Not-so-Easy Rider

November 10

As guys like me reach a Certain Age, roundabout the half-century mark, the inevitable occurs: Mid-Life Crisis. Hell, 50 years is Mid-Life ? I’ll take that and run with it.

MLC is a condition not treatable by any drug being pushed on television, in which side effects include risk of heart attack and bloody discharge. Viagra is only a Band-Aid for MLC. Lacking pharmaceutical recourse, some guys seek treatment for MLC via a two-seat sports car.

Still others get inked up ( if I see one more barbed-wire tattoo around the bicep I’ll wretch ), start wearing earrings, or go with the always-appealing bald-guy-with-a-ponytail look.

In Danville, I see MLC manifested in the form of guys who think they’re Lance Armstrong, clogging the streets on bicycles while wearing spandex outfits that barely conceal badly-misplaced body fat. Or, it is manifested in the cadres of Harleys that come rolling into town each weekend to visit the downtown bars. Lorenzo Lamas in “Renegade” would be envious.

I can’t ridicule the Lorenzo wanna-bes, because my mid-life fantasy involved buying a big motorcycle and hitting the highway. Maybe I’d let my remaining hair grow long and sport a scruffy beard. The song “Born To Be Wild” is playing in the backround as I roll onto Interstate 5. Or maybe the song “Roll Me Away,” by Bob Seger, if I’m in a more reflective mood.

I’d pull into some roadside bar in the desert, sing some karaoke — maybe “Addicted To Love” by Robert Palmer, and hook up with a cute young waitress who is dazzled by my acerbic, worldly ways. I’d leave her at dawn and roll out, making sure I’ve packed my Centrum Silver. At this age, even my fantasies have become sensible.

It remains that, just a fantasy. You’d think I’d have learned a lesson from my college days, when I nearly bought the farm in a moped accident. That’s right, a moped. Barely topped 30 mph.

There’s no doubt, however, that the motorcycle is a big part of the American psyche. It evokes the things we love the most: freedom, open space, big noise, speed and sex. From “Easy Rider” to “Electra Glide in Blue,” it is a major part of our culture.

The Best Man at my wedding, known to one and all as “Orr,” has a friend in Bakersfield who can tell you all about motorcycles. Kenny Elmore has been in love with two-wheelers since he was a kid in Florida, when he saw his brother’s first bike, a Kawasakai 100cc Enduro. Kenny has encyclopedic knowledge, which he details in his book “One Second.”

Orr and I visited Kenny on my last trip to Bakersfield, at Kenny’s book signing. Why is the book called “One Second?” Because that’s how long it took to turn Kenny’s life upside down.

As Kenny writes; if the unlicensed driver in the Red 1985 Porsche 944 had waited one more second, his life would have been much different. Instead, the driver made a left turn in front of Kenny, who was riding his Suzuki TL100R to work in October 2008. That bike was his “pride and joy,” but it was busted up in a million pieces.

That’s nothing compared to what happened to Kenny.

I will not give you all of the gory details, except for this phrase: “open-book pelvic fracture.” Apparently the handlebars played a role, and I’ll leave it at that. That injury alone has just a 50 percent survival rate. And that’s not even half the story.

Kenny barely had any idea what happened to him when he awoke from a medically-induced coma a week later at Kern Medical Center. He was better off not knowing for a while. The combination of drugs caused him to drift in and out of the real world, and one of the most compelling chapters in the book takes you through that Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

Kenny had several hallucinations. My favorite was when he entered a cartoon world in which he peeked through a waterfall and helped some blue birds and red birds join forces and survive, “and they had a big festival in my honor.” Then the damn portal in the hospital wall closed up.

Throughout the book, Kenny uses self-deprecating and down-to-earth humor — and salty language — to describe how he made his way through an existence that was both absurd and horrifying. It details how he endured months of surgeries, infections, and rehab. Oh yes, and pain. Lots of pain.

Kenny is not a professional author, but he’s an expert on his own story, and it’s an inspiring page-turner. It was also a way to fill his time, and it was probably therapeutic, too. I’d imagine he also used the book as a way to honor the tremendous sacrifices his wife and family made for him.

He signed my copy of his book this way: “sometimes all you need is a positive attitude.” That sounds simple, but it’s really an epiphany: if it worked for Kenny, why not for the rest of us in less-trying times ?

Kenny has used the most traumatic moment in his life as a time to learn and grow. He even finds humor in talking about the driver who nearly killed him, yet has never offered an apology. Kenny writes that if he saw him, he’s not sure whether he’d forgive him, “or throw my poop bag at him.”

I’m sure Kenny wouldn’t recommend a motorcycle wreck to reach a higher level of consciousness, but he and his family made the best of a bad situation. And, he has written a book that every motorcyclist should read.

One question lingers, and it’s a question Kenny addresses at the end of his book. Given his love of motorcycles, will he ever ride again ? His answer might surprise you.

( “One Second” is available through AuthorHouse of Bloomington, Indiana. )

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8 Responses to “Not-so-Easy Rider”

  1. Karlton Says:

    Ray,
    Great story. Being just south of a half a century my ownself, I see some of the same parallels. If you want to see a real scene, check out Woodland on a sunny Saturday. Looks like a scene straight out of “Sons of Anarchy”.
    Keep doing your thing, we all enjoy it.

  2. Jim from Napa Says:

    Wow Ray. My uncle died right in front of my mom and grandma in a motorcycle accident and it was horrifying. My mom made me promise never to ride one because you could be the best rider but many people are bad drivers.

    A very touching and deep story. I have ordered the book and look forward to reading it. Thanks for the info.

  3. Kenny Elmore Says:

    Ray,
    What a great post, thank you so much. It was an absolute pleasure meeting you. I wish all my biker brothers out there good luck.
    – Sometimes a positive attitude is all you need!
    Kenny

  4. Sherry Says:

    Kenny Elmore’s book is also available at amazon.com and http://www.barnesandnoble.com
    Barnes and Noble sells is as a NookBook as well as hardback and paperback.

    I agree that anyone who rides or is thinking of riding a motorcycle should read Kenny’s book. The ending is expecially poignant. I ordered it for many people.

  5. Shelley Says:

    It is a true honor to know Kenny Elmore. Thank you Ray for this blog post. On June 21 my husband also was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident and have many of the same injuries as Kenny (open book pelvis fracture) among so many other broken bones, it is easier to tell people what is NOT broken then to list the broken bones.

    Anyhow, Kenny has been a real inspiration to us.
    As Kenny quoted in our signed book, “Whoever said, ‘What doesn’t kill us makes you stronger’ is a JACKASS”. And I so agree.

    I hope all motorcyclists will take the time to read Kenny’s book “ONE SECOND” http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?WRD=kenny+elmore

    Shelley Brice-Boyle

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