Bear vs Motorcycle

Day 7 began pretty much the same as the first six days of this road trip. Only on THIS day, my wife Robin was with me.

The night before, Robin had boarded an airplane in Costa Mesa, CA and flew to Seattle, WA. This was our Anniversary Weekend; thirty-three years married. What better way to celebrate our relationship than to spend a few days together riding a motorcycle?

It is NO SECRET that I married UP. Robin is far more woman than I deserve. I am indeed a blessed man.

It was great to have her on the bike with me once again.

Our first day of riding was a simple, 120 mile jaunt up Hwy 101 to Port Angeles, WA. After settling into our hotel, I made a quick reservation, and then together, we headed down to the waterfront, to enjoy a nice meal with a view, along the pristine shoreline waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Our evening ended as one would hope. After a little bit of shenanigans, we hit the sack, eager to enjoy a good nights rest in preparation for a full day of riding together in the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Ocean Shores or Bust. With a hearty breakfast of maple-cinnamon waffles and fruit now in our stomach, the road beckoned for our attention.

190 miles was on the docket.

With a predictable lower speed limit, I calculated that this mileage amounted to about five hours of riding. Add in a couple of spontaneous stops; and what you end up with is a glorious recipe for anniversary happiness.

The morning started out as planned. The weather was cool; the blacktop moderately dry; and the traffic was decently light for a Saturday morning.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. In the world of motorcycle riding, the prudent rider will often rehearse in their mind what they will do in certain road scenarios. Preparation is critical for life-safety. It proved true today.

  • IF a car pulls out in front of me from a side street, what will I do?
  • IF a deer jumps into my path, what will I do?
  • IF a bridge ahead of me is washed out or an earthquake opens up a huge gash in the road, how will I respond?

You get the picture.

Preparing for “what will I do” scenarios could mean the difference between life and death; or at the very least, help minimize serious injury.

At the end of the day though, a biker’s safety ULTIMATELY lies in the hands of our Creator. As the Proverb writer pens, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31).

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

In Southern California, bears are not an abundant resource. Over the thousands of miles I have traveled, I have had multiple encounters with deer, racoons, gophers, pheasants, and even a bobcat along the side of the road.

In all my moto preparations, however, NOT ONCE did I EVER consider a scenario where a BEAR is involved.

My bad.

Won’t make that mistake again.

Who DOESN’T love berries?

The Olympic National Park has narrow roads which are LINED with lush, berry bushes. Raspberries bushes are everywhere. Early into our riding day, I stopped and parked the bike, just so I could sample some of the overly-abundant, God-made, organic fruit.

It never dawned on me that such a fruit delicacy would also prove to be an attractant for various forms of wildlife. Had I done my research, I would have learned that deer AND black bears propagate in abundance in this habitat. The female bears range in size from 100-400 lbs. The male bears generally tip the scale between 250-600 lbs.

I suppose if one is going to be doing a lot of motorcycle riding on the West Coast in the Pacific NW, running a “what IF” scenario that involves a black bear eating berries in the ditch might be prudent.

Oops. Missed that one.

Our conversation was fluid. Our headset of choice is made by a company called SENA. With Bluetooth technology, we can talk to each other, take phone calls, listen to music, send a text message, or ask GOOGLE for directions.

Pretty slick.

The smell of evergreen pine trees and coastal waters filled our nostrils. As we cruised the back roads of Highway 112, 113, and then onto Coast Highway 101, Robin and I breathed in deep the fragrant creation that God has made.

Life is indeed a gift.

And then . . . THERE HE WAS!

About 20 yards in front of me, from out of the left ditch, a black bear bolted onto the road. He had easily taken three full galloping strides (do bears gallop?) before the word “BEAR” materialized on my lips and into our headset.

“BEAR” I screamed as I instinctively down-shifted from fifth gear into fourth. The speed limit was 50 mph and I was running right at that number.

Robin responded “WHAT?”

In those few split seconds, between my first warning scream and Robin’s query, the bear had taken two more complete strides; moving his big, black body now into the center of the narrow road.

Even in the drama of the increasingly dangerous situation, I found myself somewhat mesmerized by the beauty and gallantry of the bears fluid stride.

How can a creature so big move so smooth? Words to describe the artistry of his motions are hard to find.

The green, vibrant vegetation, served as a magical backdrop to his stealth black body, accentuating his brown snout. It really is amazing what details the mind can capture in just a few seconds of chaos. Although the entire unfolding story lasted but a few moments, the entire drama had an overarching elegance and dreamy pageantry to it.

Bears really are a cool creature.

God you did good.

On our right was a steep ditch. Fortunately there was no metal guard rail to contend with.

Things were looking up.

The edge of the pavement had a sharp drop-off, which was lined with small rocks connecting almost seamlessly into the dense, forest shrubbery.

It all happened so fast but it seems like at the moment I shifted from 5th gear into 4th, with the added noise of the gears grinding into a slower turn, the bear lifted his head TOWARD the noise of our bike.

The body will ALWAYS follow the head. Every motorcycle rider learns this. So not surprisingly, the bear was now running AT us!

Another full “gallop” stride was now made. Have I mentioned already how majestic these black monsters look when running at top speed?

The gap between bear and motorcycle shortened to a few yards.

In a last ditch effort to avoid a collision, intuitively and likely with a little Divine help, I aimed our bike toward the right edge of the road. In doing so, without intent, I actually created MORE space between the front, left fairing and the engine guard.

Picture in your mind the “chicken dance.” You know, that goofy dance that you do at a wedding party after you’ve had a belt or two down the ‘ole gullet.

When you lift your left elbow to the sky it actually creates more space under your armpit. This is a crude analogy, although I DO enjoy wedding dances, but one that provides a word picture into why, I think, the bear missed our front fork, blinker, and upper wind reflector. S/he ran UNDER it and is likely one of the reasons we are alive today to tell this tale.

As I turned the handlebars away from the bear, simultaneously I throttled UP, increasing our speed. I hoped that maybe I might be able to somehow get around and/or in front of him.

No such luck.

In a blur of color, focus, and sound…the inevitable happened.

Bear meets motorcycle. Motorcycle meets bear.

As I felt and heard his black, furry body VIOLENTLY SLAM into the left front of our motorcycle, the events that took place in the next few seconds are all sporadic.

I remember hearing the unwelcome sound of destructive carnage: plastic, metal, bone, and flesh all being meshed into one.

I remember feeling the bears body hit my leg; thereby slamming my left knee into the side of the gas tank. Ouch. THAT is going to leave a mark.

I remember feeling a softness of flesh up against my Dainese Latimar leather motorcycle boot and upper shin. It felt like someone’s soft stomach was being pushed into my leg.

I remember heading for the right ditch in one moment but suddenly having the bike being “thrown” back left, onto the road, in the next moment. I believe that the weight of the bear slamming into the side of our bike actually helped us stay ON the road; in sort of a counter-balance action.

Along with the help of our Guardian angels, of course.

I remember gripping the handlebars with all my might; focusing hard on keeping our bike OUT of the ditch and upright on two wheels; the frame and front end rattling side-to-side with tremendous energy.

I remember looking into my left mirror and seeing pieces of our motorcycle being sprayed into the roadway; taking on the appearance of white and black pieces of shrapnel.

I remember Robin screaming “What did we hit?” as I was still trying to thread the edge of the road with our Pirelli tires; like a tightrope walker on a thin cord.

I remember trying to down-shift into lower gears to slow our speed but being unable to. Little did I know that my foot pedal had been bent upwards 90 degrees, like the letter “L.” Unbeknownst to me, the highway bar/engine guard had taken the brunt of the blow and was now eight inches pushed backward; smashing into and restricting my gear shifting capabilities.

The bend of the bar was just below the weld at the frame. Amazing that the weld held. For those of you who are good with math and physics, I’d love to hear your take on the inertia and force component.

After further inspection, it appears that the bears HEAD hit the left front-underside of the gas tank; leaving a sizeable indentation. No leaks so far.

Better the tank than my leg, THAT’S for sure!

I remember seeing my phone go flying over the top of the gas tank, in slow motion, as it soared through the air into the dense, ditch brush. Brian, I guess the Klockwerks iomount can only do so much. Ha.

By the time I got the bike stopped, the bear was no-where to be seen.

Amazingly we were still upright and NOT skidding down the asphalt on our side or sprawling headlong into the ditch.

I can’t believe my leg isn’t broken” I thought as I began to run back up the side of the road toward the spot of contact.

I can’t believe that we are OK” I thought, as I hastily looked for my cell phone while thinking about all the information I would lose if I didn’t find it.

In my stereo headset, I could hear Robin asking me all sorts of frantic questions. She was obviously confused.

So was I.

Here we were on a destination weekend, celebrating our 33rd wedding anniversary, but rather than stop and see if my wife was hurt, I am busting my rattled ass back up the road to find a bear.

This husband stuff can be complicated at times. I hope I get a hall pass on this one.

And then I FOUND HIM.

“I killed him,” I screamed into our headset.

“Killed what?” Robin asked. “The BEAR. I killed the bear we just hit.”

To be fair, Robin did not see (until later) the bear. Prior to the collision, she had been looking at and enjoying the gorgeous landscape on our right.

Upon hearing AND feeling the bike jolt, as she now watched our bike heading toward the ditch, her NEW focus instantly shifted to us staying OUT of the ditch.

Smart woman.

I am no expert on bears even though this was not my first rodeo with one. I was once dragged by a bear while backpacking in the California High Sierra’s.

But THAT is another story for another time. And I am NOT talking about the guy pictured here (Bob Fenton) on the left who DOES resemble a black bear a tad bit.

From the photos I took and from the input of those that saw the bear laying in the ditch, this bad boy likely weighed in at about 200 pounds. If you ask me, that is BIG ENOUGH.

Upon first contact, the bear was completely spread out with his head and face down. With the bear apparently dead, Robin tried to flag down traffic to solicit some help.

Chuck and Susan Boyd were the first to arrive and stop on the scene. Chuck is a retired Veteran and proud of it.

For the next two and one-half hours, Chuck and Susie stayed with us. Thereby reinforcing the truth that there are still good Samaritans in this world.

Upon first encounter, Susie said to me, “Of all the days we go out WITHOUT our pistol, today is the day.”

Got to love gun-toting retirees.

God bless America.

On the left side of the road was a small patch of ground that was wide enough for me to park our bike. At Susie’s suggestion, I flipped a SLOW U-turn, managing to get the bike off the blacktop. Chuck then pulled up behind me, using his JEEP as a temporary, makeshift blockade.

It is a good thing that Chuck and Susie weren’t packing that pistol of theirs. Because twenty-five minutes later Mr. Bear decided to wake up. Apparently, we had only knocked him out.

I still had not located my cell phone in the brush. Wanting to take a quick picture, I grabbed my Canon camera, and ran back up the road for a quick photo-op.

Full disclosure, I had ZERO interest in getting too close for fear of what a second encounter might involve. In hindsight, I wished I would have risked taking a few more pictures.

After enjoying his short “nap,” Mr. Bear gingerly lumbered up onto all fours, took a large crap, then sauntered his bruised body back into the forest; likely with one serious headache.

Klockwerks President & Visionary Brian Klock said that I “scared the s#~t out of the bear.”

The feeling was mutual.

Before long, we had company.

“Did you buy a lottery ticket today?” asked the State Trooper assisting us on scene (1 of 2 officers that helped us).

“You folks faired better than 99.9% of the people I have seen in my career who have tangled with an animal; and I have never seen or heard of a motorcyclist hitting a bear and walking away unscathed.”

The first name of this professional First Responder is Alan. I seem to remember his last name as Nelson; but I’m not sure. We somehow lost his business card with contact info on it in the aftermath of the ordeal.

If someone recognizes him and feels so inclined to send me his contact info, I would greatly appreciate it. And if you know him personally, please be sure to give him another hug from Robin and me. His support was both needed and appreciated.

For the next two and a-half hours I worked on the bike; trying to untangle metal and plastic from the frame. On several occasions I was encouraged to call AAA for a tow into town.

But isn’t this one of the reasons WHY we bikers wrench on our bikes? If we are stranded somewhere in the back frontier, we’ve got to “chopper up.”

Chuck and Susie offered us a place to stay at their home in Forks if we needed it. Wow; such kindness.

But isn’t Forks the town with Vampires? Hmmm, perhaps another day. Thanks though.

To make a long BLOG longer, after a quick test run, swapping contact information and extending heartfelt hugs, Robin and I re-mounted our bike. Once again, our Anniversary road trip was back on track (minus a few motorcycle parts).

State Trooper Alan followed us for a mile or so until I gave him the thumbs up that everything seemed to be in order. Thanks again Alan. (Sorry if I misspelled your name).

We arrived without further incident at our lodging for the night. And THAT is good news because we both had had our fill of excitement for the day.

I want to give a quick “shout out” to a few people as I bring this to a close.

  • Robin Decker: my wife, best friend, and motorcycle riding partner. Thank you for keeping your “stuff” together and for your courage to get back on a ravaged bike with me. Happy Anniversary!
  • Chuck and Susan Boyd: your love of Country and her people are inspiring. Thank you.
  • Washington State Highway Patrol: your professionalism and “family” treatment was strongly felt.
  • Klockwerks: your flare windshield offers incredible handling capacity and bike stability. I love, love, love your products.
  • Pirelli tires: you make amazing tred.
  • Harley Davidson: the touchscreen gloves I wear have your brand on it. They did the job for this bear adventure; performing as you would want. Thank you for helping keep my wife and I safe and upright.
  • Dainese: Robin and I LOVE your boots. Our feet and ankles came away unscathed. Your Italian brand is tough to beat in comfort AND protection.
  • Polaris: although you no longer make Victory motorcycles, having chosen instead to focus on the Indian brand, this Cross Country Tour bike is amazing. The strength and engineering of the bike helped keep my bride and I alive and with all our skin and bones intact. Keep up the great work.
  • Palm Harvest Church family: your ongoing prayers for safety and refreshment are being answered. God is obviously providing us with both.
  • Our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus who has not only saved me (and you) from our sins (John 3:16-17) but also kept Robin and I free from injury on this latest wildlife excursion.
  • God is good. I guess He is not done with us yet here on earth. I’m OK with that.

One final note: Worldmark Ocean Shores, WA is a beautiful venue that sits on the beach of the Pacific Ocean. Even Santa’s deer seem to love it.

Come to think of it, doesn’t Chuck look a little bit like Santa Claus? Hmmm.

Have you been Naughty or Nice this year?

Thanks for taking this moto ride with me.

My next post will be dedicated to Angelo Moore and his C & A Customs team out of Tacoma, WA for their help and expertise in getting me and my bike back on the road touring safely.

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5 thoughts on “Bear vs Motorcycle

  1. We called Chuck, Santa Chuck and for good reason as he plays Santa every year at many events. He is a good man. If he mentioned on of his PGR brothers had a Victory XCT that would be me. Glad the bear hit wasn’t any worse.

  2. Mike I love your positive outlook and love of life. We need to go on a High Sierra adventure. How about the High Sierra trail? Westside to the Eastside.

  3. Mike, my guess is that a bear against a bike is better than a shark against a surfer! Glad to hear you and Robin came out like champs. God is good!

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