BUS YOU DON'T SEE THAT KILLS YOU - NOT THE ONE YOU DO!
Once upon a time in Mexico there was a happy go lucky
gringo on a motorcycle and a sleepy Mexican bus driver. Touring through
the central Mexican mountains on a motorcycle with your buddy is one of
the most rewarding things one can experience, culturally and viscerally,
on a motorcycle. My amigo, Gregory, and myself were pollinating the small
villages and towns with poor Spanish and small gifts for the children such
as soccer balls and cheap digital watches, when we were violently reminded
of one of my grandfather's old sayings regarding safety: "It's the bullet
you don't see that kills you, not the one you do."
It was that faint echo in my mind just before I left
Austin, Texas that persuaded me to purchase a pair of Bohn Bodyguard
Adventure Pants. I was concerned about the sweltering heat through the
desert before getting to the cooler mountains. I was debating just wearing
jeans that I regularly pour cold water on to keep cool, or my zip and bake
leathers that turn your thighs into one of those turkey legs you buy at
the circus. I opted at the last minute for "Adventure Pants", the best
compromise ever created.
Cyclist, you know, the kind of morning I'm talking of: you
wake up and you're on vacation; that first cup of joe, the cool crisp
mountain air, sunrise on bikes waiting patiently outside and the perfect
swirling black ribbon of road disappearing into the middle of nowhere.
Gregory and I had just begun our journey at about 8:30am cruising at about
30mph and apparently the only souls for miles when we added another letter
to our list of "assumptions never to make in Mexico" such as; gas stations
will have gas, people will know where they live when shown a map, and most
recently, bus drivers are awake at the wheel.
(Proverbial statement alert!)
"I never knew what hit me."
One second I'm enjoying the view of expansive mesas,
breathtaking mountains and flower farms, (periodically wondering if all
this gear is necessary) the next second the world exploded. I now know
what it must have been like at the very beginning of time on a motorcycle
innocently riding by "The Big Bang". Witnesses were using phrases such as,
looked like superman, shot out of a cannon and marionette in a washing
Yes, you guessed it, I was struck from behind by
essentially a runaway bus. The bus driver had dozed off, causing the bus
to accelerate, according to witnesses, to approximately 80mph on a small
two-lane blacktop hill country road and hit the motorcycle with a sonic
boom. Knocked out instantly, I flew through the air striking the pavement
and tumbling apparently narrowly missing being run over by the rear
The next thing I remember was waking up face down in the
road, face mask destroyed, helmet cracked to he fiberglass in several
locations and my friend calling my name. It was like waking up as a
character in a Felini film. There was the crying old grandmother with the
rosary and road map face rubbing my hand, the small child with no shirt
pacing back and forth like a chicken in front of me, and this was all
taking place in a foreign language with no subtitles.
The bus driver, with a full complement of passengers
screaming for him to pull over, fled the scene. Farmers called the police
and the chase was on. The big white bus successfully outran the police,
having a larger engine and in much better condition. Fortunately, the
police set up road blocks and the driver was in custody a few hours later.
The journey to the hospital was approximately 60 miles and was filled with
tragic stories from farmers and doctors to the police who had all
experienced themselves or a loved one being struck by trucks of all shapes
and sizes. In fact, my driver had a friend hit by a chicken truck with bad
brakes that overturned on the same road. His friend recovered and their
families had chicken for months.
As for me, I definitely felt as if I was rode hard and
put away wet.
I escaped with essentially severe whiplash and an alien
looking impression on my lower back which confused the doctors but was
actually the outline of the tailbone protector. I was wearing Levis over
my Bohn Adventure Pants, and my legs were remarkably unscathed by the
accident however my buddy's knees looked as if Hannibal Lector had taken a
cheese grater to them - Pizza anyone? Sorry, I couldn't resist - jeans
just don't cut it when you are sliding down the pavement.
Amazed at the rash of accidents, I asked a few truck
drivers why they thought so many wrecks were occurring. They were
surprisingly open. Schedules that make it impossible to follow speed
limits, driving around the clock, and the mechanical condition of their
trucks. Complaining about any of these conditions meant instantly getting
fired. A lot of these drivers are good men who live in fear of killing
somebody every day. Even on my long bus ride back to Austin, Texas my
Mexican bus driver was struggling to stay awake. In my opinion, it's "The
Jungle" meets the "Robber barons" in Mexico. There is obviously an
epidemic problem in the Mexican trucking industry. There is no doubt in my
mind that tomorrow the sun will rise in the East and another Mexican truck
will run headlong out of control into whatever lies in its path. So what
is the moral of this story? Wear your motorcycle gear and buy your Mexican
bus driver a cappuccino.
(Riding a K1200 RS)