Posted by: fergy1008 | March 4, 2012

First Dam of 2012 along with a little havoc

First dam snag

2012 DamTour season started March 1st at midnight. Every year there are a handful of riders who take upon themselves the challenge of snagging the first dam, for nothing more than bragging rights.  The webmaster for DT goes by the imprinted information on the data file associated with every digital picture so it’s critical to have your camera properly set up and ready to go when the clock strikes 12.  Angela and I made a plan to try and snag the first photo of 2012 like we accomplished in 2011. Had this night gone as intended that’s exactly what we would have done. However……as they say with “best laid plans”, the intended result doesn’t always manifest. This was to be the case in our quest. In reality,  Angela and I were the first ones to snag a dam for 2012 but, because of Steve’s blunders, it didn’t end up that way officially.

In preparation for our quest, the week before the start I did a test run with the camera on a tripod, setting the auto-timer to take pictures every five seconds and it worked like a charm.  The evening of our trip we did another successful test, put fresh batteries in the flash, and prepared for rain with a second tripod to which we could ziptie an umbrella if needed.  Before leaving that night, I logged into the atomic clock and set the camera to the exact second to make sure our picture would be as close to the correct time as humanly possible.  Angela and I left about 10pm headed to our chosen dam, Lake Cushman Dam #1, located off Hwy 101 near Hoodsport, WA. I estimated we should arrive somewhere between 11:30 and 11:45 and was right as we approached our destination around 11:30pm. When we left Tacoma the weather was iffy, turning kinda ugly with snow flurries and big fat flakes coming down as we reached Hwy 101. I kept checking my weather temp reading and we were hovering around 35deg so I knew things were probably not going to stick. Not long after, the skies cleared a bit, the moon peeked its head out of the clouds and even a few stars were showing. The rest of the ride to the dam was uneventful as we enjoyed the crisp night air and the virtually traffic free highways. After arriving at the dam we took a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful evening and now completely clear sky. The previous day had provide about 4-6” of snow to the area but the roads were plowed and clear all the way to the dam so traveling them wasn’t a problem. As I was setting up the tripod, a security guard for the dam rolled up, a little inquisitive about our undertaking. I explained to him what DamTour is all about and why the heck we were there at 11:30 on a Wednesday night. He laughed, said good luck and went on his merry way. It was time to check the camera setting one last time before midnight rolled around. I had set the camera to take 40 pictures at 3 sec intervals starting at 11:59pm in hopes of catching our pictures as close to midnight as possible. So at 11:58 we got into position and waited for the timer to start shooting. At exactly 11:59pm the camera did just what it was suppose to do and we smiled for the camera until all the pictures were taken. Excited about the outcome I wanted to make sure the pictures had turned out, especially the one closest to midnight. As I was looking at the time stamp, I was mentally fist-pumping as I saw we had a caught a picture at 12:00:03am!! Perfect!! Then Angela quickly noticed that while the time was great, the date was completely WRONG!  I was so focused on the correct time while setting the camera that I completely forgot to look at the date. So on the photo file it read 12:00:03 February, 02, 2011. OOPS! Not wanting to lose valuable time fiddling with the setting on a  complicated digital camera, I went to the trunk and pulled out our travel camera and quickly fired off shots of Angela, then myself. Knowing not much time had elapsed I thought that maybe we still might get bragging rights, though I knew there were at least a half dozen other riders doing the same thing  throughout Washington and Oregon. Looking at the camera information on the second camera I was delighted to see the time stamp was 01:06. Great! Just a minute past midnight so I thought to myself “cool, we may get this after all!”. But alas the digital gods raised their ugly heads again. I realized, it was not 12:01:07 as we had thought, but simply 1:07, as in one a.m. in the morning, a full hour after the start of the tour and the actual time that we were there. Last time I set this cameras information I forgot to check the little box that accounts for daylight saving time. DOH! Feeling like a heel I apologized to Angela, but after the fiasco(s) with Lake Lowell last year, she was quick to forgive! Although the second camera was the correct date, if not time, we held out hope that others hadn’t made the dams of choice and that our picture might still be good enough to capture the first dam of the season. After all, last season we got first dam with a photo taken at 6:51 in the morning. We packed up and headed home.

Here’s where the story turns a little ugly. The night was still quiet and clear and the temperature had dropped a few degrees but my temp gauge was still registering 34 deg. So I eased back down the access road leading from the dam site until hitting Hwy 101. Seeing runoff water from the snow pack I was confident the roads were safe enough for travel and down Hwy 101 we went. Continuing to check the brakes and for signs of ice, the miles quickly clicked by without trouble. Taking the onramp from 101 to I-5 I thought the front end felt a little squirmy and that there may have been a little ice due to it being an overpass. Slowing down and keeping a keen eye on the road we safely merged onto I-5 without incident. This was, however, about to change. A few more miles down the road I-5 showed no signs of trouble or previous snow fall but still I tucked in behind a semi and kept the speed down. It was about 1:30am so the majority of the vehicles were truckers. I eventually passed the semi by slowly increasing my speed until I was safely past it, then stayed in the second to the right lane. After a few more minutes I knew we were coming to the Nisqually Valley and it may have the potential for ice. Starting to traverse into the valley I signaled for the right lane which I knew had the best chance of being clear due to all the trucks using that lane. This is where things get a little fuzzy…I don’t know how long after I changed lanes that we hit a patch of black ice. The things I do remember haunt me every time I think of them. As soon as we hit the black ice, the front end started to shimmy and in mere seconds we were down and sliding along I-5. The impact for me wasn’t very severe, but I do remember, as I was sliding and sparks were flying everywhere, that I caught sight of Angela sliding down the center of the right lane. I must have been spinning because I lost sight of her and didn’t see her again until the bike stopped and came to rest on the shoulder of the road. My foot was trapped beneath the bike and, along with my beautiful bike, I slid for what seemed an eternity. As it turned out, Angela was almost immediately off the bike and sliding on her left side. Without the bike carrying her along, she came to a quicker stop than me and crawled across the lane to the shoulder. As luck, and the hand of God would have it, myself, Angela, and the wing all made it safely off the roadway. The last few yards of sliding the bike made a turn and released my foot. The bike and myself ended up about 50 feet from Angela. Not even knowing if I was hurt, as soon as I stopped I jumped up, threw off my helmet and started running towards Angela. Knowing my concern, although still on her hands and knees, she was waving and yelling “I’m alright, I’m alright”. Quickly gaining my senses I realized we needed to get on the other side of the guard rail because others may hit the black ice and come veering towards us. Plus, with the bike on its side and facing the wrong way and all the lights still on it may confuse others and they may panic and swerve. After retreating to the other side of the guard rail we quickly started to access our injuries. After a few brief moments, we realized we weren’t severely hurt and our attention turned to emergency help. I always travel with a SPOT GPS satellite messenger device. The SPOT had come out of my pocket but ended up resting against a guard rail post. Seeing the device I activated the distress button to summon help. After sending for help, my attention quickly turned to my beautiful, precious bike. Yes, it had come to rest on the shoulder but it was still too close to the fog line for my comfort. We found the emergency flares and put them out along the fog line, along with an emergency strobe. I don’t know how Angela and I did it but we seemed to pick up the damaged bike with little effort. Can you say adrenaline? After righting the bike I was able to back the bike to alongside the guardrail, hopefully out of harms way. Shortly after moving the bike, to our delight 3 sheriff cruisers came over the horizon towards us. It was less that 5 minutes after activating the SPOT that authorities were on site. After a few standard questions to make sure we were okay the process of getting everything and everyone to safety began unfolding. The officers called and arranged for AAA to tow our bike, and calls were made and statements taken, Angela stayed in the back of one the cruisers to keep warm and safe. I, however, started to access the damage to the wing. The most noticeable was the huge puddle of oil. My highway peg on the right side had punctured a hole on impact into the right side crankcase. The right side muffler was destroyed along with a good chunk of the rear saddlebag. Both mirrors were damaged along with the right brake lever. Also, along the right side was damage to the controls for the onboard navigation. Other than the crankcase, everything else looked cosmetic. If I had to classify the incident, I would say it was a textbook slide accident. We believe the icy road that caused us to go down actually prevented us from harm by keeping us sliding on a thin layer of ice  rather than tumbling on rough, bare pavement. And, other than a few bruises and sore muscles, we are absolutely fine. One of the officers took Angela to a Chevron in Dupont where she waited for a ride from some close friends we called and asked for help. Shout out to Aaron – it’s a good friend that will get out of bed at 2:30 in the morning to give you a ride. I stayed behind with another officer who was kind enough to let me sit in his cruiser until the tow truck arrived. While waiting in the cruiser, nearby two vehicles spun out in the southbound lanes and veered off the road with one of them landing on its roof. Hearing the police chatter on the officers radio it seemed that, although shook up, all passengers and drivers were okay. I guess Nisqually Valley reeked havoc on more than a few of us that night. After the bike was secured and driver told where to take the bike, the rest was pretty uneventful.  Once the tow truck had the bike secured, I rode to Hinshaw’s with the driver and met Angela who had collected our truck from home to come and meet me there.

I’m thankful we’re okay and, of course, we will both take a lesson from all this. Will this be the last time we go down? Well, let’s hope so but we all know sometimes s*!t happens that’s out of our control and havoc seems to rears it’s ugly head when we’re least expecting it. But I’ll do my best to prevent this type, or any type, of accident from happening again. And any wreck you can walk away from is okay in my book. The bike is now at Hinshaw’s waiting for the service guru’s to give the insurance adjuster the figures for repair. It’s possible we may not make the third ride in Green Freeze, but we still have the KLR650 if we want to participate. I suppose we’ll see what mother nature has in store for us that day.

We do want to thank all the riders who have shared their stories, knowledge and experiences which turned out to help us on this scary night.  Though dozing on the back when we went down, Angela immediately felt the change, knew what was happening and remembered what I and others had said – tuck yourself into a ball, wait to stop and get to safety as soon as you can. Angela remembered the chapter newsletter mentioning take a few minutes and fully check yourself before worrying about the bike. Timmer showed us at the 2010 DamTour picnic how to easily pick a GoldWing up off it’s side. We were introduced to the SPOT after seeing it on another riders bike, asking about it and having them freely share all they knew.

As for the first dam snag of the season, that honor goes to Matt Watkins whose picture was taken at 12:04am. A day or so after our trip it occurred to me that we could have adjusted the time and retaken the pictures, but my Daddy taught me to own up to your mistakes and be honest and upstanding, and although the time was correct I failed to check the date stamp. Oh well it makes for one hell of a story. This trip was full of lessons but it’s often the lessons that also make memories.

Here’s a few pictures of the night.

Our beautiful wing will be repaired, and so will our spirits once we’re back on her again. I do want to give a shout out to Honda for their engineering that possibly saved us from sever bodily harm by designing a bike that doesn’t lay flat if laid down. I believe some of the safety features of this machine saved Angela & I from serious harm. I also want to give thanks to my lord for watching over us that night. And although we had an accident it could have been much…much worse. It wasn’t our time yet. I’m convinced he has better plans for us. Thank you Lord for watching over us that night.


  1. We’re all relieved to know you both are in such good shape after your accident Steve. Thanks for sharing the details here. I had some questions after reading your DT post and this filled in the blanks nicely.

    Keep us all posted as to your official return to DT and BMR. Waiting for you to get back at it soon as you’re both great ambassador of the sport.

    Keep Going!

  2. OH MY!!

    That is quite a story! So glad you’re alright and in good spirit. Thanks for sharing, -but very sorry that you went down.

    Good thoughts from Reno

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