Below is an adventure ride report which had an outcome much different than planned.
After wrapping up this year’s AMA East Hare Scrambles series win, I decided to treat my wife and I to another adventure ride. Former DirtBikeBucketList.com rider/racer Scott Smith invited us to join him on his plans to ride from Anchorage to the northern Alaska outpost of Deadhorse / Prudhoe Bay. Just three weeks before leaving for our trip, I suffered my shoulder separation as previously reported during a motocross practice session. I was VERY concerned that the doctor would not bless this trip as he required 90 days for me to start REALLY riding on the dirt again.
Fortunately, I did receive my doctor’s support to take the trip and actually felt quite good on the bike. I took a couple of practice rides by myself in the winding north Georgia mountain roads. The last thing I wanted to do was to put my wife’s safety at risk or get out in the middle of nowhere Alaska (which there is allot of) and have serious debilitating shoulder issues.
Scott had planned this trip for a year and I truly believed he dreamt every other night about his highly anticipated adventure. He even started a blog well in advance at http://georgiaoffroad.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=58282
memorializing his preparations. Hence, in his excitement and propensity for preparation, he arrived a day early to make things were squared away with our bikes. We met up with Scott the evening before we departed together. We had visited Alaska Motorcycle Adventure http://www.rentalaska.com/index.html
who provided us the bikes that we rented for event and took good care of us throughout. I might add that Alaska Motorcycle Adventures is located in a BMW and Klim dealership in Anchorage, AK.
We departed on a Wednesday morning with Scott riding one up on a BMW F800GS and my wife Mary and me on a R1200GS (our favorite). Heading due north and 2 ½ hours out of Anchorage on two-lane AK-3/George Parks Hwy, and just shy of reaching Denali State Park, where the bad event occurred. Scott was behind us so I did not see the impact. However, when I did not see him in short order while monitoring him in my mirror, I turned around and drove back down the highay to find him face down on the shoulder of the road in the opposing lane. There were a couple of people looking over him and no bike or anything else insight as I rolled up to the scene. I asked what happened and told them he was with me. They said he hit a moose. State Patrol later guessed the moose to be ~1,500 lbs.
Fortunately, one of the first responders was a nurse and very shortly thereafter a park ranger w/EMT background was on the scene as he happened to be very nearby. I can’t tell you how relieved we were to find him alive. However, he was critically injured and in great pain. To make a long story short, after an ongoing physical assessment, we wound up closing the highway and landing a LifeFlight helicopter on the highway at the scene to take him back to the trauma hospital back in Anchorage.
I called Scott’s wife and reported what happened once I had a free moment after we got Scott stabilized and on his way. Ellen demonstrated her great strength as she kept a cool head, digested the news, and began her plans to fly from Atlanta to Anchorage the first flight out the next morning. With Scott now on his way to the hospital, I needed to find his bike and attempt to find the moose. The bike was found ~150 yards further down the highway in the tall weeds off shoulder of the road. The bike was naturally totaled. We all expected that when Scott hit the moose, he and the moose appeared to have flown off the road in mass while the bike pretty much went under the moose and kept going…. As a moose at their shoulders is 6 – 7’ tall. With assistance of others at the scene, we pushed the bike to a location that could be picked up by the rental company. We then looked and found the moose 50 yards in the woods, sadly, dead.
When the moose was struck, we were traveling in drizzling conditions. One eye witness, a tour bus driver, saw the accident first hand. The moose ran out directly in front of Scott and he had little time to react. However, the driver said that Scott slowed down considerably before the impact. Which between slowing down and having proper riding gear, saved his life. This is a good time for me to point out that Scott was not wearing Klim gear as Mary and I were wearing a complete Klim Badlands Adventure jacket & pant set with state-of-the-art D30 breast armor. Not to name the manufacturer of Scott’s jacket, but had he worn Klim gear, no doubt the moose would have bounced off him like bullets from Superman’s chest. Yes, Klim gear is that good.
Mary and I hoofed it back to Anchorage to catch up with Scott at the hospital to make sure he was squared away and to provide a conduit of communication back to Ellen. He was pretty out of it as he as on heavy medications keeping him paralyzed and relaxed as they had him on a ventilator. Scott had surgery the following day on his two compound factures of his right forearm. He experienced a partial pneumothorax as he broke a couple of ribs which we believe punctured his lung among handful of other issues. Ellen arrive the following evening where we met with her and go her oriented. With Scott under excellent care of the hospital and under the watchful eye of Ellen, Mary and I swung by to visit Scott & Ellen the following morning and took off to salvage the rest of our trip.
As made our way north, Scott continued to improve SIGNIFICANTLY day-by-day which enabled us to relax a bit and enjoy our trip.
Mary and I had an opportunity to explore much of middle and northern Alaska well beyond the Arctic Circle up to the village of Wiseman, which is just north of Coldfoot for those who might know AK. We did not have time to make it all of the way to Prudhoe Bay but were very fortunate to see most all other planned elements of the trip. We were disappointed that a special treat we had planned to relax a night at Chena Hot Springs later in the trip was diverted due to the one road leading to the hot springs was closed due to a forest fire (started by artillery practice I might add). We saw probably 4 more moose crossing the road over the balance of the trip and one full grown male caribou standing on the white line of the shoulder as we passed him with brakes and defensive steering applied. You really can’t be too careful at all times riding in remote Alaska.
We made it back to Anchorage in one piece and with another experience of a lifetime. Much at Scott’s expense. As far Scott, he stayed in Anchorage another 10 -14 days and flew back to Atlanta. He’s had subsequent surgery back home in Atlanta to a fracture and cartilage separation to his left hand. He’s back at work and we expect a full recover over time. He is still open to jumping back on the horse once enough time has passed.
We made the local news: http://www.adn.com/2013/07/03/2963372/motorcyclist-injured-after-hitting.html
See attached pictures: