This article was originally printed in the Moto Guzzi National Owners Club monthly newsletter.

My Most Exciting Three Seconds, by Richard DeBeau-Melting

My eleventh grade physics teacher taught us, at 60 miles per hour one moves down the road at 88 feet per second. So this morning when the 87 year old gentleman driving the to look left when he elected to turn left onto the highway from a county road to my right, I had roughly three seconds to do what I could to avoid a very nasty outcome. I estimate I was about 80 yards from the intersection when he moved on to the highway in front of me. I was aware he was there as I had seen him approach the intersection and stop about 200 yards, or eight seconds, in front of me. I had covered the front brake lever with a couple of fingers, just in case. I watched to see what the Dodge was going to do, I did not make a plan for what was going to happen in five more seconds, so that was part of the agenda for the first second.

The very first thing I thought to myself was, "Oh (expletive) he is coming out." That only took about half a second. This task completed, I moved my attention to the options for trajectory. Option one, attempting to go around in front of him had only a small probability of success because he was moving forward, albeit ever so slowly (compared to the Guzzi and me). There might be traffic coming from in the opposite direction and I felt reluctant to accept additional risks at this point.

Option two was to go around behind him and was almost as uninviting as there were several traffic signs, including a stop sign, to dodge. In addition the intersection was curbed due to the recent addition of a rest stop and the curb represented an additional hazard.

This left option three, aim straight ahead and concentrate on the next item on the agenda, stopping. With about two and a half-seconds remaining, I applied the binders to the LeMans. I was pleased with myself for having adjusted the brakes within the last 500 miles so they were ready to do their part.

Earlier in the week, I had read a comparison of stopping distances of various bikes and they all ranged in the 110 feet vicinity. Judging by those results, I have much to learn about stopping. My distance was now about 180 feet. I was pleased to note that the front of the Guzzi was pointed sharply down to the road and digging in the front wheel was squealing which I assume notified the Dodge driver of my existence because he came to a stop exactly covering the lane I was in. The rear of the bike started to move around to my right and gain on the front. I thought linked brakes were supposed to prevent that.

With about a second and 30 feet left in my journey, I decided that I was going to survive but that I was probably not going to stop before I hit the Dodge. I began to worry about my pals riding along behind. We were on one of our favorite rides, around Lake Pepin on the Mississippi. We had just started after a brief stop at a scenic overlook to watch the sailboats on the lake. It is so beautiful there that it is easy for one to forget what he is doing and stare off across the lake for a few seconds as one goes down the road. I hoped that this was not happening to one of them at the moment or the messiness index could go back to maximum quickly.

The impact occurred at about fifteen miles an hour with the front wheel of the Le Mans, now nearly overtaken by the rear, the left front tire of the Dodge became our target. The right side of the bike and my right leg became the hammer.

A half second later, the impact with the Dodge's tire resulted in a rapid rebound of the Guzzi to the left and onto the road. Since most of my mass was above the impact site, I was obliged to release my grip on the bike and become for a brief period of time, a missile whose trajectory took me over the scenic route of the Dodge's hood. This was a nonstop flight to the tarmac in front of the car whereupon I executed my best ever, tuck and roll. Being at once pleased that the Dodge was stationary, and displeased that there had been no shortage of traffic from the opposite direction so far this morning, I decided that it would be good to spend only a little time sitting there complaining about how unfair all this was.

I quickly removed myself from the road, pleased that I could, and ran to the LeMans to right it and check for damage. My riding buddies, who were about 100 yards behind me and had not been gazing across the river, arrived to lend a hand. David rode into town to notify the authorities and Stan helped me locate precious Guzzi parts from the road. Both mufflers were banged up, the right side from the Dodge and the left from the road. Both left-turn signals were smashed, the left side engine guard was damaged which saved the engine from any damage and there was a dent in the gas tank on the right side the result of either my knee or some errant car part.

The fact that a 54-year old guy who is at least 25 pounds over weight could jump up and run to his beloved to save battery acid and gasoline being spilled on precious finish is a result of much protection. I sometimes fear I risk geekhood on warm days (this was the 4th of July and the temperatures were predicted to hit the mid-nineties by the end of my ride). At 11:15 A.M. it was already in the upper 80s, and none of the bikers I had met had my level of coverage. I was wearing the obligatory full-face helmet, boots, gloves, Kevlar reinforced jeans and nylon mesh jacket with armor.

The helmet, worn only three times before, has a series of dings and scratches across the front and the back. Looks like my tarmac landing was not quite as I thought. One finger of the left glove was worn through completely, and the left boot had a deep cut across the toe and a major gouge in the heel. After the initial adrenaline dissipated, I discovered a cut and large six inch bruise on my right shin, (remember the hammer?) The Kevlar pads in the jeans had not absorbed all of the impact, but I am confident that this was a result of my shin impacting the Dodge's fender bottom and would have resulted in lots of stitches had I not been covered.

Had I been dressed in sneakers and tank top like most of the 30 or 40 riders we saw on their Harleys and Gold Wings as we filled out reports for the next hour, I would have needed the services of the EMTs who arrived on the scene upon receiving the report of the accident. They made use of their training and taped up my rear turn signals for my ride home. My friends elected me permanent point man since I am both armored and lucky. Well... maybe not.

Return to previous page