Riding a poker run to benefit autism Saturday with the Roanoke Valley Harley Owners Group (HOG). Helped out with the first card stop at Craig Creek Mercantile on U.S. 311 just outside New Castle, then joined the last of four groups.

Riding second in the group on a spirited run on Rte. 615 out of New Castle, then over a small mountain on Rte. 606 that leads into Botetourt County towards Fincastle.  The three lead riders pulled ahead in the twisties going up and then down the mountain. We slowed as the road straightened to let the others catch up.

We waited….and waited….and waited.  Then a lone rider appeared to tell us a rider crashed on one of the downhill turns.  It looked bad, she said.

We doubled back and found that one of the group’s more experienced riders missed a tight left-hander and augered into a ditch alongside the side, throwing him over the handlebars.

He landed on his back, was conscious but with a lot of pain in his shoulder, back, ribs and hip.  Others in the group tended to him, keeping is head elevated and placing support under one leg.

Mountain roads in rural areas often bring problems with cell phones.  Only one of the group’s phone had a signal — a weak one but it was enough to call 911.  The operator dispatched two ambulances from the Boetetourt County Volunteer Rescue Squad and a brush truck from the fire department.

Another rider and I handled traffic while the others tried to keep the injured rider as comfortable as possible until help arrived.  In the mountains we could hear the approaching sirens long before they arrived.

The rescue squad paramedics brought out a backboard and neck collar and moved quickly to get him into the ambulance and headed for Roanoke Memorial Hospital.  The injured rider was divorced with no immediate family in the area so two riders — both longtime friends — headed for the hospital while the four remaining riders — including myself — waited for the State Police to arrive.

As we looked at the path the injured rider took from the road into the ditch it appeared that a second’s inattention had led his bike off line. Riding a motorcycle requires constant attention — not only on the open road but especially so on twisty mountain roads.  Once he was out of line going into the turn he didn’t have enough road left to recover.

Damage to the bike — a $30,000 plus custom Harley dresser with a 120-cubic-inch V-Twin — appeared mostly cosmetic.  One of the group, who works on Harleys as a sideline, estimated the damage at around $7,000.

After giving statements to the State Trooper and helping load the damaged bike on the trailer.  We prepared to leave.  My bike was pointed in the wrong direction so I executed a slow U-Turn into the banked turn.  Unfortunately, I failed to account for the steepness of the banking of the turn and as I completed the turn, the engine guard of the bike scraped the pavement and lifted the front wheel off the ground.

My bike went down, pinning my right foot and leg beneath the 700-pound bike.  My friends rushed over and lifted the bike off me and my now sore foot and leg but any bruise to my leg was miniscule compared to the damage to my ego for making such a rookie mistake.  The engine guard did its job. No real damage to the bike.  I will have the sand down the corner of the guard and repaint it.  By morning, the soreness to my foot and leg were gone.

At Roanoke Memorial, doctors found our friend suffered a broken clavicle (collarbone) and lots of bruising but nothing more serious.  They sent him home later in the afternoon.  As we helped him into a waiting car he kept apologizing for “ruining our day.”

We told him he had nothing to apologize for.  He escaped serious injury and was going home.  His bike could be repaired.  He would live to ride another day.

I got home Saturday evening and emptied my pockets, finding the unfinished poker hand sheet for the run I never completed.

I had drawn two cards: An ace of spades and an ace of diamonds.

The start of a lucky hand…and the end of a not-so-lucky day that could have ended much worse.

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