Curiosity Did Not Kill the Cat

Curiosity Did Not Kill the Cat

This is the sequel to the essay I posted yesterday called “The Crash That Wasn’t.”

Ever since I’d gotten home from that incident it had bothered me.  A lot. I’ve ridden this road for decades, and had never come across anything like what I encountered.

I’ve taken enough advanced rider courses of one sort or another to be well aware of the wisdom of always looking for gravel and sand at the apex of corners, either kicked up by vehicles edging off the pavement or by run-off from dirt driveways and fields, etc.  Been there, done that, and could design the t-shirt.

So what happened?

Years ago I knew a fine fellow who was an expert in accident reconstruction, and owned a small company that did such work for individuals, police departments, and municipalities.  I had assisted John on a couple of occasions by using my vast work motorcycle e-mail contacts to find some who owned a particular year and model of motorcycle who would be willing to be filmed riding a particular section of road at a specific speed, and be paid for it.  John also put on a seminar I arranged at the dealership one Saturday morning educating all who attended on the technology, methods, and procedures he used.  I found it fascinating.

John’s first career had been with the State Patrol, and he rode a Honda Goldwing often and well.  On one of our trips he chided me for stopping the group for a rest on a wide area of pavement next to a hairpin corner in eastern Washington.  He felt I should have parked the group all the way to the end of the section I had chosen, because as it was, all of our bikes were parked in what he termed the “debris field” if someone overcooked the turn and created a disaster. I tucked that factoid away for future use.

One interesting tic of John’s was that the he rode the Goldwing but was an active member of the BMW club, including serving as the co-president. He explained that he liked Goldwing motorcycles and BMW people.

So after contemplating my near disaster for a day, I decided to do some accident reconstruction research of my own.  I’m off on a four day ride this Friday, so today was set aside to get the bike really cleaned, waxed, oiled, and generally spiffed, and then fueled to the brim.  Since I had to go out to fill the tank anyway, it made perfect sense to ride an extra 30 miles or so to check out the scene of my near-disaster.  Also, it was a perfect day for a ride…

As I turned onto Ben Howard road again, my senses grew more alert. I sort of remembered where the corner that caused me grief was, but not exactly.  I watched carefully as a couple of miles rolled by, but when I reached the scene it was pretty obvious, even though seen two days of traffic had rolled through the evidence. I trundled through the remaining gravel gingerly, and then turned around and rode back to a safe wide spot on the other side of the road.

Sorry for the sideways –  sufficient gravel even a week later

This was not the scene of a few random pieces of gravel. It was obvious that a small tsunami of dirt and gravel had flowed across the entire road.  The source was a very steep driveway of dirt and gravel that intersected the road on the right, just before the apex of the corner.  As I looked at it and noted the various tire tracks through the remains of the detritus (my own wild tire gyrations had been erased by later traffic), at last the penny dropped.


Agh!  Cannot get the pictures to be up and down!  Anyway, here is the offending driveway

I recalled that a few days earlier the Seattle area had been hit by truly momentous rain storms.  Yes, it does rain a lot here, but usually our rains are closer to mist, as in the old line “missed, Oregon, hit us.”  These were rains that were more like the summer rainstorms of my youth on Minnesota – true gully washers that remove almost all visibility.  In Minnesota those storms had lasted minutes, whereas these had lasted for hours.  It was now obvious that the storms had indeed been gulley washers for the driveway, washing a two inch wall of dirt and mud and gravel across both lanes of the narrow road.

I give up – just turn your head! 

I had not seen the danger because the problem was completely obscured by filtered sunshine and heavy tree cover at the entrance to this corner.  The dark mud and gravel looked just like the shaded elderly asphalt of the preceding two dozen corners.

Lesson learned:  if you are riding in, or just after very heavy rains in your area, the places that might be expected to have a little gravel, sand, or dirt, might very well have quite a lot of it.  Even if you’ve been riding that same road for decades.

Y’all be careful out there.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often

Copyright 2018                               David Preston


About david

I am a 73 year old motorsports nut who lives in Snohomish, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Rocket 3 (2020) and a 2016 Ford Focus ST. What else would you like to know?
This entry was posted in Motorcycles. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Curiosity Did Not Kill the Cat

  1. That Bob says:

    That patch of gravel, in various sizes in different seasons, is a hallmark of that corner. It’s always been there since I started riding Ben Howard when you showed it to me the first time. It’s in my growing list of detritus corners and straight stretches of Western Washington.

    Love how you re-visit the scene of the crime! I did the same thing with my recent “low side” event. Taking one of the precious blue beasts through the same way. It all made sense and as I processed (er…RE-processed) it the tiny hairs on my neck (along with the long ones) stood up and AGAIN, the place is marked.

    Another adventure event in the northwestern corner of Colorado while over clocking a wagon road, a neat little patch of sand high sided me and 800 pounds of loaded GSA into a rib breaking wad of carbon based water sack. THAT single patch of sand is so deeply embedded in my cranium it leaps to mind whenever it’s cousin(s) appear. Oh, that and a set of Michelin road tires seal the deal – never again.

  2. David Preston says:

    It just goes to show that every day we can learn something new!, another useful nugget of information to add to the life of riding a motorcycle and staying safe.

Leave a Reply