I head south, cutting across the northwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula along the Sol Duc River. The forested landscape is lush around one turn and then deviating clear-cuts fill the view around another. The deforestation here is quite disturbing, and I see the results of severe logging throughout the day. Ripped up stumps litter battlefields of tree wars, and the trees lost big time. New growth has been planted in some areas, but these spaces are now tree farms instead of diverse forests. Hey, we all need wood but this is ridiculous.
The first planned stop of the day is the beach at La Push, which my friend Jennifer Arlinksky told me about. Just before Forks, an old logging town, I turn down the road towards the ocean. But thereís road construction, again, and I wait in a line of traffic for ten minutes while the follow truck returns from the other end. When it finally arrives, the driver backs it off the road and gets stuck in a culvert. When they start pulling out the tow chains, I turn around. La Push will have to wait for my next 100 day trip. (Sorry Jennifer. I tried.)
15 miles down the road from Forks is the incredibly lush Hoh Rain Forest, part of the Olympic National Park. After all the clear-cuts itís a refreshing relief to be in an area so green and filled with living things. You can actually feel the earth breathing here. Giant Hemlocks, Fir, Cedar, and Sitka Spruce trees tower hundreds of feet above a blanket of moss. This is a temperate rain forest, receiving over 140 inches of rain each year. I hike the 1 ľ mile Spruce Nature Trail and get my fill of oxygen for the rest of the millennium.
Iím just riding along the road leaving the rain forest and enjoying being surrounded by all this nature and drifting along on a natural high and grooving along with the motorcycle and feeling the early afternoon sun glint through forest canopy and turning over that hill just ahead with the river to my left and BAM! OH MY GOD IíM BLACKING OUT HOLD ON STRAIGHT ITíS OVER HELMET SMASHED TRIP OVER STOP BIKE HOLY SHIT WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED OH MY HEAD.
Out of nowhere, in less than a second, a large bird has flown up from the side of the road and smashed into my helmet. Everything happens in fractions of seconds. The force is so great I feel like someone just clocked me with a telephone book across the top of my head. Millions of brain cells vanish instantly and I feel myself losing consciousness. But I donít, and I keep the bike straight and stop it quickly, pulling off to the side. Iím in shock. I put down the side stand and slump over, on the tank bag.
Okay, Iím all right. My head is ringing and hurts like I have a concussion, but Iím all right. The helmet did the job and absorbed most of the impact. I take it off to look at it. Remarkably, itís intact and nothing is broken. I was sure the face shield was cracked, but it looks like the top of the helmet, just above the top edge of the shield is where the direct impact was. Thereís some juice from my victim there.
I walk back down the road about 100 feet to see whatís become of my fine feathered friend. The bird, some kind of pheasant or grouse, was killed on impact. A female, I assume from the lack of coloring, she weighs about 5 pounds. There is a large open wound on one side from the impact against the helmet. I shot some video of her (yes I went right for the camera Ė I WAS A JOURNALISM MAJOR) and then toss her into the woods. May she rest in peace.
I guess Iím just happy I didnít go down. I was going about 50 MPH and it is hard to describe what it feels like to have a five pound object hit you in the head when youíre traveling at that speed. Without the helmet, I would have died. Most likely, the impact would have cracked open my skull and I would have been knocked off the bike for sure.
A few miles down the road I stop at Ruby Beach, another unit of the park. Iím still pretty shaken up and I need to get off the motorcycle for a while. I walk the deserted shoreline, strew with enormous tree trucks, washed from the edge of the forest. Itís cloudy and dark and gloomy here, but itís good to feel the ocean air and smell the salty sea. Hey, itís good just to be alive.
The helmet I wear is a very special one. Itís called a BMW System IV and it is one of the safest, most comfortable, and convenient helmets on the market. With the push of one button under the chin piece, the entire front of the helmet lifts up. This allows me to have a sip of water, pull off my glasses, blow my nose, have a conversation, or do a whole bunch of things which I used to have to pull off my full-face helmet to accomplish.
Unfortunately, BMW doesnít sell the System IV here in the U.S., as the subcontractor who manufactures it doesnít carry insurance coverage for the states. But everyone wants to get his or her hands on one. There used to be a couple of German dealers who would ship you one, but BMW put an end to that. You can ride up to Canada, but the ones they sell there arenít exactly the same as the European version.
So how did I get one, you ask. Well, it helps to have friends in high places. Actually, my dear friend Nicole Dean has a boyfriend named Frank Taubert who lives in Berlin. How fortunate for me. Thank you Frank and Nicole for helping me get this invaluable piece of equipment. Today, it may very well have saved my life.
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