More than three months after my accident, wheel-spin in a high-speed corner, I've finally left the hospital and now at a transitional living facility. Here the focus is on rehabilitation and learning how to cope with my disability on an everyday basis. The expected stay is two or three months, so I've still got some work to do, but this is the last stage of my journey. Overall, it's going well so far. One of the setbacks I had in the hospital was a nasty bed sore, which required surgery and a three-week stay flat on my back in a special sand-filled bad. That gave me lots of time to think about my situation and how I ended up here. It was either that or count the holes in the ceiling tiles.
Over the years I've adopted an almost paranoid respect of riding safely, especially on the street. It started when we first moved to Bangkok and didn't have a car: Any crash and resultant injury that kept me from riding would be the end of my daily transportation, including getting to work. And there was no way I was going to get in an accident with my wife as precious cargo, as she often was. I actually didn't have a lot of street riding experience when I first started at to work in Thailand, and luckily stayed out of trouble right up until my current predicament. Experienced riders depend on many tricks to stay safe on the street, and I worked my way through all of the tips and advice – some helpful, some no. Eventually, I found my own way to cope with the dangers of street riding, and it served me well up until recently. Most of my near misses on the street – and a couple of my crashes at the track – all happened when I lost concentration or let my mind wander, even just for a moment. That's how I destroyed a Honda CBR1000RR at one of my track days.
I decided at some point that the only option was to devote 100 percent of my efforts and concentration to ridding, whether it was just zipping over to the grocery store or traveling to the middle of Thailand. A lot of riders seem to think that riding on the street requires less attention and mental capacity than the track, but with my newfound criteria I was at first getting worn out just riding to the office in the morning. Another mistake a lot of people make is that they think a crash is not that big a deal. But even a minor tip-over on the street can turn into a major disaster; a simple crash in town can get a lot worse quickly if cars are around. Meeting the pavement can be bad news on a quiet country road if you hit a big enough tree. To me, crashing simply wasn't an option: When I said goodbye to the wife on the morning to go to work or to go on a ride, I was going to do everything in my power to make sure I made it to wherever I was going in one piece.
I know a lot of racers shy away from riding on the street, and I was among them at one time. But logging thousands of kilometers here brought me a new appreciation for street riding. A different skill set is required to deal with the many unknowns, and these skills need to be learned and optimized just as track skills are. To me, riding rural Thailand roads knowing I didn't put a wheel wrong – no matter what the pace – is just as satisfying as setting a personal best lap time at the track.
Despite all my safety precautions, I still ended up in a big mess. But I enjoyed street riding so much that knowing I could get seriously injured – or worse – was a risk I was willing to take. Here at the rehabilitation center I'm finding that people can hurt themselves even more than I'm injured in all kinds of ways: driving, mountain biking, swimming, failing off a roof or even a step ladder. The point I'm trying to make is that you can't give up on doing something you love just because there is a risk of getting hurt. Take that attitude a few steps further, and you'd have a hard time justifying getting out of bed in the morning. But that doesn't mean you can take a cavalier attitude to riding. Do everything you can to minimize that risk; if not for yourself, for your friends and family.