Story Diversion: My Motorcycle Crash

I’ve only had one “major” motorcycle crash, and I wasn’t really injured much, but it’s an interesting story.

In the summer of 1989 I was riding my 1984 Kawasaki 750 Turbo though Beartooth Pass in MT/WY when the oil cooler line became detached and covered the rear wheel in oil. This wouldn’t have been quite so bad, but I was leaned over in a curve at the time.

This is not mine, but mine looked just like this. Mine was not in as good shape as this though.

The full story is that the oil line actually came off twice. The first time was in the middle of nowhere near Arco, ID. I was cruising along the highway when the oil light came on. I shut off the bike and coasted to the side of the road. When I stopped and got off I noticed the line of oil on the ground up to the bike.

I was stuck there for a while – there was hardly any traffic at all on the road and it might have even been a Sunday. Finally someone stopped and gave me a ride to the nearest town. I had them drop me at the U-Haul rental place – I figured I’d just rent a truck and haul the bike home. But I think they were closed.

As I was sitting there trying to figure out what to do next a pickup truck stopped and the man hopped out. He told me he had seen me sitting by the side of the road, but by the time he got turned around I had been picked up by the other person. He offered to go back and we’d get the motorcycle and then go to his place and take a look at it.

It turned out that he ran a welding shop. The oil line had come detached from the flange, so he brazed it back together, we got some oil in it and I was back in business. Thanks stranger!

I continued on. The next day I blasted through Beartooth pass. When I got to the end I decided it was so much fun that I was going to do it again, so I headed back. About half way along, in a tight 20 MPH corner, the oil line came undone again and down I went. I ended up smashing the left side of the bike up – busted off the foot peg and the handle bar mount. I also manage to smack my elbow pretty good and possibly fractured my thumb. As soon as I stopped sliding I got up and started swearing. There was an overlook above the curve and I remember people just kind of watching and backing away. I rolled the bike to the inside of the curve where there was a gravel area and stood it up. There was no way I was riding it anymore.

Eventually these two guys from Yugoslavia? Germany? I don’t recall, but they didn’t speak much English, offered me a ride. They were seeing the country and were headed for Yellowstone. I think we ended up at Mammoth Hot Springs where I managed to snag a tiny little room in the hotel and went to the clinic for x-rays. After going to the clinic I saw the two guys again and they told me they couldn’t find a place to sleep, so I let them sleep on the floor of my hotel room.

I ended up calling Liz (we were dating at the time) and she arranged a bus ticket for me to Billings and then a plane ticket home.

I ended up calling the MT highway patrol to report the motorcycle sitting in the pass so they could tow it, but they couldn’t find it. Turns out it was on the WY side of the border. Eventually it got found and hauled to a yard in Billings where the insurance company totaled it. Being young and stupid, I took the money and also bought the motorcycle back from the insurance company.

Eventually my friend Bil and I borrowed another friend’s pickup truck and blasted out to Billings and back to retrieve the bike. I worked in a machine shop at the time, so I had someone there weld up the busted foot peg and handle bar mount and continued to ride it for a while.

I also bought the BMW R100RS from a friend at this point, and since having two motorcycles was silly (little did I know at the time,) and since the turbo was in kind of sorry shape, I sold it to a co-worker.

I ended up riding the BMW to Beartooth Pass with my wife Liz on the back in 1992. We didn’t crash that time.

BMW in Beartooth Pass

I still semi-regret selling the turbo because it was a great motorcycle to ride and it fit me very well ergonomically, but it was in pretty bad shape. I still think it would be fun to find one in good shape and buy it. They do come up for sale once in a while.

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