Open Face Helmet

Riding GS down a sunny street the other day on some errand. Non-ATGATT, just jacket and boots, and for some lazy reason my open face helmet. Bought as a stopgap a few years back, when I had to ride some bike to somewhere from a shop, but didn’t have a helmet with me, cheap-so-I-bought-it. Now it lives in my locker at work, sort of a ‘round town backup lid. Very, as in very, occasional use, but gaining.

So, there I am, putting along, when a flock of frightened pigeons on the other side of the street explodes into flight, flocking right across my path. I dodge (duck?); a couple of them come pretty close, but no harm, no fowl, no squab.

But instant flashback.

I’m 19 again, it’s about 1969, on my old BMW R60, burbling through an Arizona night, going mellow 55…. All clean desert air, warm, no moon, plenty of sky, zero traffic, miles from anywhere, bike running sweet, and the girl on back snugged up against me so nice, so nice. The breeze on my face a soothing contrast to the heat and grit of Arizona days, the scent of sage and chamisa fine as any perfume money can’t buy.

WHAM! No warning. I take a huge blow to the face. For one microsecond see feathers and stars, smell chicken, head wrenches back, then it’s over. I hold on to the bars, slow down a bit… er, a lot, wow! hey, I hit a bird, probably a hawk cruising for roadkill or tarantulas. Not sure if I was the baseball or the bat, but sure felt it, and I bet the bird did, too. Manage to not lose the bike, check; realize we are both ok, check; so just keep on going…a bit numb, but going. Check. Didn’t turn back to look for a body.

Two or three miles later, a tap on my shoulder. I hear “Hey, I’m getting wet. What’s up?” Pull over, hop off, park it, gloves off, goggles off, wiping at my chin, she moves into the headlight, t-shirt plastered to her chest. With blood… and on my hand, too. Not her blood. Check. That’s good. Well hell, this is a fine mess! Miles out of town, tie a bandana around my jaw. Nothing to do but scratch one of my (our?) spare lives off the list and roll on.

As we do. Off to the doc. Sew a nice set of stitches on an angular beak gash across my chin. No big deal. It didn’t take an eye. I can tell people it’s a dueling scar…

But those seconds with the pigeons put me right back there…. What if I was going faster, what if what if…

Maybe this lid should just go in the trash…

Only bummer: people I know (and even ones I don’t) smile, wave, recognize me as I ride around town wearing that open face helmet. You meet the nicest people on a GS. Not the same, not like wearing my full-face Darth Vader helmets, and this one is lighter, and well, more open.

But who wants a reconstructed face or worse, no face at all? And, is that really even a question?

Tomorrow I hit it with the Sawzall and retire it… I will send you the picture.

—Dan Carey