Monday, October 9, 2017

We were lucky

By Mary Jane King
Last summer I went with my husband and a friend to Fort Smith, Arkansas, to visit family and enjoy the three-day Biker’s Blues and BBQ motorcycle rally in Fayetteville. My favorite motorcycle ride is one filled with tree-lined switchbacks. I love the slower pace, and waiting for the next surprise to be glimpsed through the trees. So I was excited to start our ride from Fort Smith to Eureka Springs.

Highway 23, also known as the Pig Trail, is a remote, two-lane road curling and twisting its way through the scenic Ozark Mountains just like a pig’s tail. It is so beautiful that it has become one of the top 10 recommended motorcycle rides in America.
A very severe leg break.

We were on the Pig Trail only 20 minutes before we had trouble navigating a sharp left turn. We later found out that we hit a flattened armadillo carcass. It was so flat that we didn’t see it, but it was slick enough to cause the front tire to slide. My husband had only 20 feet to make a decision; either lay the motorcycle down in the road, or take the grass-lined ditch. Since neither of us were wearing a helmet, the ditch seemed to be the safer option.

We don’t remember much about those first few moments after leaving the road. I woke up laying in a deep ditch next to the totaled motorcycle, and my husband was 15 feet away with a severely broken leg.

Within minutes, two off-duty first responders pulled up to the scene. Thankfully, they were able to save my husband’s leg. Due to the remote location of our accident, it took almost an hour and a half before we arrived at the hospital. Our injuries were not necessarily minor. But things could have been worse, much worse. Only by the grace of God did neither of us receive a head injury from being thrown from the motorcycle.

Everyone has their own reasons as to why they do or don’t wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle, but I will always encourage others to make a safer decision than we did.  Wear a helmet, it could keep your life from changing.

Mary Jane King is a Graphic Designer Specialist at the Kansas Highway Patrol.


  1. Chris Bortz, KDOT Traffic Safety Program ManagerOctober 9, 2017 at 7:35 AM

    Thank you Mary Jane for sharing your life changing experience. This is another example of why it is important to wear safety gear/seat belts, every trip, every time. You may be the best driver/operator on the road, but you are not only sharing the road with other drivers, but you may encounter a situation that will result in a crash. Be prepared, every trip, every time.

  2. Wow, Mary Jane. What a great example of why we need to take safety precautions. You just never know what you will encounter on the road. I've driven the Pigs Tail and its beautiful but nerve racking for me. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Mary Jane, I am so glad to hear that both you and your husband survived with serious, but not fatal injuries. A friend gave me good advice when I was thinking about relearning to drive a motorcycle. He said, always wear a helmet, riding jacket, gloves and boots when you ride. Even though it gets hot during the summer, it is better to be temporarily uncomfortable than to be permanently disabled.

  4. ATGATT= ALL THE GEAR ALL THE TIME. I love Motorcycles but they are not the safest vehicle so you have to gear up appropriately as well. Also a MSF riders course isn't a bad idea either. Stay safe out there!

  5. I am a 911 dispatcher in Kansas, and I can't tell you how many fatalities v non-fatalities involving motorcycles and helmets I have worked, but I can tell you if the rider has a helmet they are usually talking and complaining of external injuries and if they don't have one, we are usually calling a helo for an emergent evac or the coroner.