellsworth AFB, a movie and a book – take my pain pills – try not to think the worst.  I remember my Connecticut Chapter Rep – Rabbai’s e-mail – “Anytime, anywhere – I’ll be on the next plane out.”


Monday, I’m feeling better – and thinking more clearly.  A critical look at the Valkyrie says that if I only fix the operational problems -  I may be able to get back on the road within a couple of days.  Les and John at Rice Honda are on it – the critical parts are ordered for overnight delivery – and I am beginning to allow myself to think that if I am willing to ride her ugly – I will be able to ride.


Tuesday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. I am riding out of the dealer – trailer in tow – south on Route 79 for a thirty-mile check ride for motorcycle and rider.  I’m drowning in joy – my Valkyrie is running flawlessly and I have no pain in my ribs.


Perhaps a longer test ride tomorrow.  A test of man and machine.  A test to see if Alaska is still possible.


And a tear – perhaps we are blood related now.  She is scratched and banged and broken – as am I – we did it together – and perhaps there are more adventures – together.


So to you and Iowa Sioux and Atlas, German Shepherd, NYPD – I say goodnight from Rapid City, SD.


 Index, Day, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 thru 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32&33 34