Gravity sucks! Crashing in the purest form

July 29, 2010

While working on the interior book design yesterday I stumbled upon some pictures I thought are worthwhile to post. It is nothing in comparison to the crash DVD’s out there with the horrendous crash scenes of motorcycle or car races, but those two are the only pictures I have from any of my crashes. Just to show how skin abrasions are produced.

The pictures show a harmless slider in turn 6 on the Circuit of Hockenheim (I still remember vividly) in 1983 and does not relate to the crash described in the text which is an excerpt again from Chapter 7 “Passionate Intuition.” If someone would have taken a picture of all race crashes I‘ve ever had I’d need a database… Enough said.


 The Nürburgring, a fifteen-mile-long road racecourse, was a technically demanding track, and the importance of track memorization is one of the basic requirements to achieve excellence in racing performance. Fully engaged in our practice session out on the track, riding with focus and concentration, I was just about to pass Carl on the inside of a long, very fast left bend. We were both flying along the track at around 100 mph (160 km/h). I prepared my move carefully, aligning myself to slide by him on his left to catch him smoothly diving into the turn, but I realized quickly that the bend was closing on me. This turn had a steeper left angle than I had assumed; I was going far too fast at this point and was running out of road, gravity pulling intensely on me. Only God’s intervention could prevent the worst from happening.

Instinctively I slammed the bike into a leaning angle, beyond any forgiving laws of modern physics. Heading into that turn at top speed, first the bike’s exhaust pipe and then the engine housing rebounded off the pavement and both wheels lifted off the track when the whole bike was catapulted into the air—and so did I. My only thought that moment was: Gravity sucks! I landed and then skidded along the pavement for a couple of  hundred yards, intense friction burning the palms of my hands as my gloves were shredded by the asphalt before I started to roll over and over. In steady sequence I saw the black of the road, the green of the grass, the blue of the sky, the red and white of my battered bike,  bouncing between  air and earth  above me…and then it was back to black as I finally passed out, coming to an abrupt stop when my body slammed with a dull sound into the metal guardrails.

There are moments in life where the human brain takes an event lasting only seconds and makes it feel like minutes or even hours dragging by. My personal little black-green-blue-red-white-black film was in reality instantaneous, yet in my memory, it seems like forever. I came around and lay there motionless and stunned in the grass on my back, my arms and legs stretched out, staring into the sky. All I saw was the color blue. I couldn’t breathe and my brain was numb after the shock and impact of the crash. My thoughts were confused, my body was incapacitated, and I had no idea how badly I might be injured.




Chapter 9 – The wingspan of a free spirit

July 22, 2010

This is an excerpt of Chapter 9  and I thought it is a nice story to remember.  It seemed that to those times all my vehicles had names.

“Henry” was my car and my home and ” Quasimodo” was my streetbike. Here in the pictures you can see Quasimodo at its best.  I only can say that this bike was beyond difficult and unreliable – but nevertheless it was fun. The combination of heat and injuries on my part and  technical failures and inadequacy of  touring on the bike’s part made this trip the most memorable of all.

I went flying through the red sand of the Monument Valley, drifting and sliding, enjoying the freedom and adrenaline of dirt bike riding, feeling like a young mustang just released into the wild. My mustang analogy came to a screeching halt somewhere in the middle of the valley, when I ran out of gas again and had to wait quite a while for the others to come along. This was not the first time this had happened on this trip, and we already had figured out an effective mode of towing my bike to the next gas station.  After about five miles of riding with Bernie’s foot pushing my bikes rear end we finally arrived at the only gas station for a radius of at least one hundred miles, totally exhausted from the heat.

Besides being sweaty and covered with layers of dust from the valley’s red sand, I was still limping. I felt like an old cowboy who’d been riding through the baking heat of the endless prairie, happy to find a way to feed his horse, when I finally put the hose into the gas tank of my bike awaiting new life. The pavement was melting like butter in the sun, and the tar stuck to the bottom of my tennis shoes.

            While filling up, I saw that the bike was starting to tip over in slow motion. Its side stand sank into the ground like a toothpick through a club sandwich. I tried to prevent the worst but reacted too late; the bike toppled over like it was nothing more than a plastic toy in a stiff breeze. A closer inspection showed that the side stand hadn’t sunk into the tar as I’d first thought; it had broken altogether. The side stand’s welding seam, loosened by the merciless vibrations of the engine, was now neatly severed from the bike frame, clearly resigning its duties. No side stand meant that I couldn’t park the bike anymore unless there was a wall or other firm, heavy object I could lean it against. Now I needed to look for a shop with the equipment and the willingness to weld the stand back on to the bike. Just in case it could be salvaged, I put the broken part into my luggage. Even in the sweltering desert heat, the mood of the travel group was frosty; they were getting fed up with my bike and its problems. Now we also had to worry about how to prop the bike up every time we stopped, and it was about to get worse…a lot worse. The bike lay in the hot sun like a dead coyote. We picked it up, and, as usual, Bernie tried to kick it back to life for me. Nothing happened. He tried again. Nothing. As Bernie’s profanities echoed through the valley, I noticed that the drive chain was hanging off the rear sprocket. How the hell had that happened? Somehow, I had lost the safety nut and bold of the front sprocket, which made the sprocket rotate off the drive shaft and the chain rotate off the sprockets. Both parts were most likely somewhere out in the desert of Monument Valley, gone forever.

Cider tanks and paint fumes

July 15, 2010

Time management is back on track according to my new schedule. In my capacity as writer/editor/proofreader I am working on the final touches.

 Here is an excerpt of Chapter 5 of the story when adventure seeking led me into a huge hall of dirty cider tanks in Italy where I thought some visual stimulation would help to show what this was like. Three month of hard labor, paint fumes and no safety measures whatsoever. The pictures show the tanks AFTER we were done with them. Not bad!


Chapter 5: The Essence of Serendipity


Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things

which escape those who dream only by night.

~ Edgar Allan Poe ~


This was a big job. We walked into a huge hall with a stack of metal cider tanks three stories high running along both sides of the aisle. Each tank had a twenty-one-thousand-gallon (eighty-thousand-liter) holding capacity and a diameter/height of thirteen by thirteen feet (four by four meters) and a length of twenty-six feet (eight meters). The tanks were built before the brick walls and roof were constructed around them, and as a result, they were dirty and spattered with hardened concrete. Our work team consisted of four guys and me.


The world started to spin around me, though, while I worked one day. I felt trapped in a bubble where my heartbeat was loud and dominating. Other people’s voices and the music blaring from the radio fell silent. I raised my arms in slow motion and watched my feet slipping in fresh paint sliding downward as my body was slowly pulled into the narrow crack between two tanks. Suddenly, someone grabbed me and stopped me from slipping down into the darkness. It was my first experience of being high on paint fumes, and I was hanging on for dear life, nauseated and dizzy. It was Bill who saw I was losing it and who rushed up to the third floor to save me. He dragged me downstairs, and we sat outside in fresh air for a while so I could come to my senses again. I couldn’t even imagine in my wildest dreams that this state of mind would be appealing; if I ever wanted to experience new heights of being high, I would always choose adrenaline as my preferred drug.

I had to admit that this was physically hard, dirty work, but I liked living away from home in a different environment; plus I got to see a little more of Italy on the weekends. Our weekdays were dull; there was not much going on in Meran and on top of it, we all had no real desire to do any extracurricular partying because we were rightfully tired, like old people.

Time and delays

July 8, 2010

It’s a fact. I am not able to keep the publishing date of July 2010 as anticipated. I spent the last two month with editing on a part time basis  because life is just too busy to just stick with one thing only. Ok, so I am hopeful that the book will be available on in September. Nevertheless, the delay will be well worth it and I am feverishly looking forward to the moment when I hold the finished product, an actual book in my hands. Once this is done, I most likely need an extensive vacation….


Editing is an interesting phenomenon. It is hard to let go and the art of every writer is to let go at one point. If not, every page could potentially turn into a lifetime project and every day or even every hour when you look at the same sentences or paragraphs there is something to improve.

A neutral eye is necessary to keep perspective of the quality of the work. A neutral eye can also be expensive to be found in the sea of editors out there. I am at the point where I have to trust my instincts before I’m going mad….  

The other thing is time. In writing and editing time seems irrelevant. It’s there and it’s not there. It is only there because we measure it meticulously. We fragment the day into hours, minutes, and seconds and even though time itself never increases its speed, it seems it does. The more we do in one day the quicker time flows. Even slowing down doesn’t stop the time flow and becomes difficult. My life is slower as it was before and yet – time flows by quicker than sitting in an office somewhere. Time is eternal – we race against it because we are aging with time – but time itself never runs out. It always will be there – invisible and abstract.   

 I wasn’t able to combine or control time flow with my editing efforts. Time has fast-forwarded to July of 2010 and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it other than look back and ask myself where the hell this all this time go. … and so I go back to the computer and continue with my editing in the hope I can beat time. Sitting in my chair I am thinking by myself how nice it would be if time would be timeless…

Chapter 8 / Meet Henry

July 1, 2010

Let’s move away from the animal stories although there are many more. This is an excerpt  of  Chapter 8 (Fearless), talking about my arrival in the US.  Daytona Beach was one of my first stops. From Spring Break to Bike week to the 200 mile race of Daytona, I made the best out of  four weeks of fun, sun and bikes. Read the story and meet Henry….    


My first action point on my “to do” list was to check out the beach events, bars, discos, and meet new people.

Parking in Daytona was scarce, so the city arranged for huge parking lots along the scenic beaches; I would drive Henry onto the beach as close to the water as I dared, and then go off with new friends to hang out at the bars and check out whatever was going on.


Unfortunately, coming from a landlocked part of Germany, I was woefully unfamiliar with ocean tides. One morning at around four a.m., I returned with some people to the beach parking lot, after a successful night of barhopping, to discover there were no other cars in sight. Ironically, Kevin had just started to explain the workings of ocean tides to me when it hit me like a ton of bricks: Where the hell was Henry? Everyone else had been smarter than I and had moved their cars to safety before the high tide rolled in. As I scanned that huge, empty beach in a panic, I wasn’t even sure anymore if I was at the right spot; the beach looked completely different bathed in the predawn moonlight rather than in the bright sunshine and vibrating beach life. Finally, I made something out there in the distance…in the dark waters. Poor Henry was no longer parked so much as he was nearly floating; the water was already at the height of the hood! My panic escalated as I realized that Mother Nature was just about to take everything I owned with the crash of the next wave.

  I ran straight into the water up to my thighs. I did not know what to do; I’d never had to save a drowning car before. All I knew was that I couldn’t afford to lose Henry with all my belongings inside. I tried to dig out the tires, but it was no use. Some other people saw my predicament, and Kevin organized them to help him to look for a Jeep with a towing winch. They all started running frantically up and down the beach. Meanwhile, struggling with the tide, wet and agitated, I started to salvage my stuff from the trunk, thinking it wasn’t going to be long until Henry floated away and there would be nothing I could do to prevent it.

Finally, Kevin came back with the owner of a sturdy Jeep and a winch. It was a job and a half for that Jeep to pull Henry to safety, as the car’s tires were already sunk deep into the wet sand with powerful waves pulled in the opposite direction. We managed to salvage Henry. The car was saturated, and it took several days for it to dry out under the Florida sunshine. The salt water left some ugly stains on the interior; but that V8 engine was indestructible. After some initial sputtering, it ran just fine despite having taken an unexpected dip in the Atlantic Ocean.