Barboo WI by Way of West Virginia (5/13 - 5/19/09)

Well, another trip for the books.  On the one hand it didn't go as planned, but on the other hand it had its highs and lows.  As my wife put it, "With you it's never a dull moment..."

The plan started relatively simple, but it just wasn't meant to be.  

The night before departure, two of the guys from this area (Steve and Steve) decide not to go.  They were not interested in riding that distance in the rain.  It's one thing to get caught in it while riding, but they didn't want to go on a trip where it would rain every day.  The forecast in our area was for rain and thunderstorms, and the forecast for WV was the same, but only a 30-40% chance in WV.  I thought about not going, but decided even if I had to ride through the rain to get there, the odds were that it would not rain once there. 

Morning of the 13th rolled around, and sure enough, it was raining. At one point I thought I had gotten lucky; the rain stopped about one hour before I was ready to leave... Could it be? Ah... NO... Wasn't long after I left that the rain returned. No problem, I thought, I'll go through the storm and come out on the other side with clear roads ahead.  Well, didn't quite work out that way.  From the time it started raining, to the time I arrive at my Hotel for the night just East of Columbus Ohio (320+ miles), it rained the whole way.  I had clear skies for about 20 miles somewhere in Indiana.  That's it.

I didn't take any of the interstates, but even the highways were a mess, and there was still the occasional truck that needed passing... well, either pass or plot along at 50 mph.  The standard mode of operation for getting past was to stay as far away as the lanes would let me, and just gun it past.  The spray and wind engulfs you, and for a second you have about 10 ft of visibility, if that.  That's the thing about riding a motorcycle; something we take nearly for granted in a car, can be a genuine adventure. 

Approximately seven hours later I arrived at the motel... wet, cold, and hungry.  I did have a snack along the way, consisting of a couple granola bars, but other than that I didn't bother stopping except for gas; I just wanted to get through it with minimal delay.  As for the wet part, most of me was actually dry thanks to the rain suit.  But my feet and hands were totally soaked.  As far as the cold, the heated grips on the bike pumped enough heat into my hands to keep me going.  

The Motel was a few miles away from Jeff, the official organizer of the event, so after a conversation with the wife to assure her I was OK, I gave Jeff a call and we went out to dinner.  It was still raining off and on so he came by in his pickup truck and we went to a local Mexican place and talked about my trip, the rain, the next few days, etc..  It was good to meet Jeff and spend some time with him. After dinner we agreed that we'd probably get a hold of each other in the late morning and head for WV.

This was the scene at the hotel as I was drying everything out.  Jeff gave me the tip to stuff newspapers in the boots to wick out the moisture, so I did that and put them over the heater to air them out.  


I slept like a baby that night.  But getting up in the morning I turned the weather to see this:

There was another sever storm front moving in, and now the chance of rain was up to 60% for the rest of the days.  Not long after, Jeff called me and suggested if we are going to beat the thing to WV we needed to leave shortly.  I gave it a few moments thought and decided maybe Steve and Steve were the smart guys.  So, I thanked Jeff for his hospitality, but rather than going with him, I decided to wait for the major part of the storm to pass and then head back home.  I couldn't think of anything worse than being in an area with some of the nicest motorcycle roads in the country and not being able to ride them while it's dry.  WV would have to wait for another day.

On the way back home it rained for approximately the first 100 miles or so... but fortunately the rest of the miles home were dry, and after stopping at a rest stop for lunch, I was finally able to shed the rain gear and enjoy some sunshine.

Here's a random scene that caught my attention along the way:

That night the wife and I discussed how to salvage our vacation and I called the Steves to see what their plans were. They were roaming around Northwestern WIand they had a couple days start on me. So, the plan was for the wife and I to trailer the bikes Friday morning and head up to Baraboo WI, which has THE nicest roads in WI just West of there and, convenient for my wife, a casino.

Friday morning, right before noon we were ready to go. Took me a while to get the bikes on the trailer properly since this was the first time with this particular trailer and both bikes.  The wife's bike was smaller so I had to reposition it further back on the trailer to get a good balance over the axle.  But, no rush, it only takes a few hours to get to Baraboo.

Well, just as we get in the car, it starts to rain. Fine, that's the way it's going to be... at least I'm dry... But I did have to stop at the gas station and add some pressure to the cars rear tires and get some gas... 

As I'm driving to the gas station I realize something is wrong with my trailer lights. Last time I used it they worked fine, but now all I have is trailer running light, and every time I step on the brakes the daytime running lights on my car go off and my right front turn signal comes on, and as long as my brake is depressed my turn signals don't flash... There's no way I'm figuring out this wiring problem now. At least the break light on the car work... close enough... 

I get gas and pull over near the air pump. I put in my 75 cents (Ah... I remember the days when air was FREE!) to get the pump running and proceed to pump up the first tire... All of a sudden I realize my back side is getting really wet... Yeah, it's raining, but not that hard... I look over and there are two of these ground level grass sprinklers on, and one is pointed directly at me... 

Is anyone seeing a pattern here?

So, I ask the wife to come out of the car, get rained on, and stick her foot over the sprinkler long enough to deflect the water and let me pump up this tire... I get that done and we get in the car... Now she's wet from the rain, her foot is all soaked, my whole side is wet, and she's not a happy camper... but I'm not done yet... I have to back this thing up and I know there's this median thing close behind me, but I can't see where it ends, so she has to get out and direct me... and gets more wet...

At this point... how many of you think we should have just cut our losses, gone home, and slept? Well, we didn't... we should have... but we didn't...

Of course it poured for most of the trip up to Baraboo... but it did clear up and the bikes got a good air drying before we arrived at our Hotel at about 3:30.

We were staying at the Best Western in West Baraboo on Route 12, about three miles from the Ho Chunk casino. We had a nice dinner that evening at the restaurant/bar in the Hotel, played a game of pool, took a walk down main street to see what was around (clearly dinner options were limited) and then took the shuttle to the casino. I'm just not a gambler, but the wife could do it all day.  She loves getting in on the nickel or penny poker machines. We stayed there a few hours, I lost $20 playing draw power, Jacks or better, and then managed to drag my wife away.

Here's the business end of the parking lot the next morning (Saturday):

The Hotel has an extended continental breakfast, which includes anything a reasonable person would want to eat excluding things like sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs. So, we ate breakfast, and as we sat there, noticed that the temperature display at the restaurant across the street was showing 41 and it was still cloudy and very windy. Well, wife had no intentions of riding in those kind of conditions. So, I geared up to go, while she went and caught the shuttle to the casino.

I had a loop planned out that was about 225 miles round trip. My approach was, stick to the route the GPS gave me, and when I saw a nice road, follow it. The ride was fantastic. The roads in that part of WI are just unbelievable. I should have taken a lot more pictures, but I was having way too much fun to stop. I saw almost no cars on the back roads.

The next two photos are on the banks of the Mississippi.  That's as far West as I went.  

Ok, so Saturday was a great day. I had been debating whether Sunday I was going to go Southwest and do another ride by myself (the temps were not going to be up to snuff for Sandy), or go a little bit Northwest and meet up with the Steves in Trempaleau. Steve called me that morning and we decided to meet up at noon then ride back together and they would stay the night at our Hotel before they had to leave for home Monday. Monday the wife and I would go for a ride, since it was our last day before we had to go back home on Tuesday and it was suppose to warm up.

By 9:00 A.M. Sunday the temperature was up to about 51, so at least the day would be warmer. The ride to Trempaleau was fairly uneventful and a great ride, although I can't remember the last time I've dodged so much gravel and horse manure on the back roads. I arrived there right about noon and the Steves arrived about 15 minutes later. It had warmed up nice and it was a crisp sunny day. We sat around for a bit while the Steves caught up on their smokes and we talked. Figured we'd get on the road, get some gas, and grab lunch along the way.

We got a little twisted around by LaCross thanks to my GPS directing me to take every side-road through town.  I should have just stopped and reset it to a "direct" route, but we weren't in any big hurry.  Plenty of time.

We did stop for gas, and the only other stop we made was at a roadside bar and grill to grab that much needed lunch...

Waiting for our burgers...

The place was a dive and the waitress seemed kind of put off... but she cheered up a bit by the time we left.

After eating we got back out to the bikes and my GPS was dead. When I got it home later I found that it charged fine... so it was probably just a loose power connection under my seat.  So, Steve set his GPS for the Hotel and we took off.  There really are some beautiful roads between LaCross and Baraboo.  We were having a blast.

Less than 30 miles from the Hotel... the fun came to an abrupt end on County G, just outside of LaValle WI. It seemed like just another corner, but it wasn't. I don't remember much, but as I'm leaned over and coming out of the turn the bike starts drifting to the edge of the road and I realize I'm not going to make it.  If I stayed leaned over and hit the gravel I'd definitely crash, so just as I'm coming off the edge of the road, I stand the bike up and try to keep it on the gravel, and for a split second I though I was going to make it. The bike was bucking under me, but then the rear end slid out.  I think at that point the front tire was on the road again but the rear was all sideways.  After that it's just a lot of noise and flipping as I got launched off the bike.  When I stopped tumbling and tried to stand up I couldn't, my left leg had some major pain and I couldn't support any weight on it.

This is one moment I wish I could take back...

One of the Steves also didn't make the corner... He was actually far enough back that he didn't even know I had crashed.  When he saw the corner he just hit the brakes and went straight off the road and managed to get himself slowed down in the field.  Coming back out on the road he saw me and my bike strewn about.

Lucky for me a couple in a minvan came by not seconds after the crash. A couple people helped me into the van and drove me to the hospital. An Amish farm owner who owned the farm right on that corner was more than glad to allow me to keep my bike in their yard until we could figure out what to do.  The bike was banged up pretty bad, but it ran fine, so I was hoping it was repairable.

There were multiple problems. My car was a stick and my wife hadn't learned how to drive it. So, after the Steves followed me to the hospital and made sure I was being taken care of, they went to the Hotel, picked up the car and trailer, and then went to pick up the bike and meet me at the hospital. 

By the time they came back to the hospital I had x-rays taken and we were waiting for the results.

Actually, I hyperventilated during the x-rays because moving my leg was so painful I forgot to breath.  So, they put warm blankets on me and calmed me down.  The x-rays came back and the doctor said there was no fracture...?  He wanted me to get dressed and put some weight on the leg before they let me go. NO WAY.  I couldn't not get myself dressed cause moving that leg was pain.  I stood up on some crutches with the brace on, but putting any weight on the leg still killed.  I told the nurse, there's now way. I'm not putting weight on it.

We all went back to the Hotel where the guys put both bikes on the trailer, and my wife snapped this photo.

We got a call that night that another doctor had looked at the x-rays and there was definitely a fracture and they made me an appointment with an an orthopedic doctor the next day (Monday).  The doctor was a bike nut so most of the time we spent talking about riding bikes.  The bad news was that a chunk of my knee (tibial plateau) was fractured, but he said that it was still in place, and if I can keep the weight off of it, I shouldn't need surgery.  He also advised I make an appointment with my local otho within the week.

Tuesday the wife and I drove out to that corner in the car... (to add insult to injury she got pulled over for speeding in the middle of nowhere... luckily she was let off with a warning)... The corner was on a slight uphill and then went flat at the exit... I think that's what did me in. I judged the corner by the entrance, but the elevation change at the exit made my entry speed too fast. Coming to an exit that drops off in elevation is like the corner getting tighter, you either have to be going slower or be closer to the inside of the corner to allow for the drift out... I judged my speed and my line by the entry and there's no way I was going to stay on the road.  Hindsight being 20/20, I should have just stood it up completely and shot into the farm field, but I thought I could save it... 

Several days later I finally got an appointment with a local ortho and the yes, there was a fracture, but the bone WAS out of place and surgery, along with some plates and screws, was the only way to fix it.  Basically 1/3 of my knee joint would be without support if I just let it heal the way it was.  The accident happened on the 17th and I was in surgery on the 26th.

Luckily the surgery went well, and after a day in the hospital I got to go home.  I was given a prescription to rent a machine that is used to bend the knee without me having to use muscles to do it.  They actually had me on that machine a few hours after surgery.  No cast.  I had to keep the joint moving or scar tissue would form and my knee would never work right again.  

So, here it is, June 13th and I've been spending six hours a day on this machine.  The good news is that I have 120 degrees of bending motion in my knee (which the doctor says is very good considering it's only been just over two weeks since surgery), there's no major pain, and the doctor cleared me to go back to work.  I still need to spend at least one hour on the machine every morning and at least a couple hours in the evening, and no walking on that leg for three more weeks; can't take any chance of displacing the bone.  After another three weeks I'll be able to start putting weight on it gradually.

The post op x-rays are interesting.  There are four really long screws that go through the top of the plate, and the chunk of bone that cracked off, on the outside of my left knee.  They go most of the way to the other side, converge and cross.  Then there are two screws that hold the bottom of the plate into the tibia.  One of those screws actually goes right through the bone. 

The unfortunate news at the hospital was that I was not the only one at Christ Hospital involved in a motorcycle accident that weekend... the doctors and nurses kept telling me it could have been worse... Five riders died at the hospital the weekend before my surgery... it was some kind of pileup involving cars and none of the riders were wearing helmets.  I had all my gear on; jacket with armor, helmet, protective gloves, calf high boots, and jeans with double layers in the knee and thigh. The helmet definitely took a beating and I even had a slight sore spot on the side of my head for a day, so the impact must have been significant. Other than that I had a sore spot on my shoulder that lasted a few days. Yeah, could have been worse for me, but it definitely helps to be prepared for the worse.

More than one person has said that maybe I need to buy a boat or find a safer hobby.  Are we ever safe? In the days that have passed and my visits to the doctor I met a guy who shattered his ankle when he stepped in a gopher hole during a fishing trip, a woman who did it by twisting on her daughters flip flop going to the store to buy bagels for breakfast, a woman who also had a tibial fracture from getting hit by a car, and a woman who had knee surgery twice because the first one didn't work out, and now the second one is giving her problems.  At least I can say I was having some serious fun when mine happened. 

So, my prognosis is good so far, but long term the doctor says I will be prone to arthritis in the knee, because the cartilage also cracked and that crack will never repair it's self. It's a defect that will be prone to wearing out faster.

The bike is toast... bent forks, bent rear frame, gas tank dented on both sides, one front foot peg completely torn off, all the other footpegs (rider and passenger) bent or damaged, and various plastic parts trashed.  Combine that with getting rear ended in California last year, and that makes two bikes trashed in less than a years time.    

Sure, it makes me think... Is it time to hang up the spurs and find a "safer" hobby?  I'd be crazy not to question my motives, the risks, etc.. and I definitely have.  I've had a lot of time to stare at the ceiling and contemplate life.  The fact is that all the major damage I've done to my body was a result of motorcycles.  I have an idea... I could just slow down a little bit; that might be a good idea. 

Any bets on whether I will be buying another motorcycle?