I Had To Lay ‘Er Down
The Winner of MMM’s Best “I had to lay her down” Story Contest
Ed—Last fall we put the call out for your stories of mayhem on the road. We received some real winners but this gem really stood out. Enjoy.
by Name Withheld By Request
All right, you asked… I was extending a trip from The Twin Cites to Sturgis by heading into Montana to visit my Alma Mater, the University of Montana in Missoula. I was planning to say hi to a couple of my profs, then head up to Glacier Park for a ride on Going to the Sun Road on my 1980 Low Rider, eventually head into Idaho and Washington, or just make my way back to Minnesota. I hadn’t decided yet.
After a night camping near Bozeman, I started out on the stretch to Missoula on what must have been a Friday morning. It was about 10 a.m. on a gorgeous, sunny but cool August day in 1994. I had just passed the Anaconda, Montana exit from I-90 when I felt the sting. How the little bastard got under my leather jacket which was zipped tightly around my neck, or up one of my sleeves which were likewise tightly zipped, I still can’t imagine. And I won’t comment on my waist size, but suffice it to say that there was even less room to enter from the bottom of my jacket. But however it happened, it did happen, I got stung dead center in my sternum.
So after swatting myself in the chest through my jacket quite a few times, hoping to ensure that I didn’t get stung again, I pulled onto the shoulder of the freeway, unzipped my jacket and a small, fly-sized insect with a grey and black striped body fell out onto the pavement.
Now, I have been stung many times while riding by a variety of little and not-so-little winged bags of venom. Usually with little effect except for a bearable amount of pain and maybe some localized swelling. On one occasion, however, I did experience rather a lot of swelling when stung on my right knee (I have a hard time wearing long pants when it’s above 95 degrees, I know I should, but it’s difficult) and what seemed to be an incipient, venom-induced whiteout along with some light headedness. But the light headedness and the near whiteout passed almost as quickly as they came on, even before I could find a suitable place to pull off a crowded two-lane highway.
But, armed with that memory, I thought it best if I didn’t wander too far from civilization and civilization is a scarce commodity in the middle of Montana. So I did the illegal crossing through the freeway median thing and headed back to Anaconda. I barely remember exiting onto the five or six mile spur into Anaconda when things got really interesting.
The last things I remember seeing were my speedometer reading about 60 and a few cars heading alongside me into town. Then — TOTAL WHITEOUT! — I could see absolutely nothing! I very much wanted to not crash, but what to do? Stop now and risk getting rammed from behind. I had no idea where on the road I was, or what was behind me. Try to pull over and maybe not crash into who knows what at the side of the road (assuming that there was a side of the road and not just a drop-off)? One thing I did remember was that the highway was still four lanes with a median so I thought the safest thing to do would be to head for the median. On my way over to the median, I think, I remember my bike bucking as I repeatedly ran over objects on the highway (traffic cones?) What Fresh Hell is this? Try to move farther to the left! Gently! Now that feels like soft dirt! Wait! No! It’s smooth again! Now what?
By now, probably only 20 or 30 seconds maybe even less since the whiteout hit, I find that if I really, really, really squint very very hard I can barely make out…. what are those? Headlights, grills, horns, honking! I crossed the median! Back right, back right! Ahhh, soft ground again.
I actually don’t remember laying the bike down. I do remember laying on my back in some very soft dirt, bike on top of me, pinning me down but… I could see again. Perfectly! I also don’t remember even trying to move before the road crew came running over saying things like “What happened man?” and “It’s a damn good thing you didn’t run into that steam roller!” and “You’re sure lucky you didn’t fall on that 300-degree tar we’re laying down back there!” Oh, yes, the traffic cones, that explains those.
They picked my bike up off me, rolled it onto the shoulder of the highway and asked if I was all right and if I needed an ambulance. It was about then that I realized that bike or no bike, I couldn’t move a muscle, totally paralyzed! But also remembering the contraband in my saddlebag, I certainly didn’t want ambulance, or law enforcement personnel involved. I imagined that for an incident like this, one would come with the other. “No, I’m fine but I’m sure you’ll understand if I just lay here and rest for a while.” “Ok man, but you’re damn lucky! Damn lucky!” As the crew left, commenting on my good fortune, I found that I could at least wiggle my toes. That signified to me that at least I didn’t have any serious spinal damage, no broken back or neck, and I could breathe, no broken ribs, and I could still see! Things were really looking up! And look up was all I could do.
I lay in the median until I could sit up again, probably about ten minutes, and I sat there until I could actually stand again, probably another ten minutes. It was probably about a half hour before I actually walked over to the bike to assess the damage, a broken left lower corner of the windshield and a missing helmet, but not another scratch on the bike! Like I said, really soft dirt. I know, I was very lucky. I never did find or figure out how I lost the helmet. It was both strapped and bungeed to my mini luggage rack but now it was gone. At least Montana wasn’t a helmet state.
After some time, I felt good enough for the short ride into Anaconda. I thought given the weirdness I’d just been through, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get checked out by a doctor. So I headed into town, found a little clinic and went in and told the short version (bee sting, blindness, paralysis) to the nurse behind the desk. She said that obviously the crisis had passed so emergency measures weren’t necessary, but she strongly recommended that I go have lunch, and come back after the doctor on duty had done the same and he would check me over. That seemed prudent to me and at the time, prudence seemed like a good idea.
I found a cafe on main street, went in, sat at the lunch counter and before the waitress could get to me, I was suddenly overcome by easily the most powerful itching sensation I have ever experienced, and it covered my entire body. The waitress finally arrived to my furious scratching every inch of my body I could easily reach and a few places I couldn’t easily reach. I ordered a burger for lunch while I continued to scratch and gave her the slightly longer short version of what had happened (bee sting, blindness, paralysis and now this infernal itching!). She took my order, rolling her eyes as if to say “yeah, yeah, we get about a dozen of you “bee sting” guys in here a week.” The itching went away as abruptly as it had arrived.
The doctor was mystified. He said it obviously wasn’t an allergic reaction. That would have caused my throat to swell shut. But he’d also never heard of such a reaction to a bee sting and without the insect’s body, to figure out exactly what poison we were dealing with, he couldn’t tell me much more.
I was all too happy to leave Anaconda, Montana and the VERY poisonous bugs they have flying around the area. The rest of the trip went very well with no more incidents of that magnitude.