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Helmets make the difference

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- "It's too hot outside."

"I'm going right down the street."

"I've been riding for XX years. I'll be fine."

"The helmet messes up my hair."

"Loud pipes save lives."

While loud pipes may let people know you're there, proper gear saves lives. My gear saved my life Aug. 7. Around 8:00 a.m., I met up with 20 other sport bike riders from the local area. We planned a group ride out through the back roads to Stockton, Ala., and back. We hit the road and had a blast carving through some of the best twisty roads Florida and Alabama have to offer.

We turned down the last road of the day before turning around and returning home. This was a 10-mile dead end road with plenty of fun corners and long straights. A bridge was being replaced at the entrance of the road, so we rode over a temporary one that was covered in sand and red clay. Knowing this stuff was now all over my tires, I started to weave back and forth in the road to clean them off. After about a mile and half, I figured my tires were clean.

As I approached a long, sweeping left hand corner, I twisted the throttle and accelerated to 60 mph. I leaned over to my left until my knee was almost brushing the asphalt. Being leaned over so much, I started to encroach on the double yellow lines.

Mid-way through the corner, my tire clipped a three-inch wide, one-inch tall reflector between the two yellow lines.

At 60mph and leaned that far over, there was no saving it. The bike came out from under me and I knew it was over. My head hit the asphalt right behind my left ear. Together, the bike and I slid off the road and down a gravel/grass embankment. As soon as the bike hit the gravel, I started to tumble. The bike flipped twice before coming to a stop, and it landed on top of me each time it flipped.

As we came to a stop, I was amazed I was alive. I made sure I could wiggle my toes and move my fingers. With the adrenaline pumping, I pushed the bike off of me and stood up. I tore off my helmet, gloves and jacket and went to make sure my bike was OK. After 10 minutes, I couldn't stand or walk.

Hours later, at the emergency room at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., I was given copious amounts of painkillers and whisked into the radiology department for X-rays. As it turns out, I didn't break anything, but I did manage to walk away with severe bone bruising, severe soft-tissue bruising and nerve damage in my hip.

The doctors and nurses were amazed at how much my gear saved me. I brought my helmet with me into the emergency room so that the doctors would have a good idea as to where I hit my head. They took one look at my helmet, and said that I would have been dead if I wasn't wearing it.

Moral of the story: To anyone who owns or rides on a motorcycle or is thinking about it, wear your gear every time you get on a bike. My gear saved my life. I've got a three to six-month recovery ahead of me, but it could have been much, much worse had I not worn mine.

Anything can happen in the blink of an eye.