Well, it finally happened. After riding for 44 years, and hundreds of thousands of miles cris-crossing this country, and with thousands of miles of night riding......I hit a deer on our trip to Sturgis. The good news is, neither Laura or I have a scratch on us....the bad news is that my faithful, long distance pounding '99 Road Glide (now officially re-named the Deer Glide) is fucked, to say the least. read on.........
Front forks and frame neck swayed over about 3" from the impact. I didn't know how fucked up the front end was until I was in Dave Price's garage after the accident. We rode this fucker 6 miles down Hwy.16 to his house in Rapid City!
It was Sunday night, Aug. 5th. We had done about 418 miles to the Black Hills, from Denver . We had stopped in Custer, SD for dinner, and it was starting to get dark. After dinner, we headed down 385/16 to Hill City, where we stopped to put on our leather jackets, because it gets cold along that stretch heading down to Rapid City. We were also both wearing our heavy boots, leather pants, gloves, and our helmets in addition to our leather jackets. By the time we left Hill City, it was completely dark. Anybody who's ever ridden the Black Hills at night will tell you how dark those hills are when the sun goes down.
We took the 16 Bypass out of Hill City, and were headed down 16N towards Rapid City. We passed Rockerville at about 9:00pm, and were on the steep, straight, 4 lane divided highway downhill stretch between Rockerville and the area at the bottom that has Lion Safari, Reptile Gardens, etc. We could see the lights from Rapid, but otherwise there was little traffic on 16, which kinda surprised me. It was really dark, and I was doing the speed limit - between 60-65mph.
We were cruising along, and literally, out of nowhere, a deer ran right in front of us! It happened pretty fast, but I know it was a doe Mule deer, about 200lbs, and her back was just about even with my windshield. I didn't have time to brake, and I guess I went into auto-pilot mode. Years ago, I was told that if you were in a bad situation, and you didn't know what to do, to hit the throttle. I remember pulling up on the left grip, pushing hard on the right grip, and hammering the throttle, then.......BAM! It was like somebody fired a 12 ga. when I hit that deer. Things were moving pretty fast, but I believe I hit her right between the rib cage and the tail.
When I hit her, everything on the bike went dead. Next thing I remember is coasting down the highway, no lights, in pitch blackness. Not a soul was on 16 near us when I hit her. Next thing I remember was saying to myself "FUCK! I'm still up, I'M STILL ROLLING!", and hearing the front tire making a zzzzzzt, zzzzzzt, zzzzzzt kinda sound. Laura was still on the back, and she leaned over my right, and calmly said "What happened to the bike?". I yelled "WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BIKE????? WE HIT A FUCKING DEER!". She said "WHAT????". She had no idea we hit the deer. Later Laura said she never saw the deer when I did, and she thought the chunks of the fairing that flew past her head on the left were bats, or a piece of a recapped tire in the road.
I pulled in the clutch, but I couldn't see the speedo, I think we were down to about 40 mph when I started to slowly ease the bike towards where I thought the shoulder of the road was. I could make out the white stripe on the shoulder, so I put my feet down and sorta glided along until I heard the rumble strip hit the tires, then I tried the front brakes, and the calipers worked. I sat there in total darkness for a couple seconds, collected my thoughts, put the kickstand down, and climbed off. I was pretty surprised to find myself pretty calm, I didn't get the shakes at all after we stopped. I looked back, and couldn't see the deer in the highway, or on the shoulder.
Left and right shots of the front fender. The fender was mashed in on both sides, and in the front, tight against the tire. I don't know why it didn't lock up completely, or puncture. Thanks Metzeler, for a superior tire!
After I got the bike stopped, and Laura off the back, I tried the 4-ways to see if they would flash, because it was dark, and I didn't want anybody asshole-ing me on the shoulder. I turned on the ignition switch, and the whole bike had electrical power again. When the driving lights blew out, they must have set off the main breaker (I wired the supply wire for the relay off the silver pole of the main breaker), and it had re-set itself again. Cool, I got lights! I checked for my cell phone, but when we collided, my glove box doors flew open, and the cell was in the R/H one. It wasn't anymore. I couldn't find it, couldn't call the S. Dakota Highway Patrol to report the accident, or get help from anybody.
Right then, three guys (one of whom turned out to have his office about 5 min. from my house!) on bikes coming down saw the flashers, and stopped. They turned their bikes around so we'd have light. I pulled up on the front of the fender, two of the guys pulled on the sides, and we got the front wheel freed up. I didn't see any damage or cuts on the tire. I tried the starter, and it fired. I got out my tool kit, and wire-tied my left blinker (that still worked) back in place, and tried my front brake again. They asked me "Are you going to ride this down? Are you sure?". I told them let me try it on the shoulder, and if it feels OK, I'll go for it, because we only had 6 miles or so to go, to get to Dave Price's place in Rapid. We were staying with Dave, he was putting us up for the time we were there.
They got out on 16 behind me, and I put Laura on the back, and I got it up to about 30mph, and it felt good. I got on to 16 itself, and got it up to 40, then 50mph, and we were on our way down to Rapid City again. Those guys followed me down to where I needed to turn to Dave Price's house, and they honked and waved "so long". I never got those guy's names, but thank you for all of your help! Who says bikers don't stop to help out anymore?
When we got to Dave's, he and his girl DJ were in Sturgis, but they left the house open, and Dave had told me to put the bike up in the garage. I did, then called the SDHP to report the accident.30 min. later, a very cool SDHP pulled up at Dave's house, and had me sit in his car while we did the report. About 10 min. after the SDHP left, Dave and DJ showed up. They both couldn't believe what happened, and there was hugs and tears (just the girls, OK?) all-around. Dave loaned me his truck, and we were able to get around Rapid and Sturgis for what we wanted to do, and really enjoy ourselves. And, we all went to Michael Lichter's VIP reception at the Buffalo Chip on Tues. night, and had a blast. Dave and DJ were super hosts, and did so much for us while we stayed with them. It's gotta be right up there with the best times I've ever had in Sturgis.
Shattered inner and outer fairing, busted driving lights, and bent crashbar.
Well, State Farm Insurance doesn't offer travel or lodging expenses in their motorcycle coverage for accidents. So, here we are, 400-odd miles from home, low on funds, and no way to get my motorcycle (or us) back home again. Dave Price (and several others, including Part-timer Steve's Dad, who offered to haul us and the bike to Denver before he went back to Wisconsin) offered to haul my bike, and us back home, but Dave stepped up big-time. He matter-of-factly said "Here's what we'll do, we'll load your bike in my truck, you can drive my truck back home, and then one of my guys will bring it back....". I was truly touched by his generosity. He gave me his "top of the line" 2011 GMC Sierra to go back home again with my bike, and filled up the tank with fuel before we left.
Dave and DJ, if you're reading this, there is no way I can ever say thank you enough, or ever repay your compassion or generosity both after the accident, our time spent with you during Sturgis, and helping us get back to Denver. It is something I'll never forget. Thank you both from the bottom of our hearts!
Left Crashbar bent almost to the floorboard. You know these are 1 1/8" dia. x 3/16" wall tubing, right?
Let me say a couple things before I close....I never wear a helmet, unless I'm in a State that requires them. Right before we left for Sturgis, I was getting the bike loaded, and I passed my helmet hanging up, on the way through the garage. I don't know why, but I looked at it, and said to myself "I'm wearing my helmet", and I put it on. Colorado, Wyoming, and South. Dakota don't require helmets for adults, and I have never worn a helmet to Sturgis on the 26 trips in 30 years I've made to there. I did this time. You know what else? Part-timer Steve did exactly the same thing I did when he passed his before he left, and we hadn't spoken about wearing helmets to each other beforehand.
The other thing is, there's no way I or my wife should have made it through this without a scratch. Every person I know that has hit a deer or some other large animal has gone down hard, and has suffered some extensive physical damage, or has died as the result of the collision. I'm no Jehovey Roller by any means, but I am a spiritual person, and I believe that there is a God, and I pray nightly. I also believe when your time is up, your time is up. I believe that God didn't think my time down here was up, and I've still got things that need to be accomplished. That's the only conclusion I can draw from this whole thing. You can agree with me or not, or call me superstitious, or I was just "lucky", or whatever..........but that's what I believe. And, it sure feels good to be able to sit here, and type this whole story out, believe me.