Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Far Western NC, USA
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Smoky Mountain Off-Road Emergency Experience
I thought I'd share with you all an experience I had this weekend that kind of left me and my girlfriend a little shaken. You can refer to my intro elsewhere, but for those that don't know me, I'm Tim and I just picked up a 2008 Versys and we live in western North Carolina.
We live just outside of Smoky Mountain National Park, which is one of the reasons I wanted this bike. I just bought it/picked it up Friday. It rained ALL DAY on Saturday. I was able to squeeze in a ride in the neighborhood on Saturday night, but otherwise, by Sunday we were ready for a real ride. We took off Sunday for the park. It's a great place full of bikes and everyone should go there. Harrah's Cherokee Casino is there on the NC side and we had brunch before going into the park itself.
We rode around a while and visited various scenic areas. As stated, one of the reasons I wanted this "versatile" bike is because the park has a number of U.S. Forest Service gravel roads that run within the park itself. They're reasonably well-maintained, but because they're gravel, they see very little traffic except occasional off-roaders. I pulled off on one of these which was just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Well, the bike has stock tires and I was happy to find that even 2-up it was doing just fine on the loose gravel. We passed up two guys sitting stationary and drinking beer on their 4-wheelers on the side of the road. We got about a mile into the thick of the forest, at which time we pulled over to take some pictures. At that time one of the guys on a four-wheeler rode right past us. Soon as we got our helmets off, we heard a loud "thud". We looked over, and this guys buddy who was just a minute behind him had crashed. All we saw was a 4-wheeler sitting there idle. When we ran up to it, we saw that the guy was laying unconscious, bleeding, and completely pinned underneath the ATV. Beer cans were thrown everywhere. Needless to say these guys had been partying all day.
It took every bit of strength I had to lift that thing even a few inches whle my girlfriend tried to get him out from underneath. It was actually a "6-wheeler" as they had added an extension to it. We eventually got him out from underneath it, all the while this guys buddy was long gone and never knew his friend was behind him crashed. The guy wasn't wearing a helmet and was bleeding from his head, face, and all parts in between. And before anyone jumps in with how "you should never move a crash victim", let me clarify - he was beneath the 4-wheeler, literally crumpled up in ball, face in the ground, unconscious....potential paralysis from moving him was the least of his problems.
My girlfriend ran to our bike to grab the cell phone and GPS. She's trying to call 911, getting very spotty reception, and we're having a hell of a time trying to describe where we are. The GPS isn't getting a signal - we are literally in the middle of the forest. Meanwhile, this guys buddy had come back. Get this....the guy gets off of his 4-wheeler, barely glances at his "friend", and proceeds to worry more about picking up all the beer that his friend spilled when he crashed!!! After picking it up, barely answering any of our questions about how to get help there, he tells us he "has to go...he can't be talkin' to the cops". He drives off, leaving his friend literally dying in a pool of blood while we're playing "phone tag" with 911!
I decided that we have no choice but for me to head back to the main road to get better reception. I made it back to the road and even there the reception was only slightly better. I spoke the 911 operator long enough to give her the name of a nearby "scenic overlook" (as they call them on the Blue Ridge Parkway). I met the ambulance/cops there and showed them where the accident was. They got him out of there, now semi-conscious, and he was life-flighted out. His "friend" never showed back up.
So, while I thought I'd be able to brag to you all about how good the Versys is off-road, I instead have an entirely different story to tell. I have to say it's left me a little skiddish about traveling "off the beaten path". I did learn a few lessons....
1) Don't get piss drunk and ride around like a j**k a** in the middle of nowhere without a helmet like these guys did.
2) Always travel with someone you can trust to get help if you need it. No exaggeration - this guy would have been left for dead if his "friend" had been the only one there.
3) Always be able to succinctly describe where you are in case of an emergency and you have 4 seconds of cell phone coverage to say it.
4) Remember you never know who's around you, especially in the "back woods". I was honestly nervous about leaving my girlfriend with this guy while I went for help. This guy's "friend" had "wanted by the police" written all over him. Why else would he rather have his friend die than stay and help?
5) I will ALWAYS have a GPS hooked up and running from now on BEFORE I get on to these side roads. Mine was in the Givi case and not turned on. I've noticed here in the mountains that once the GPS locks on to a signal, it's good about keeping it, but if you're in the middle of nowhere before you even turn it on, it will not pick up a signal at all.
6) I may look into what other options are available for getting emergency help in these situations. I heard a while back that some manufacturer is making a "disposable" emergency satellite phone for hard-core campers/off-roaders that has GPS built in. I can only imagine how much that costs, though. Maybe if GPS were on my cell phone plan that would have worked better, but again, coverage was next to none out there anyway.
I guess the bottom line is that it taught me to think about the "what if" from now on. If anyone has any safety tips or suggestions as to how to prepare for such a situation (if you can), then I'm all ears and I think we could all benefit. I know this nerve-racking experience won't keep me from going off the main road...that's why I bought the Versys. But it sure has me thinking about things.