The Bottom Line: I'm okay and the luckiest sucker around.
Act 1: A beautiful lat fall day was to be had on Oct 28th, 2007 here in Minneapolis. Roughly 50 degrees, a bit breezy and hardly a cloud in the sky. Out come the maps and a rough path is chosen. Fired up the bike and headed out. Down to Prescott, WI. Over to County O. Through Red Wing. The day was great. I was feeling good and was much more comfortable through the corners. Boring highway riding from Red Wing to Rochester. Along the way encountered mystery spray from a cattle truck; not pleasant. An early dinner with mom. The sun was starting to get low, and the temperature was going to become more of a factor. Considering the sometimes gusty breezes, plus it getting dark, plus it being chilly, I took the back roads instead of Highway 52. I could go slower, enjoy the sunset and stop when I got chilly. I was purposefully making the safe decisions: slower speeds, less traffic, slowing when I could not have the highbeam blazing.
Coming into Northfield, the odometer rolled 6000 miles, meaning I had put on 1900 miles since late this summer. I took the MSF basic skills course and aced it. I practice quick lane changes. I practice hard braking. I practice tight turns at slow speeds. I wear the gear: boots, jeans, jacket, helmet, gloves. I go at a pace I am comfortable with.
I hang a left out of the Holiday station in Northfield at about 7:20 heading North on Highway 3. I expected to be home by 8:30, even with taking it easy on 3 and a leisurely meander through the Minneapolis and St Paul along the Mississippi River.
Mother Nature had different plans.
Act 2: Highway 3 is a small, two-lane highway that meanders through the South metro twisting through the outer ring suburbs. Definitely less traffic and less speed than Highway 52 and Interstate 94. Coming downhill into a slight right turn in 4th gear. Got the highbeam on. I don't know the exact speed, but my guess is 50 MPH. Surely upper 40s.
OH [expletive deleted]!!! Deer!!!
Actually, I am pretty sure all I could have gotten out was the O before the impact. A large doe was running across left to right. I saw her fully illuminated in the oncoming lane. Things I know: I pushed right and looked forward down the road. I did not fixate on the deer. (Both of these are the right things to do) The deer ran into my lane and I hit her in front of her front legs.
The deer was running right, I was tipped slightly right, so, you guessed it, I went down right. At the point of impact with the deer I had my eyes closed. Opened them to see the pavement coming at me. Coming fast! I got both hands down to protect my face, and hit my right knee hard. Pain! Eyes closed again.
Lying on my back on the shoulder of Highway 3, I open my eyes and start assessing the damage. Wiggle the fingers; got movement… good. Wiggle the toes and feet; got movement… good. No neck pain… Great! I hear faint talking. A vehicle is stopped and there is a guy on a cell phone. I'm rolling in pain now and screaming some adult language. I'm not what you would call a happy camper.
Time to stand up.
Hobbling on a bleeding right leg I go over to the guy on the cell phone. He is talking to the 911 operator and he keeps saying "yes, he is up and moving." The deer is right there and she is surely hearing death knocking. The guy gives our location and hangs up. He realizes I am fully coherent and tells me to sit down. I do. Then I get up and move again. This happens a couple times. Sit on the guard rail, stand, hobble, repeat. 911 calls back. We hear sirens coming closer. We hear sirens getting farther away. I'm pretty sure at some point I yelled "were NORTH on 3… NORTH!" A city cop arrives and starts taking stock of the situation. The accident had cleared itself. The deer was mostly on the shoulder, I had come to rest on the shoulder and the bike was a bit farther down totally on the shoulder. Shortly there after an ambulance arrives and the paramedics attend to me. One looking at my leg with the other asking me questions and feeling my neck and back. A state trooper arrives.
The paramedics take me back to the ambulance and cut away the already torn knee of my jeans. Basic tests, a very little bit of clean up, and a blood pressure check later I am signing paperwork stating I don't need them to take me to the hospital. The knee might need a stitch or two, but mostly a good cleaning.
A flat bed arrives to take the bike. The trooper, tow driver and I get the bike up on the flatbed. The trooper drags the now dead dear off of the shoulder. I still am not sure how he got her over or under the guardrail because the deer sure wasn't small. I make some calls to get a ride home, but realize riding in the tow truck is just as viable of an option. I hobble my way up into the cab and we set off for home.
Act 3: I've had road rash before. Between bicycling and rollerblading I have lost my luckily less than fair share, but not too much less than fair share, of skin over the years. I should be able to clean up myself as it is not that bad. Take stock of the medicine cabinet and head over to the grocery store for supplies. Let me tell you this… walk around the grocery store in bloody, torn-up jeans while limping, and obviously in pain, people give you a lot of room. Only one man actually said anything and it was something about "Keep your chin up." I was in the produce section at the time; hey, I wanted some juice.
After getting a bunch of medical supplies, plus some ice cream and milk, I head back home. Pop a couple ibuprofen, take a big pull off the bottle of whiskey and its go time. Or maybe not. Just warm water was painful. Numb it up with ice. Still hurts. And I was only working on the minor sections. Then I was dumb on various fronts and dumped some rubbing alcohol on it. Don't do that. Feels like fire and damages the cells. A call to 411 to find a 24hr urgent care; no luck. Call to my brother for help finding a 24hr urgent care; no luck. The paramedics said there was one in Apple Valley but there is no way I can drive there as it is getting close to midnight by this point and I am exhausted. Get out the ice again and try to cowboy-up. This resulted in some progress, much pain and serious bite marks on a wooden pencil. Call the hospital right by my house and ask about 24 hour urgent care; no luck. "But if you come in to the ER, we would be happy to clean you up."
Off to the ER!
Wearing a pair of shorts, I walk to the ER. Yup, I hate paying for parking so I walk to the ER. Answer some questions and get taken to a room. A nurse arrives to put on some wet dressing to soften the wounded areas. A guy arrives for insurance info and the like. A doctor arrives and pokes around a bit at the knee. I honestly think this guy was named Dr McCoy, but I did not put it together for the obvious jokes until hours later; I was disappointed in myself for missing such a slow-over-the-plate pitch. Anyway, another doctor arrives and puts on some topical Novocain type jelly and comes back a bit later to scrub out the wounds. I watch most of the cleaning as I am trying to get over the whole blood and needles phobia; I'm making decent progress. We chat as he is cleaning me up and it was interesting to hear some of the staff thought this was a bicycle accident. The wow factor set in when actual details came out of what happened. He got it cleaned up pretty darn well and the other doctor comes back to double check.
The injuries: I have a fair amount of superficial road rash on my upper shin. A quarter sized divot, claw mark looking wound just on the kneecap, and a nice gash below the kneecap. Had the gash been somewhere other than on the knee it would have gotten a stitch or two, but as it is the knee it is being left alone. Knees plus stitches is not a workable combination. I also have some minor road rash on the heel of my right hand.
Cleaned and bandaged way, WAY better than I ever could have done, I set out for the drug vending machine. I don't go to the doctor often, and have never seen one of these before. I got Vicodin from essentially a glorified vending machine; seriously! Thank the desk nurse, walk back to the 3 blocks to the car and drive the 2 blocks home. 1am. A long day, I cannot fall asleep. It figures.
Epilogue: I hit a deer on a motorcycle doing somewhere in the vicinity of 45 to 50 miles per hour and I walked away. Let me repeat that. I walked away! I am going to have scars on my right knee and a big scab for quite a while. Walking is more limping a lot of the time right now, but I'm okay.
Assessing the non-human damage: The bike is a mess. Provided the fork is not bent, I think it is salvageable even though the insurance company is likely to consider it totaled. She needs a new tank, new windshield, new signals, new front fender, new pegs and bracket, new key, new exhaust, new brake lever and I am sure there is something I am missing. Sometime soon I'll try to fire her up again, but the battery was weak by the time she made it home.
I had the right gear on. Gloves saved my hands. Jeans and boots saved the legs. I'm guessing the jacket elbow pad helped my arm as the jacket was scrapped a bit, but I didn't even notice that until this morning and it is minor. I ruined a pair of gloves, my favorite pair of jeans, and a pair of long underwear. Boots are really scraped up and need new soles, which they needed anyway. Helmet doesn't have a scratch.
I could go into the what-if scenarios. I honestly don't know if I hit the brakes. It was that close. The guy behind me almost hit the second deer by a matter of just a couple feet. He said I had no chance. What-if I took 52 home? What if I took 77 home? What if I had stayed zigged instead of zagged? It doesn't matter. I walked away.
I am very grateful that the guy behind me stopped and was on the phone with 911 immediately. I am grateful for everyone that stopped, and there were at least half a dozen cars that stopped and asked if the situation was under control. I am grateful for having North Memorial hospital so close to home and the care they gave me.
A warning to those that ride: Don't hit a large animal. It is no fun. But if you do, I sincerely hope you are as lucky as I am.
To answer the question everyone is asking: Yes, I'll be riding again.
And, as I was told this morning, I now have earned the right to wear the patch: If you don't limp you aint [nothing].