By Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael Larson, Fort Meade, Md. July 18, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (July 18, 2016) - What an awesome weekend it had been. I'd spent the last four days riding some of the best dirt roads and mud trails Tennessee had to offer at an annual motorcycle event. Being relatively new to taking my 2014 BMW R1200GS dual-sport off the hard ball, I was intent on learning new skills, meeting new friends and seeing some cool countryside. The weekend was a success and I tested my skills in mud, dirt and water crossings without dropping my GS once.
When the rally ended, I said goodbye to my friends and started my trek north toward Baltimore. I had a lot of time and wasn't in a hurry, so I decided to take the long way back and follow the Blue Ridge Parkway as much as I could. The vistas and views throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, though not as stark as those of the Alps in Europe, have a beauty all their own. I quickly fell into a rhythm while following the snake-like twists and turns of the parkway and was happy with my progress toward home.
Early the next day, I departed the hotel and was looking for an entrance back to the parkway. It was 36 F outside, but I wasn't worried. I had a heated jacket and grips, so I was quite warm. About 20 minutes later, I was in motorcycle heaven -- twisty roads and beautiful views. Unfortunately, the day's riding would soon be cut short.
As I negotiated a sweeping right-hand turn, my motorcycle lost traction on some gravel and sand that was spread out across the road. I subsequently low-sided, followed by a high-side, and was thrown from my motorcycle. I slid on the pavement behind my bike for about 40 feet before coming to a rest on the side of the road. After mentally checking my body for injury, I picked up my motorcycle and took a few minutes to assess my situation. My windscreen had broken off of the mounts and my left-side handlebar was bent about 1 inch lower than it should have been. My front forks were twisted, not bent, and my pannier and crash bar were ground down a bit from the slide.
Fortunately, I was wearing all of my personal protective equipment, including motorcycle pants, jacket, helmet, gloves and boots, and suffered no apparent injuries other than a sprained thumb. My BMW Rallye 3 suit, BMW GS boots, gloves and BMW System 6 helmet did exactly as they were supposed to do. Had I not been wearing all my gear, I'm certain my injuries would have been sufficient enough to at least warrant a hospital stay.
After assessing the drivability of my motorcycle, I slowly made my way to the nearest town with cellular service, which was about 5? miles away, and notified the state police and my insurance company. Luckily, I was able to drive my motorcycle the remaining 400 miles home.
I'd ridden more than 50,000 miles over a 30-year period and had never had an accident. Looking back, I believe I failed to properly assess the status of the country roads on which I was riding as well as how the fatigue from riding all weekend had affected me. I did not think there would be gravel and sand on the road and certainly didn't think I was physically and mentally handicapped. But, as an after effect of the winter runoff and my fatigue, that is exactly what was there and what I failed to notice.
This accident reminded me I must always be aware of my limitations, surroundings and time of year I am riding. Had I done so before I started my trip home, I would assessed my physical and mental conditions, as well as the road conditions, beforehand, not after. Ride safe and remember ATGATT - All the Gear, All the Time!
Knowledge magazine is always looking for contributing authors to provide ground, aviation, driving and off-duty safety articles. Don't let the fact that you've never written an article for publication scare you. Our editors promise to make you look good. By sharing your knowledge, you can make a valuable contribution to those who need your information to do their jobs safely. Your article might just save another Soldier's life. To learn more, visit https://safety.army.mil/MEDIA/Knowledge/TellYourStory.aspx.