Monday, May 2, 2011

Close Calls - Episode One: The Milk Truck Encounter

I'm a fortunate guy. I've been able to do a lot of things and I've had a lot of adventures. I've never gotten in any major trouble and I've managed to see a lot of places. However, my adult life has come close to never happening. Too close! Some of my teenage/early 20's escapades have brought me pretty close to a handshake with Jesus. Before advancing age causes me to forget these shenanigans, I'm going to use the "Close Calls" series of blog posts to recall and describe some of these hairy moments.

As a youngster growing up in northern Wisconsin, I always had snowmobiles and motorized two-wheelers. At 6 years old, I was riding a minibike and by 8, dad had me regularly driving a Rupp 440 snowmobile, Mom gave in and let me buy a 90cc Kawasaki dirt bike at age 12 or 13. This bike was tiny, but with my small frame, it was fully capable of 65-mph on paved roads. [I don't think mom ever knew how fast the bike would go or she would have never let me get it in the first place!] I would race this bike all over the back 40 -- which was actually a lot more the back 1,040 acres. There was a ridge formed by a retreating glacier from the Wisconsin Glacial Episode that I would rip up, down, over, and along about a half mile behind my house. This was my primary riding area and some of my "Close Calls" blogs will recount death-defying feats of stupidity on this ridge -- known locally as "Hogsback."

My protective riding equipment was very different than what you see on today's X-gamers. My protective clothing and equipment was ... well ... nothing! It was common for me to ride in just shorts, t-shirt, and sneakers. That's it. No helmet, no protective eyewear, no shinguards or elbow pads. No nothing! That I didn't crack open my melon on numerous occasions is just by luck. I can't ever complain that I'm not blessed enough, as I luckily dodged bullets for about 15 years of my life. That I didn't get eliminated by one is fortune enough!

We lived in the country about 7 miles north of Oconto Falls, Wisconsin along County Hwy B. Now, even for a stupid like me, I treated County B with respect. In my early teens, County B [B] was like the New Jersey turnpike, only people drove faster and were, most certainly, drunker! But I had a pal who lived about 5 miles away and the only way to get there efficiently was by taking a 2 or 3 mile rip along B. I decided (against mom's rule) that I was going to go over for a visit. Rather than take the Kawasaki on B right from home, I was conniving and headed east on Goatsville Road (a much-less traveled local road; "Goatsville" was also the name of the tavern that mom owned and operated). After a couple of 90-degree turns, I took to the dreaded B and twisted the throttle. Soon, I was going like the wind! All 90 cubic centimeters of piston were firing up and down at full speed and that bike was giving me everything that she had! After a few minutes, I made it to the turn-off with no problems -- and no directional to signal my intentions. I slowed to prepare for a hard right and began leaning into the turn. Then, there it was, any motorcyclist's worst nightmare -- gravel. Crap. I knew I was going too fast, but I could increase the radius of my turn a bit and reduce the rolling effect of these micro-marbles. However, I did not, in the least, plan for, see, or prepare for the milk truck that was slowing towards a stop as he prepared to cross B.  I leaned hard. I braked hard. I went down ... hard. The trucker saw me, but with a full-load of milk he could not stop any quicker than he already was. Me and the bike were sliding along the gravel and pavement and when we finally stopped, where were me and my gravel-embedded forearms? Under the milk truck. I was able to look straight up at the engine block idling above me. I had went right between the truck's 2 front tires!  I quickly rolled out from underneath, heart pounding, and said "I'm okay! I'm okay!" However, the milk truck driver, who was completely uninjured, hyperventilated. I recall him asking me questions, but his breath was rapidly going in and out and I thought he -- not me! -- would faint.

I rubbed the loose gravel off of my bloody arms, checked my bike and was relieved that not only me, but the bike too, were still in single pieces. The bike, despite a few scratches and dents, was ready to run and the engine started right up. I hopped on the bike and headed for home, scheming how I was going to get in the house bloodied without mom finding out that I was on B!

I can't remember the story I made-up to procrastinate my inevitable ass-whipping. See, as I mentioned earlier, Mom owned and operated a tavern and the milk-truck driver was a patron -- often stopping in after his rounds. He knew who I was and, once he regained his ability to breathe, probably couldn't wait to visit my mom and tell her what an irresponsible ass-hat her son was! And, once mom found out -- with her patented brand of psychological beat-down ["Michael, I'm sooo disappointed in you. You have no idea how much you have let me down." (Said with watering eyes too, no less!)] -- I may have just preferred that bumper facial.

I cheated the Grim Reaper on this one. A foot or 2 in any direction, and I would have certainly met the same fate as many a fender-chasing farm dogs.

Whew. Close call!


  1. I was so pissed at that truck driver. I had paid him $20 to take you out!

  2. Hey, where you almost became road pizza was only a couple hundred yards from where I totaled the Subaru!