February 3, 2014

Follow the Leader

The Tecate Divide doesn't sound like such a cold place, but don't let the name fool you.

"Why should I take two pairs of gloves? I always pack too much crap. No rain in the forecast. . . these mesh gloves are fine," I told myself.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

With temps down in the low 40's (F) at 4,140 ft. elevation, The Tecate Divide demanded winter gloves. I looked over at Highway and deeply coveted his black, waterproof, lined Alpine Stars. Once we reached the eastern side on our ride from San Diego to Yuma, I was overcome with gratitude for the 60 degree temps. My hope was that the weather would warm up before our return trip.

After a few great days relaxing in Yuma, we mounted up and headed to my least favorite store, WalMart. Cold weather will push a person to some extreme things, I suppose. Not only had I left behind my warm gloves, but my rain gear as well. Highway had just checked and a storm was stretched from El Centro all the way to San Diego, over 120 miles long, and exactly where we were headed. So off to WalMart we went to improvise and adapt.

I hated the idea of being cheap, but I wasn't going to drop $150 at the Harley dealership for gear I only needed once and wouldn't wear again. And it turned out that Wally World had a few things we could use. Some camouflage, waterproof, fleece lined pants, a few packs of Hot Hands, rubber gloves (to work as glove liners in case of rain) and a sauna suit. If we did indeed hit a storm, Highway would wear the sauna pants over his jeans and I would wear the sauna top under my leather jacket. I donned my new camo pants, we hopped on Interstate 8 and headed west, back toward San Diego. We agreed to stop in El Centro for fuel, lunch and, if the need arose, to change into the rubber gloves/sauna/rain gear.

Scarfing lunch, filling our tanks and checking the weather, we were ready to hit that last stretch. The sun was shining and the weather radar indicated the storm had passed, so we both decided against the "rain gear" and hit the Interstate again. As we merged into the lanes, the smell of gasoline overwhelmed me. I looked down to see gas leaking from my gas cap, spraying all over me. I slammed my hand on the cap, passed Highway to get his attention and pulled the bike onto the shoulder. We stopped at an opening of an offramp, off to the right shoulder, out of danger. While tightening the cap he assured me that he had perhaps overfilled it, but I would be fine now.

He mounted his bike and began to pull back onto the Interstate. I saw him pass me, looked back over my left shoulder, throttled my bike to take off and realized he was stopped right in front of me. Screaming, I ran right into the back of his bike. Somehow I managed to keep from hitting him straight on, veering to my right but still keeping my V*Star upright.

Squeezing the clutch and front brake, I felt a slight impact, banged my elbow on his trunk, twisted my left knee as I threw it on the ground to keep the from dropping, mashing the rear brake and then slamming my right foot down with a BANG!

Then the screaming a sobbing began.

I'm ashamed that I reacted so badly, but I was utterly terrified. My mind was racing with the possibility that I could have hurt him. I was sure if I had hit him hard, he would have been pushed into the lanes and hit by oncoming traffic. It was that thought that flooded my senses and caused me to start shouting. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to articulate what my fears were, but I spewed accusations at him, blaming him for the whole thing. When I regained myself, we both just started the bikes again and took off.

20 miles later I pulled past him, motioned to him, and pulled over, yet again. He reluctantly lumbered to my bike, most likely expecting another outburst, as I flipped open my helmet.

"I'm so sorry!!" I bawled. "I was so afraid I would hurt you!!"

Explaining my fear, he patted my back and gave me hugs. There we sat on the roadside, in the middle of nowhere, as I fell completely apart. Highway understood my fear, reassured me, and offered to help in any way he could. After a few minutes I looked into his eyes and asked for only one thing.

"Take me home now, please?"

I will follow him anywhere. Perhaps in the future though, I won't follow so closely.

My turn signals will need to be adjusted now, but that's the only thing that hit Blackbird. Amazingly, they both work fine.

Blackbird's only damage sustained is a large scratch on her right sidebag from my turn signals 



  1. Yes, I have followed other people, but somehow I usually end up being followed rather than the other way around. Thus far no one has hit me from behind and I've not dinged anyone other than a playful tire bang at a stop light.

    Cheer up! We all make silly mistakes once in a while. The good news is yours didn't result in going off a cliff or slamming into the back of a passenger car.

  2. Considering everything, Sash did a good job at minimizing the collision and keeping from losing control of her bike.

  3. Shit happens sometimes whether we want it to or not. It sounds as though you handled the impending rubbing of paint well and minimized the damage. Your skills took over and that is a good thing.

    Glad neither of you are hurt. Bikes can always be fixed.

  4. Tina:

    so glad all is right with the world

    BUT where are the photos of you wearing all that Walmart Stuff ?

    This sort of happened to me too. My riding buddy Sonja and myself were in Astoria, Oregon and she pulled over so we could discuss where to go. We were looking for a specialty shop. It was along the main highway with a very narrow shoulder by the curb. I pulled behind and motioned that we should ride into the parking lot where it would be safer.

    I was behind and I pulled around to pass her and lead the way to the parking lot EXCEPT that because we both had wide sidecases, I didn't leave enough room when I throttled and my right case HIT her left case and nearly pushed her over but luckily it was away from the traffic, and she managed to keep her bike upright.

    I still have the scratch on my sidecase and when I see it, it brings back the memories.
    Of course no one knows about this except you, Sonja and me

    Riding the Wet Coast

  5. Tina, sounds like you actually handled things pretty well...you avoided hitting him straight-on, you maintained control and didn't drop your bike, and Steve was able to keep his bike upright as well. You both lived to ride another day...it was a learning experience.

    I'm glad you're both okay!

    Live free. Ride hard. Be Happy

  6. Thanks All! It was a sobering experience, but another lesson in the roads of motorcycling, huh?

    Bob, I actually love the pants and the hot hands, but we haven't tried the sauna suit or the rubber gloves yet! Ha ha ha! Hey, but when worse comes to worse. . . I have no shame when I'm freezing.

    I've had a few incidents lately where I kept my Gracie upright when I might have dropped a taller bike. Now I rethinking my decision to trade her in. . . . .


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