Beth 'pidge' Flanagan's blog. Open source queer.

Live to Ride.

I didn’t learn how to ride a bicycle until I was 13.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. I did. I just had the worst coordination and my step-grandfather was not the best teacher. My father and mother didn’t have the time or desire to teach their eldest weirdo kid how to ride a bike, so I just never learned until one day, I decided to teach myself. I got a lot of cuts and bruises but I did figure it out. I was never a strong rider, but I was a constant one.

I’m sure it shocked my parents when I went and got my motorcycle license at 19 and then went to the local motorcycle shop and bought myself a wicked fast bike. An 80cc Honda Elite. Let the laughter commence. 80ccs of rubber burning torque monster, it was the silliest thing ever but I rode the living daylights out of it.

I know, you’re laughing right now, but seriously, I went the entire length of Delaware on that thing in 3.5 hours, getting a ticket for blowing a red light in Salem. I drove it all the hell over on rodes I really had not right going 40mph full throttle on.

And while my love affair with that blue plastic POS ended after only 2 years, my love of of two wheeled motorised vehicles has remained with me to this day. From my ’59 Vespa VNA to my ’81 Yamaha Seca, each bike has tried me in new ways. The Seca’s shite electrics. The Honda Shadows leaky water pump. The Vespa’s carb that I could not for the life of me get to tune in for more than a week. I’ve always loved motorbikes and I fully plan of riding every day until I die at 80…. mph.

After spending 4 solid weeks under the Shadow a few years back I finally gave up and did something I never thought I’d do. I bought a new motorcycle.


That, my friends, is the only bike I have ever truly loved. Know how I know?

When it’s pouring rain out and cold, even though I had the car, I still put on my rain gear and rode.
When I had to go visit a friend, 800 miles away, even though I could have flown, I rode (in 18 hours, on a new seat. OUCH!)
When she blew a fuse that took me and two friends 6 hours to finally find, I still loved her.

And this last September, when I low ended on a wet, oily switchback road and was left in a wheelchair for close to 3 months, I promised myself I’d get on her again.

Yeah. It was stupid. I was coming down Germantown road and at the first big switchback, slowed down and moved to the outside to get ready for the turn. Drop a gear. Put foot under the selector to gear up after I’m out of the turn. Start to lean. JUUUUST as my back tired hits the bit of fallen leaves covering the pool of oil and water.

The bike dropped on me and with my foot stuck under the selector it took me about 20 feet. But in that 20 feet I ended up:

  • breaking my tibia
  • breaking three ribs
  • giving myself a lovely rolando fracture in my thumb
  • chipped my fibula
  • and a bit of crush impact on my femur
  • broken collarbone

I didn’t even realise I was a mess. I tried standing up. No dice. The motorcyclist behind me, whose name I never got, did the nicest thing ever. I got my helmet face open and asked him to get my Langlitz jacket off. Now, I don’t do commercial adverts or anything, but that jacket saved my skin and I was going to be damned if I let a paramedic cut it off.

Off came the gloves. I looked at my right hand, with my thumb broken over next to my pinky. “Hrmm. I think that’s broken…” and he slipped me out of my jacket.
The paramedics came and got me to the hospital. Thank goodness for lots of excellent drugs because the pain kicked in and it was bad.

All told, I was in trauma for a week. If you’ve ever been in trauma, it’s kinda shitty. Like, I knew I was bad, three surgeries bad, but the other folks on that floor were in a way worse place than I was. I think all told, the bill was somewhere around $130,000. The damage to the bike? About 200 bucks worth of parts.

Here is what I want to talk about though. Not about motorcycles. But about family.

I have no family I talk to anymore. I want nothing to do with them and the feeling I’m sure is mutual. And that’s great most of the time. But, now I’m in a trauma ward. And on top of that, I’m prepping for a move out of country. And not days earlier, I had just sold my house. So, I’m in hospital, I won’t be 100% any time soon, but I have a house to cleanup, packing to do, and no idea how I’m going to do it. Hell, I wasn’t even sure I’d be going home after I got out of hospital.

And then something happened and to this day I actually cry about it when I think about it. I don’t remember a lot about that week in trauma or the weeks after. The amount of morphine I was on absolutely made everything in time blurry. It’s *still* a bit blurry. Sometimes I remember stuff and then forget it. Sometimes I think I remember stuff but I’m not sure. But I do remember my adopted baby sister, Katrina, coming in and telling me not to worry, that the house was being taken care of.

See, I’m still a little not solid on the details of who did what etc. But this much I know. Katrina, my friends and co-workers John, Terri, Sarah, Darren, Matty and I think a bunch of others (Honestly, I was in trauma when this was happening so I have no idea who else was there and I feel bad that I don’t know.) went and packed my shit up and moved it all to my friend Sarah and Jamies house. And when I got out, they moved me to their house (Ok, when I first got out I convinced Matty that it would be a GREAT idea if we popped down to the Fixin’ To for a quick one. NOT MY BRIGHTEST MOMENT!)

All told, I was in a wheelchair from October to late December. I literally was walking unassisted for a whole of 4 days before I got on a plane to move to Ireland. And through all of the chaos, all of the drugs, all of the pain and everything. I never got to tell the folks who helped me out so damn much how much what they did meant to me. I don’t even know how to express that not because I don’t know how to say “Thank you” but how do you say “Thank you” for something so big?

I ride because it makes me sane. It clears my head. It allows me to feel a sense of freedom. It’s my 900cc therapy. When you are heading down I-5 at a speed that certainly isn’t legal, all of the bullshit that is in your head, all of your distractions, it gets the hell out or you turn into a wet smear on the asphalt. You are focused on nothing but the next quarter mile that will pass you buy at 9 seconds or so.

I am grateful for my ability to ride and frankly, the only way I’m going to stop riding is when I am physically not able to. But the thing I am most grateful for, is that riding and crashing has taught me so much more than I ever expected it to. It taught me how it’s ok to accept help. How to rely on others. How the difference between life and death is a thin as a pile of leaves and some motor oil on the rode. How I have really excellent people in my life and even though I am 5000 miles away from some of those people, I will always love them for the kindness they showed me.

So yes. I still love my motorcycle even after all the hurt and pain it has caused me, but it has taught me to love my friends even more. Thank you folks. ❤

One response to “Live to Ride.

  1. threekidsandi July 26, 2015 at 5:58 PM

    I am so sorry for your accident, but delighted you have such wonderful people in your life who got a chance to show you how much they care.

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