Thursday, July 19, 2012


Customer (making conversation): 
So what’s the principal difference between
 the Ducati Multi Strada and the BMW GS Adventure?

Well, when you dump the Duc on a back road somewhere,
it’ll be about fifteen hundred bucks. 
When you dump the Beemer, it’ll be just another story.

The ride started about 7:15 in the morning.  “I’ll be back by about 4:00,” I said to my wife, “or I’ll phone you…”

About 4:15, twenty miles of dirt/gravel and about 80 additional miles of state highway from home, I ventured into a ridge of gravel pushed just right of my tire lane by months of prior traffic.  Touching the rear brake was exactly the wrong thing to do.  I had this thought about 100 times in the eight-tenths of a second it took me to go down.

The big GS had slipped out from under me once before, but that time I was riding with a buddy.  This time I found myself wondering, How’m I gonna get this big boy back on its feet?

Slithering out from under the carcass, I punched “home” on my cell.  Nationwide coverage my butt!  Removing helmet, gloves and jacket and setting them on a nearby hunk of granite, I took inventory of self.  Outside of an elevated pulse, everything seemed to be in order.  And in a few moments, the pulse thing subsided.

Last time I went down, I wished I’da taken a picture.  I removed my Panasonic from the little case it hung from on my hip.  Pushing power, I found the thing wouldn’t open.  I shook the little camera.  In the still mountain air, I heard it rattle.  It’d never rattled before.

After a thirty-five minute wait for a Samaritan of good nature to pass by – and another stab at the cell phone – I determined that no one was likely to be coming along this remote section of Humbug Road.  It would be up to me to right the behemoth and get back on the road.  I extended the side stand and promised myself that the big BMW didn’t actually weigh an eyelash under six hundred pounds.  Back straight, bent at knees, grabbing the down side of the handlebar, I did my best impression of Alexi the Soviet lifter who’d broken some five hundred records in his career back in the 70s.   

To my surprise, after the first six inches, the beast actually felt lighter.  Light enough for me to balance it on its two wheels for a little assessment prior to gently letting it rest on the side stand.

The right hand fog lamp lay on the road like some electronic Humpty Dumpty.  And the King’s men weren’t going to show up.

The crash hardware on the GSA did its job well.  No scratches to bodywork – and more importantly, no damage to working parts or frame.  Seventeen miles up the road: pavement.  Twelve miles further: cell coverage.

The conversation:  “You’re where?  Where’s that?”  I was where I’d told her I’d be.

In the two hours it took to get from Stirling City to my suburban Placer County home, much coursed through my brain.  Among the many conclusions I drew, the most sinister was that I was lucky.

Here are the behavior changes I at which I arrived:

1            I will continue to ride in the woods alone because I like to.
2            I will write down the proposed route I am expecting to take and leave it on the kitchen counter.  I may deviate from the route, but at least someone will have written record of my general where-abouts.
3            I will pack an additional bottle of water that will go unused as long as the bike is on two wheels.  A bag of beef jerky, too.
4            I will look into one of the global positioning beacons that are available at places like REI for when I’m out of cell phone range.
5            I have purchased a one-year membership in “Cal-Star,” the local helicopter ambulance service.  Forty-five bucks for me and five more for the family.  (I was advised by the sales guy at the local BMW store: “You can pay 25 grand for a helicopter ride you won’t enjoy, or you can get Cal Star and use the 25 grand to buy another new bike from me.”
6            I will pack the camera (now a Nikon) in the tank bag and not wear it on my belt.  You never know when another “Kodak moment” such as this one will happen.
7            I will practice filling a plugged tire with my new tire patch kit (even though this incident didn’t involve a flat.)
8            I will understand that I can never fully assess the conditions that might cause a spill but I sure can learn from each mishap or – better yet – near-miss.
9            I am a fool to depend on luck.


The trip during which this mishap occurred – and it was truly a lovely trip! – may be viewed at:

CALSTAR critical care can be accessed at:  They have reciprocal agreements with Medi-Vac outfits covering most of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and bits of Montana, Utah and Nevada.

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Hope your life insurance is paid up.

  2. I did the same thing on my08GS 2 Sundays ago about 9AM on a dead end road N of Gainesville, Ga., looking for the construction rd. to a new state park. Unfortunately the bike was lying downhill and I couldn't get enough leverage to get upright. also I'm 68 with a weak (now weaker) back. I called my son and after a 2 hr wait in the 90 degree shade, we set it up and it fired right off. got a scrape on my HB engine bars, that's all. My solution not as sound as yours but despite good health, I have got to realize I'm 68. I also found some 350 lb rope pulleys at Home Depot and am going to test in my back yard to see if I can lift with back, pull lockable pulleys tight to hold bike in position while I reposition myself for next push. Riding buddy not always an option.

    Be careful

  3. I also had my 1100 on it's side on a downhill slope. I was by a popular lake, so someone was driving by after 2 minutes.
    Two people picking these up is not a problem. It is a challenge for one person especially if your knees or back is problematic.
    It does get easier if you can get the bike up the first 10 inches or enough to have the tires near the road. I wonder if there is some little hydraulic or scissor jack I could use. maybe even some small airbag.....?

  4. Been there, too, brother. Nice story. I do like the SPOT satellite tracker and have used the "help" feature once. Let's the lil' lady and friends know where i am.

    There will be many more discussions about this issue (mostly in your head), and you'll see that there is no ONE correct answer, just good decisions (before, during and after a ride).

    But trust the guy who asked about life insurance.

    Thanks for posting.