On Helmets And Vaccinations

Okay, so I told an old war story from the motorcycling days of my youth in an earlier thread. In response to a Raven Eye comment, I said:

“Your story of father and BB guns really holds water though. A friend and me, pre driver’s license, used to ride dirt bikes all over what is now suburbia. We would take 410 shotguns out quail and dove hunting. They seemed, shall we say, not very effective at range. So, one day with leathers and helmets on, we paced off, maybe 50-75 yards and shot at each other. We each took some pellets but no harm. And that is the kind of stupid your father foresaw.”

As stupid as it sounds on the surface, it was fine. We were both wearing motorcycling attire and full coverage helmets. Looking back, it still falls in the “things you ought not do” department. But we were in no real danger, just young and stupid.

I’ll get to the “vaccinations” part of this post in a minute, but back to helmets. I never even thought to wear a bicycle helmet, whether riding on the streets of Tempe in college (hey, I got sideswiped once!), or on those of Santa Monica in the summers. Literally never crossed my mind. Now they are ubiquitous on almost every bicyclist you see.

Back to the helmet thing. I wore a Bell Star, with flip down visor. It cost an insane amount of money at the time, but my mother paid it in a heartbeat, as my friends and I did not just ride to hunt quail and dove, we raced motocross and hare and hounds. It was the classic white Bell Star one, with a flag decal on each side. My friend in this story did not wear a Bell, but, I think, a Shoei. There were not that many full coverage helmets that early. Either way, we were pretty safe for the 410 test.

That Bell helmet later saved my life. I had done some wrenching on a friend’s Yamaha 250 (close to what I had raced earlier), and was taking it home to him. Doing 30-40 mph on a large street with a palm tree median when a little sports car made a left turn in front of me. The bike collapsed into the side, and I was catapulted over it and landed 20-30 yards on the other side, on my knees, elbows and head. The elbows were skinned, the knees really hurt, and the trusty Bell Star was cracked in the cranium section. Cracked. That would have been my head. I went to the hospital for a checkup, but was released within a couple of hours. Concussions were not yet a thing.

Such is the value of helmets. But how many people out there now, without a thought, wear bicycle helmets, but ignorantly refuse to get vaccinated? I honestly do not know the answer, but it strikes me that it may be a quantifiable amount. And how is that exactly? Here is an NFL player, once “hesitant” that found the vaccine jesus. Good for Travis Kelce. For one and all, PLEASE go get fully vaccinated; it is good for you, your family and society. It, like helmets, can save lives. Do it.

90 replies
  1. John Forde says:

    Perfect analogy BMAZ, except for the non communicable aspect of motorcycle crashes. BTW I am teaching a MC class for 6-11 year olds next Saturday. 3 spots still open.

  2. d4v1d says:

    Surrounded by three states and a province that require hemets, harley riders crossing into the live free or die state take their helmets off. The said surrounding entities are better at vaccination rates, too.

    • bmaz says:

      Exactly. I just don’t get that. This is Arizona, riding in the summer was hot. Really hot sometimes. But we still wore the helmets and at least reasonable protective clothing. How nuts do you have to be to be jonesing for the state line to take your helmet off?

  3. John Paul Jones says:

    Got my second shot on Thursday. As to bikes and cars, my experience was that drivers quite often simply DON’T SEE you on a bike. I mean, sure, they see you, but the bike and the rider don’t really register (too narrow in the field of vision? lower than expected cognitive stimulus?) and you get a lot of accidents because of it, and cars that will crowd you on corners, cut you off, etc etc.

    As an eleven-year-old, a friend and I were riding bicycles, two abreast (big mistakes) and a truck coming round the corner crowded us and I got dinged in the shoulder by the mirror. Driver had miscalculated his overall width. Pushed into my friend and the both of us collapsed in a heap, boys and bicycles together. Driver didn’t even slow down. One of those “inch higher” scenarios where luck and not judgement saves you.

    • P J Evans says:

      I saw a small car once trying to make a right turn inside a semi at a signal. The semi never even noticed the car, as it pulled out, made the turn, and ripped off part of a fender.

    • bruce.desertrat says:

      This happened to a friend of mine. Lady pulled left in front of him, he was doing about 45 at the time. Went over the hood, fortunately, but broken ribs, very painfully caught his groin on his headlight on the way over, road rash and a concussion (thanks to the helmet).

      Her comment to the cops “I saw a single headlight coming down the road, and didn’t think it was anything.” Literally.

      • skua says:

        There is much caution to be gained from watching Russian dash cam videos. Attack opportunities, the effects of speed, inattention, rage and momentum …

        • John Paul Jones says:

          My theory has always been that accidents are caused by combinations of the three “I”s: Inexperience; Inattention; Inebriation. Add speed to any one of these and results can easily be fatal.

  4. P J Evans says:

    Friend was on the then-Pasadena Freeway, back in the early 80s, about this time of year (it was finals week at my college). He was in full gear. Traffic slowed to about 25 or 30, right when his oil seal let go. He went down, but only relatively minor injuries. Faceplate went … somewhere, gloves were abraded to the knuckles, pants were shredded at knee and hip (and leather wallet was abraded right through the outer layers), but his abrasion-resistant jacket was only scuffed. Yes, he wore full gear *every* time he was out. (The other incident I know of was when some idjit backed into him at a stop, despite horn use. He was in a rental car from out of town, so friend made him go with him to a parts place for a replacement front fender, and pay up front, not with credit or a check that could be cancelled.)

    • bmaz says:

      If you are on two wheels, whether bike or cycle, assume cars don’t see you. To the best of my recollection, none of my motorcycles were ever street licensed. Some could have been legally, but really were not made for that. My friend’s was, and I was literally just taking it back to him, only a few miles away, and blammo!

      A college roommate had a Kawasaki 900 that I rode occasionally, but not often, in Tempe. On four wheels, you can get hit and bounce off. On two, even to an idiot like me, the odds did not seem so good.

      • P J Evans says:

        That’s all the ones I know about – and he had been riding for years. Now that he’s gray-haired (and living in Oregon), he doesn’t ride nearly so much. Once we went from Pasadena to Anaheim for an electronics show, with a trip to Disneyland included. (IIRC, that was May 1980, because it was right after Mt St Helens blew; there was a guy at the show, an attendee, from the WA state natural-resources dept. There was a little temptation to make a comment about some of the resources getting out of hand, but not followed.)

        • P J Evans says:

          BTW, the helmet that lost its faceplate was a Bell, just like the one in the pic. (Mine was a Bell, but a more basic model.)

  5. posaune says:

    I’m glad you were ok, bmaz.
    One thing I really worry about: the bike share stations here are plentiful, almost one every 10 blocks. I never see anyone on a bike-share bike wearing a helmet. Ever. These people are all over the streets, weaving between cars and pedestrians. I have to wonder what kind of liability insurance that company carries.

    p.s. My dad did make us wear helmets on our bikes (with a mouth guard). And we griped and griped because we were the only kids on the street with helmets. He wouldn’t budge, though.

    • Fran of the North says:

      Agreed. Bike share and electric scooter riding w/o a helmet is just asking for brain injury. I’m too old to be doing what I do, but when I take my longboard out, brain bucket is a requirement.

  6. tbob says:

    In 1967 at Ft. Rucker, AL I was riding to the pickup point for early morning guard duty. Had on my mandatory helmet (white Bell w/snap-on visor) and an M14 rifle strapped across my back. At a blind intersection a ’56 Chevy MP car blew through a stop sign (no lights or siren) and received yours truly and a new BSA 441 into the driver’s door. You beat me on time in the air but I hit hard enough to regain consciousness staring up at the clouds. The bike and and M14 were total write-offs but the Bell suffered only a minor gash at the left temple. Nothing broken (thanks to the rifle) but shoulder-to-ankle bone bruises and a headache got me off guard duty, so I had that going for me.

    I taught MSF courses for the State of Idaho for a decade and convincing beginning and veteran riders of the importance of safety equipment was one of the hardest chores I faced. I have no doubt Idaho’s helmetless riders are predominantly also vaccine-free.

    • bmaz says:

      Precisely. I bet the two classes of vaccineless and helmetless are very much one in the same. But do not know and do wonder.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        What about other regulations that restrict personal freedom–seatbelt laws and those restricting DUI/DWI? Do you see the same population(s) resisting those?
        I was in rural Tennessee a few years ago and found it jarring indeed to witness my friends who live there freely texting as they drove (with me in the passenger seat); cell phone use behind the wheel is illegal here in CT (although that doesn’t stop everyone).

        • bmaz says:

          The short and simple answer is…No, I do not. And I still defend plenty of vehicular crimes. I, myself, got pulled over for a municipal violation for using the phone while driving (it is now a statewide thing). Cost $350 but did not even contest it. Public safety laws are fine.

        • P J Evans says:

          Hand-held use while behind the wheel is illegal in CA, but the penalties are minor, assuming they even catch you doing it. (I saw someone drive through a DMV parking lot while holding a phone. Talk about Not Getting It! And a friend had his car totalled by a young woman who ignored several opportunities to make a left turn while glued to her screen, then moved on a yellow. There were lots of witnesses to say it was her fault, including people who had seen cars *go around her* to make their turn.)

        • Jen says:

          Same. Driving home one day, I found a car just sitting in the middle of the (fairly narrow, residential) street. Waited. Tapped the horn. Nothing. It looked like I could *just* squeeze around on the left. As I came even with the driver’s window, I peered in (medical emergency?) Nope. glued to their phone. Oblivious.

          Speaking of cycle accidents, in his 20s, my ex got cut off by a car, hit the curb, and flew over the handlebars head first into a sturdy metal power pole at 30 mph. No helmet. I didn’t know that until after we were married. Old brain traumas never completely go away and sometimes get worse.

          I am ashamed to admit how many times my brain has failed to register a bicycle or motorcycle until the very. last. second. My brain is looking for cars or trucks. A narrow, usually dark, sliver of machine, tires and human doesn’t register unless the human is very wide or flamboyant or moving fast enough to trigger a visual “doppler effect”. And at night, a single headlight perplexes me. Fortunately for bi-wheeled vehicle drivers I drive like the proverbial little old lady.

        • madwand says:

          Happened exactly the same way for me, cut off by a left turning vehicle at the last moment, had to unass the bike and flashed past a rode sign at around the same speed. Training saved me and I did a parachute landing fall onto a grassy shoulder and was uninjured, very very lucky.

          Later while doing back trails in Alabama in the early 70’s the lead biker ran into a pig farm with an electrified fence, the farmer came out with a shotgun blazing and we got the hell out of there. The lead biker’s rig was entangle in the fence and every time he tried to unentangle it he got shocked. The farmer was laughing his ass off and shooting into the air, finally my friend grabbed his bike by the grips and was able to free it, beat feet after that and rejoined the rest of us a mile back up the trail. I guess all in the process of learning.

        • punaise says:

          It’s amazing that (AFIK) some states allow open container. What could possibly go wrong?

  7. Lawnboy says:

    At 12, I started riding in the dirt. My friend from 1969 switched me over to street rockets, (at age 60) sold me his 2007 650 cc Bandit and off we went. I was never a seasoned street rider but bc all the trails are now paved over, I had no choice.

    There were stupid fast bikes (Kawasaki 500/750 triples) back in high school, but the bikes out there today are way too fast. That said, after 7 years , Im done. I thought a trip to the hospital during peak Covid was not a great idea for obvious reasons, and the bones dont heal as fast. Also, THE GOD D^**(@M CELL PHONES!. Im booking it in a pass attempt, look right, and they’re on the phone!!! Please. That happens on every weekend ride. Dont let me start on traffic circles, grrrrrr.

    I ALWAYS WORE MY GEAR, and now the full suit, Rocket coat with D30 pads for knees ,hip, elbows. I too use a real nice Bell Evo full face with top gun visor….but I cant get them off the phones, so Im taking the bike to my wrench guy Monday, he knows a buyer, Im done.

    This Friday, my wife and I are 14 days out from the second dose of fizzier, life is good, Im a grandfather now, and I like it.

    Thanks for all you “wheely” do, keep your stick on the ice, and the rubber on the road.


  8. gmoke says:

    Used to not wear a bicycle helmet. Then I got my one head injury (a cut) in a meeting with a car. After that, I decided that you get only one free head shot on a bike and have worn a helmet, religiously (I pray when I ride), since.

    Fully vaccinated too.

  9. Dennis Bean-Larson says:

    I’ve been riding and racing bicycles for 35 years. Motor vehicle drivers are no better or worse than they’ve always been, same with law enforcement and the courts. None care about bicyclists despite 35 years of advocacy and million of deaths it’s indicative of American society. I’m 75, a Vietnam combat veteran, 100% disabled, at least the VA will put me back together. I’m moving to Europe. This country sucks. O’yeah, I had a 441 Victor once too.

    • tbob says:

      Kind of thinking along the same line…went to Norway and Iceland four years ago. I could easily live in either spot. After the wreck at Rucker I volunteered for RVN (to get out of Alabama) and finished my enlistment at Chu Lai. Had many close calls, but none on a bike. Still riding at 76 (just passed 100,000 on the old R1100GS). Wishing you the best, brother.

      • madwand says:

        What did you wreck in at Rucker TBOB? As far as LA (Lower Alabama) is concerned I share your sentiments, not sure Chu Lai would have been my solution.

  10. rosalind says:

    our small-ish town’s boardwalk mixes pedestrians & bikes together in an undivided path. already very dangerous with many near misses. now with the regular bike shortage (estimates of 8 month wait for a new bike) an E-bike store has opened up and they are flying out the door. motorized vehicles aren’t allowed on the path, but the rule isn’t enforced, so the happy new (helmeted) E-Bike owners are flying down the path on their heavy bikes with no seeming conception of how fast they are going or how much damage their bikes will do to we flesh and bone pedestrians, joining the one-wheel motorized skateboard thingies and electric scooters. feel like i need to start wearing a helmet just to walk.

    • P J Evans says:

      Even bicyclists can be dangerous, if they’re weaving through pedestrians, or ignoring traffic signs and signals, which too many will do.

      • John Paul Jones says:

        What gets me about some of the bicycle riders in this town is that they pretend they are cars in some situations, but pedestrians in others, so you often see them “jaywalking” when they don’t want to wait for a light. Was behind a guy a couple of months ago who wanted to turn left and instead of being on the outside, and taking it easy, he was right up against the dividing line, with cars behind him and on his right, obviously rattled and rattling the drivers too. Still, fecklessness is a universally human trait, so I ought not to blame les bicyclettistes (sp?).

  11. Raven Eye says:

    My first Bell was their original bike helmet. I pre-ordered it when I read somewhere that it was coming out. I had been using an AGV rock climbing helmet before that because the common wisdom was (very little research had been published) that they were better than those padded leather tubey things the racers wore.

    My first M/C helmet was a Bell Star 120 (orange). Wore that riding a Honda CB400F (a poor man’s canyon racer) solo from central California to Washington, DC one summer. I had bored a few small holes in the face shield to get a little more air. (No windscreen, and within a few miles after crossing from Colorado into Nebraska I took a hit from a grasshopper right on my Adam’s apple. Almost poetic, and nothing happened but a sting.)

    I always wore full face helmets. I used to tell people that I ignored helmet laws — which would draw a look much of the time. I told them that I didn’t need a law to tell me to wear a helmet.

    The difference between the helmet and the vaccine: The helmet I do for myself. The vaccine is 50:50 for myself and for public health — it’s my duty.

    BTW…Didn’t Peter Revson wear a plain white Bell Star at some point in his SCCA days?

  12. skua says:

    We’ve had unbelievably minimal community transmission here. So many people are taking the low hassle route of “I’ll get vaccinated if there is a real outbreak”. Which misses the difference in timeframes between a big outbreak (two weeks?) and max vaccination protection (14 week?) – and the scarcity issue when all the low-hassle people panic and rush for a vaccine.
    2nd AZ shot coming in 2 wks for me – gov here does/did froth and bubble around vaccine supply, unable to organise timely distribution.
    So while my timing looks tardy, I’m only some 2 weeks behind the very first normal-public immunisations.
    Fuck we’ve been lucky and stupid here.

    • bmaz says:

      Get any vaccination you can. It is very likely you may have to get another one someday. That is okay. Stay alive and keep your family alive until that day comes.

  13. Savage Librarian says:

    Helmets were definitely NOT a thing when I was young. In fact, in my family, girls and bikes were NOT a thing either. I kept asking for one. My brothers had bikes. But me? Nope.

    Finally, when I was about to become a teen, I stopped asking for a bike. Instead, I asked for a poodle skirt. You know…black felt with a poodle appliqué.

    So, the big day arrives. I open the box. And there was a lavender corduroy skirt with a dachshund appliqué. As you might imagine, it took some time before my classmates let me live that down.

    Oh, and there was also a very used bike for me in the basement. But by that time, none of my friends were riding bikes. Sheesh. That’s also around the time I decided Republicans were not very cool.

    And anti-vaxxers are not cool.

    I’ve been fully super-Pfized. Now I’m ready to go into polite society (Wut!?) again.

  14. vvv says:

    Been vax’d over a month now, been to a few restaurants, the grocery store …

    Last night was a getouttathecave milestone – I went to a bar for the first time since the plague and caught a band (pretty good Eagles cover band), had a few Jameson’s on the rocks, left before I had need for a helmet.

  15. Geoguy says:

    I’ve been using a full face helmet for nearly 50 years, a bicycle helmet for nearly 40 years and a ski helmet for 20 years. I started wearing the ski helmet as an example when my 4 year old daughter started to ski and never took it off. A hardhat has saved my life and the others certainly have prevented major damage. Fully vaxxed as soon as I could. I just don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t wear a helmet when not required, (or get the vaccine.)

    • bmaz says:

      Like bicycling, I never thought to wear a helmet skiing. Even though I skied stupid hard places like Telluride and Mary Jane. Heck I didn’t even wear a hat unless it was really cold. Those were different times though. Never forget why Michael Schumacher is barely alive, because that is it, better head protection and he is probably still all there.

  16. foggycoast says:

    the flip side. my father was a professional football player in the days of leather helmets (on the team that later became the Baltimore Colts.) thing is, according to him, there were rarely the kind of head and neck injuries compared to today because they would not hit as hard knowing they would seriously injure themselves. he forbade me from ever playing junior or high school football because with all the helmets and protective gear people were getting injured far more frequently and seriously because they could hit harder without getting injured, until they were. i became an athlete in a sport that involved serious consequences if you made mistakes. far few others did it until new protective equipment was invented. now many more people do it and many more are getting injured and even dying. and yes, i am vaccinated.

  17. Burnt says:

    I’ve broken six bicycle helmets. I guess I lead with my head.. I won’t claim my life was saved by helmet use any of those times but my helmets definitely prevented serious injury. Bittersweet cratered a famous academic’s windshield in Berkeley a few years ago when he ignored the “cross traffic does not stop” sign (he did come to a complete stop before gunning it). Her helmet may have saved her. I always wear a helmet—obviously, I need to.

    • Bittersweet says:

      My helmet let me cheat death and I know it. Burnt and I ride daily, used to race, just bought a car after 5 years with none. We seem to lose someone in our cycling community every year. I was lucky, only broke my pelvis and leg when the 90 year old driver broad sided me in broad daylight. It doesn’t look as though I’ll ever walk more than 3 blocks again, but I can still ride, and I need joy in my life so I do.
      Our black humor is that if you ever want to legally kill someone just run them down with your car. Mow down a bunch of kids and the police will ask you if you are all right after such trauma. Your insurance will pay the family a small sum and you are free to pursue your freedoms. Sigh.
      Wear a helmet, wait to see the whites of their eyes before you take your “right of way”. There does not seem to be any inkling of a law that cares if someone infects and kills a bunch of people with Covid, knowingly passing it along because “freedom”. All you can do is try and protect yourself and loved ones. Vaccinate your bubble. And buy them a helmet!

  18. Mark Henderson says:

    Went down riding a Vespa 250 in 2014 trying to avoid a pedestrian who stepped out from behind a bus. Four days in the hospital. Six broken ribs, separated shoulder, torn meniscus and two broken bones in right foot. Helmet and riding jacket almost unscathed. Not so much my jeans and shoes. Never ride these days without steel toed riding boots. I cringe when I see folks riding in shorts and flip flops with no helmet. (but Darwin…..)

  19. Bay State Librul says:

    Excellent advice.
    Motorcycle Week in Laconia New Hampshire just finished up this week.
    With their “Live Free or Die Attitude”, they still don’t have a law on the books.
    A bill to make it mandatory was a “thumbs down” vote in 2020.
    It wasn’t even close.
    Evidently, they like chin music.

    • ernesto1581 says:

      two of these Live, Freeze & Die characters, nice couple, stayed with a friend nearby this week. big bikes, no helmets, strapless black tee’s (wicked cool), but get this: both EMT’s. boggles the mind.
      did not ask whether they were vacc’ed…

  20. Peterr says:

    I used to do a lot of bike riding on small, two-lane back roads in southern Illinois, dreaming of riding in the Tour de France the way other kids dreamed of the World Series while playing baseball in someone’s back yard. One fine Friday afternoon in the spring, I was headed down a road often used by college students on the way to a clothing-optional, alcohol-mandatory beach, and I could hear a car loaded with rowdies coming up behind me. I slid as far to the right as possible, but when they got to me, the idiot in the front passenger seat threw an empty beer bottle out the window.

    It passed between my arms and my chest.

    I braked hard, veered into the grass, and jumped off my bike as the drunks laughed and continued on down the road. I stood there, shaking my head and thinking “did that really just happen?” when a second car came up and hit its brakes. “You OK? I saw the whole thing,” said the driver through the window. I told him, “I’m fine. The bottle went between my arms and my chest.” “Glad to hear it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m an off-duty cop and I have a car I need to pull over.”

    About ten minutes later, I came over a hill and saw the drunks sitting on the side of the road as the cop was pouring out all their beer — and they had a lot. (My guess is that they were underage.) I gave him a tip of my helmet as I road past, and he touched his hat and smiled back.

    Closest I came to needing the helmet.

    • Lawnboy says:

      I’m in a “deep state “ of mind just now….and me thinks a bike/mc is much like a Fondu set.

      Everyone has a story regarding fires/ tragic events from same.

      P. S. Took my bike to the shop today, hope to sell soon.

  21. Savage Librarian says:

    It’s puzzling that Republicans call themselves conservative. Actually, they are quite wasteful. They waste one opportunity after another, routinely.

    Vaccines are a good example. What a wonderful opportunity to enrich humanity and conserve life. The same holds true for windmills and solar power. Both provide abundant ways to conserve the way of life we enjoy.

    Republicans don’t want to conserve truth or democracy or progress or life as we know it. No. The only thing they want to conserve is tyranny and autocracy.

  22. punaise says:

    I’m currently butting heads (sans helmet) with a vax-declining employee who offers not one single good reason for failing to do what I consider is the societal duty of everyone (who can). Just vague concerns about long-term side effects. Pisses me and his colleagues off to no end. I told him I don’t understand it, I don’t respect it, but as an employer I’m stuck dealing with its repercussions. He doesn’t yet realize that he is undermining his own professional development: no way in hell I am taking him to a client meeting, etc.

    • Mart says:

      In college we had access to blast caps that are used for emergency railroad signaling. Told equivalent to 1/3 of a stick of dynamite. Thought it would be a good idea to hit one in the garage with a hammer. Suited up with pillows and a full motorcycle helmet. Tried tossing a hammer hiding behind a door, but kept missing. Got closer and closer until bam! Had that strange sensation wondering where the fuck am I, and what is that ringing sound. Then realized I left a lot of neck exposed. One of the metal straps used to hold the caps on the tracks made a good slice on the neck; also dozens of sand particles embedded in neck.Luckily the strap missed something important. Should have cut those straps off, or maybe not attempted. Had to buy my roomate a new helmet as it was trashed like my neck.

      Much safer in my old age. Family is fully vaccinated. I holler at stupid ass almost all Trumper friends to get the damn jab already. Think many will never talk to me again – which is fine by me.

  23. scribe says:

    Not a contrary view, but …

    I’ve seen 2 fatal motorcycle accidents. Both in Germany while stationed there. One, the guy, a soldier, passed me going around a shallow right curve doing about the limit on a 100km/h 4-lane divided, lost balance, control, his line, whatever. Wrapped himself around the left-side guardrail. Bike pinwheeled spewing parts, wheels, fenders, light bulbs. I can still play that tape, dodging parts in my car as I braked. He wound up lying flat on his back after skidding that way a good distance. I got there in time to flip open his face shield and hear a death rattle. Found one of his legs cut off at the boot top 20 or 30 feet away. Traumatic amputation, internal injuries so severe there was no bleeding from the stump. I saw the whole thing unfold.

    Inexperienced rider, turned out it was his 2nd day with the bike. He’d just dropped off his wife at the dispensary’s delivery room and was headed home to get her suitcase. His kid was born the next day, an orphan.

    2nd example. Coming around a little jughandle leading to a traffic light to facilitate right turns. A little drizzle starting. Very experienced rider, it turned out. Had toured all over Europe. Helmet and full leathers. Rear wheel went out on the slightly greasy road. He snapped his neck on impact with the pavement. Dead right there.

    Helmets didn’t help either. No guarantees when you get on a bike. But these two cured me of any desire to ride with less than 4 wheels on a box, ever again.

    As to monkeying around with .410s, at 75 yards you were lucky to get hit given there are relatively few pellets in such a shell. The pellets would likely have had enough energy to give you a good welt and maybe break your skin. Maybe. It’d depend on the size of the shot. Definitely could have hurt your eyes. I shot trap yesterday next to a guy using a .410. He broke 6/25 and one could see some orange dust come off about an equal number – in other words, at 35-40 yards range even a good shot wasn’t getting enough energy on target to break a clay bird. I’ve been pelted with shot while hunting and it’s not pleasant. I was and am glad I wear glasses.

    Still, the eye protection was a good idea, if there were any good ideas anywhere in your escapade. The better idea would have been taking away your .410 until you grew up some – there are few better, more effective ways of disciplining a teenager with an interest in hunting/shooting than an adult promising in advance that the gun will disappear if there is even the slightest hint of a safety violation, and enforcement of that promise if junior decides to test the waters.

    Still, I’d rather put the .410 in a teenager’s hands than the motorcycle. Proper training on the former is, in my experience, a lot more effective than with the bike, for a lot of reasons. There was a no-helmet adult shithead local to me the other summer who killed himself. Of course, he had just left a biker bar toward the end of a long day and was doing handstands on the handlebars of his hog when he went through a suboptimal resolution to his balance experiment. No one (sane) will shoot or hunt with someone who is handling their firearms unsafely (especially if there are intoxicants involved) and there is almost always something leading up to an unsafe discharge which gives away that this guy is one to be avoided. Trained people will usually call out the offender before something happens, too.

    As to not vaccinating – I can understand it, especially in light of the mRNA technology being very new and the unprecedented speed with which the vaccine came to market. I probably could have passed on the vaccine since the one time in my life I was an early adopter was last March when I caught corona and got to gut it out at home watching commercials reminding me to not visit the doctor’s lest I contaminate their offices. I got the vaccine anyway (I never got tested, so I wasn’t 100% sure I had it, though I had a lot of the symptoms – loss taste, lung tightness, dizzy spells – and sequelae – dizzy spells, still coughing up crap) but I viewed it more as a convenience for myself. I could flash my vaccine card and go anywhere. And dispense with the mask, too.

    If someone hasn’t had the vaccine by now, it’s their choice. (Just like not wearing their helmets.) There have been sufficient opportunities for just about anyone anywhere in the US to get the shot. Those who haven’t had the shot and are therefore most at risk of catching it have chosen to be in that box. (Frankly, if the partisan breakdown of anti-immunization people is as R-heavy as I’m led by the media to believe, I’m surprised most people here are still harping on wanting them to get their shots. Other than harboring an addiction to wanting to run other peoples’ lives for them. But that’s a little cynical, I know.)

    • P J Evans says:

      There are a lot of areas – rural and in the south/”red states” – where it’s harder than it should be to get vaccinated. Few locations, hours that don’t fit people who work or who need rides, appointments required via computer or smartphone, and if you don’t have a smartphone, Uber and Lyft, if they’re in your area, aren’t available.
      I’m seven weeks out from the second shot, and I’d been wanting the vaccine for a couple of months before I could even find a place that had it and wasn’t a long drive to a location that was “somewhere around this location”.

      • scribe says:

        Fair enough, but the comparison in the post has been (or started off as) no-helmet-motorcyclists as roughly equivalent to anti-vaccination folks, both being reckless or careless with their and other’s lives.

        Having a hard time finding or getting to a place to get a vaccine shot because one lives in a remote location is fundamentally different from refusing to get one out of mulish resistance to science or common sense. In my state’s rural areas (and they’re big and empty) the drugstore chains and Walmarts are doing the shots (in addition to a bunch of other ways of getting them). Those chains and Wally World are pretty much ubiquitous. And when it came out HMOs were rationing vaccine, distributing to their in-network doctors only, the state stepped in and made a special push to get vaccine out to the rural MDs, too. The VA called me, unsolicited, to see whether I wanted to get my shot from them, but I already had made arrangements.

        People who want it, can get it. People who don’t want it are on their own.

        • P J Evans says:

          I got mine at a drugstore chain. Still took an appt via computer – and it wasn’t the closest store. (Good luck getting to W-M without a car.)

    • Rayne says:

      We’re “harping” about adults getting vaccinated because 1) children can’t yet be vaccinated along with many disabled who are immune compromised — they need protection through a large enough percentage of vaccinated adults; 2) studies on COVID increasingly show long-term damage to lungs, cardiovascular system, and now brain tissue (including grey matter loss); 3) new variants will eventually get by vaccines if spread is not stopped by an adequately vaccinated body of adults (same as the flu does most years); 4) we can see that as much as the virus is killing on the right, we’re stuck with their walking ugly zombies suffering from brain damage AND the propaganda Trump set in motion last year is still killing a disproportionate number of people of color.

      Over the long run the right-wing will have killed themselves with their anti-mask/anti-science/libertarian bullshit, but the next 5-10 years during which we’ll have to put up with them will be ugly. Many long COVID sufferers experience heightened anxiety along with other neurologic symptoms; some cryptic/asymptomatic cases may also experience that same anxiety. Imagine these high-anxiety folks being more frequent across the right and having more guns at their disposal; they’re already a threat in grocery stores and airplanes.

      Oh, and the “unprecedented speed with which the [mRNA] vaccine came to market” is bullshit, which I’m pretty sure I’ve written in a post. The mRNA vaccine is based on +30 years research, wasn’t just pulled out of thin air, and there had been a candidate developed for SARS back in 2014 which was shelved because SARS had been mitigated and funding was terminated. You’re simply adding to the disinfo about the vaccine.

      ADDER: “Other than harboring an addiction to wanting to run other peoples’ lives for them.” Cheap fucking shot when the GOP has been doing whatever it can to restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ and uterus-bearing humans as a key differentiator between themselves and any entity left of center.

      • bmaz says:

        Yeah, the (now) next to last paragraph is really important.

        Oh, and the “unprecedented speed with which the [mRNA] vaccine came to market” is bullshit, which I’m pretty sure I’ve written in a post. The mRNA vaccine is based on +30 years research, wasn’t just pulled out of thin air, and there had been a candidate developed for SARS back in 2014 which was shelved because SARS had been mitigated and funding was terminated. You’re simply adding to the disinfo about the vaccine.

        This is NOT new or untested technology and it got adapted safely and efficiently for Covid-19 exactly because of that. The work was already there, the only holdup was sufficient trials, which were done quickly, but quite competently.

      • scribe says:

        No, the “unprecedented speed with which the [mRNA] vaccine came to market” is not bullshit.

        No other vaccine save the annual flu shots (which IIRC, are still incubated in eggs) has gone from “new virus discovered” to “vaccine approved (on an emergency use authorization)/ready for mass production/distribution” in 10 months (being generous, setting the “new virus discovered” at the end of January and “ready” in mid-November.) Keep in mind that there’s a very good likelihood that had the vaccine passed the use authorization two weeks earlier we’d be in the second Trump term.

        • bmaz says:

          Yeah, it is bullshit. Complete bullshit. The technology and how to adapt it to Covid style viruses has been around a long time. I don’t give a fuck about Trump, they used the time they needed, rolled it out, and it has been fantastic. And note that, while both Moderna and Pfizer use mRNA technology, they are not completely identical in their adaptations, they are extremely similar and they proceeded on separate trial tracks. Between the two of them, there was a huge amount of testing and analysis for safety and efficacy. The results are plenty tested and spectacular.

        • Epicurus says:

          They got lucky with a new electron microscope that could portray the spike protein. Timing is everything in life. They could actually see the enemy. Without it they are guessing. Maybe it’s decades old technology (I don’t think so given the accompanying article) but one needs to know to what and how to apply the technology for it to be effective. See the section named “Spike”. Bhttps://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/01/04/the-plague-year

        • bmaz says:

          Oh, JFC this is absolute bullshit. High powered electron microscopes have been looking at RNA since I was in college, I know because I did it in molecular biology. The ability to adapt the technology to this use has been around since 2013-2014. The rest is crap.

      • Peterr says:

        If there is anything unprecedented about the speed with which the two mRNA vaccines came to market, it was on the production side. Usually a company runs its trials and submits its data to the NIH for approval, and once that is given, they invest all the money necessary to ramp up production of the vaccine. After all, who wants to invest in mass production for a drug that may not be approved?

        In this case, the US government looked at increasing spread of the disease alongside the initial small-scale data for these vaccines, and decided to put in the money for scaling up production immediately, rather than letting the companies wait for the full clinical tests to run their course before investing. That way, if the vaccine turned out to be both effective and safe in the large scale clinical tests (which they both did), vaccines would already be waiting to go in warehouses as soon as the NIH and FDA said “Go!”

        And *that* is the unprecedented thing that happened. It’s not the development that was rushed, but the production and distribution.

        • Raven Eye says:

          To get set up for a decent scale of production and a means of distribution and storage (different for each of the three vaccines we see in the U.S.) there is a lot of capital “at risk”. If the mRNA vaccines were really that “unprecedented” the pharmaceutical companies and the government would have been more reluctant to commit the resources. But if they could look back at decades of research, and an almost-out-the-door candidate a few years before, that risk was less than the general public might understand. Still a risk, but sometimes there are things you can’t NOT do.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        The solution to getting men vaccinated, if only the CDC had the testicular fortitude, is to more loudly broadcast the fact that Covid can cause erectile dysfunction.

        “Coronavirus Lingers in Penis and Could Cause Impotence”

        “Yes, COVID-19 Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction”

        That would get them racing to the vaccination clinic.

    • vvv says:

      Something I have seen mentioned but maybe not enough is that where there are pockets of infection the odds of mutation increase and more variants may be the result.

      At some point, those variants could be significantly (rather than minimally, as I understand is the situation now) resistant to the current vaccines.

  24. sd says:

    I think the analogy to vaccines is drunk driving, NOT helmets, seat belts, or life preservers.

    If you drive drunk you could make it home safe, you could injure or kill yourself or you could injure or kill a third party. That is also the situation with refusing to get the vaccine.

    Failing to use a helmet, seat belt, or life preserver may injure or kill you, but the only impact on me might be infinitesimally higher insurance/tax rates to pay for your long-term care.

      • pdaly says:

        There’s a tragic story from 1989 that is well-known in NH and MA, and it intersects drunk driving, motorcycle helmets and following the law.

        A 10-year-old girl Lacey Packer, who had been riding in New Hampshire on the back seat of a motorcycle with her father, was killed by a male drunk driver who plowed into the back of the motorcycle while Lacey and her father were temporarily stopped on the side of the NH highway, just before the MA border. The father survived.

        Breakdown lanes are dangerous places, and drunk drivers make them more so. Nevertheless, the father had only stopped to put on his motorcycle helmet before re-entering MA which had a helmet law. (New Hampshire law did not require motorcycle helmets so he wasn’t wearing his while in NH).


  25. Anne says:

    Watching the news in Italy, where full face-covering helmets are obligatory, I learned that in areas dominated by organized crime, honest people go without the helmet to show their faces in public, while the drive-by shooters on a Piaggio or Vespa hired to take down some guy in full view of the public are duly covered by the required helmet. The cops get it and don’t give tickets for riding without a helmet.

    • Mart says:

      Years back in Columbia asked why the motorcyclists had a number on the helmet and jersey. Told the numbers have to match the license. Instituted to slow down pistol wielding smash and grab cyclists during traffic jams.

  26. Fran of the North says:

    My first helmet was a Bell open face with an added long bill with air vents for the “I’m a dirt rider” vibe.

    bmaz, just in case you forgot, a much better writer than me once opined: “Your flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore.” ;)

    Finally, I saw this a day or two after Prine’s death and it just about killed me. One of the seminal songs in my life, and an AMAZING version. If you haven’t seen this Brandi Carlile rendition on Colbert, watch it.


    • bmaz says:

      Lol, I did not have flag decals because I cared about the flag that much, I had them because there were a couple of different decal sets with the helmet, and the white Bell was awfully common at events back then. So I slapped them on and never thought much about it after that. It was a decent look though.

    • Raven Eye says:

      A soundtrack for a long train ride across America? Brandi Carlile and John Prine shuffle-played as the countryside rolls by.

      • Fran of the North says:

        Prine and Carlile as the Miles Go By. A marvelous concept, and might have made for a wonderful colab project.

        Not gonna lie, while I had heard Brandi on the airwaves from time to time, I didn’t really have much of an appreciation until I saw the Colbert clip. I then did a multi hour deep dive on YT listening to a bunch of her stuff. She is SUPER talented and her head is SO in the right place.

        • Raven Eye says:

          Look around on NPR for interviews with her — that’s how I found out where the “yodel” came from.

          I’ll be putting together that soundtrack playlist for my long trip in September (hoping that Variant-D and the Anti-Vax Ass Hats don’t land another surge in our laps).

  27. Bay State Librul says:

    Just finished reading Michael Lewis’s — The Premonition — A Pandemic Story.
    Besides Trump, the CDC was caught with their bureaucratic pants down.
    Good stuff on the 1918 Pandemic.
    As the Guardian observes “Lewis’s main subjects area a group of extraordinarily dedicated, resourceful and conscientious people who understand how drastically underprepared America is for a viral pandemic. They know what needs to be done to redress the situation, but are up against the fragmented dysfunction of the federal government and the malicious indifference of the Trump White House.”
    With that said, how do I get my grandson to eat his peas and get a shot? Bribery hasn’t work, but maybe some Hippie Lettuce will help.

    • Nord Dakota says:

      Pleased to say my hippie-ish son and his friends have all gotten vaccinated promptly

      But I know an old guy who is worried about the GIS chip the vaccine implants

  28. What Constitution? says:

    The most unsettling thing about the “unmasking” that’s going on now is that any “assumption” that the person you see without a mask is OK because “that means they’re vaccinated” is actually the opposite of reality. It’s the people most likely to not wear masks that are the same people who most likely refuse to vaccinate themselves. Because ‘Murika, dammit.

    The refusal to wear a helmet may be equally stupid, but it does seem at least a bit more self-restricted in that your refusal to wear a helmet doesn’t also endanger everybody around you. But as the comments here show, the good things a helmet does are obvious to such a degree that it’s truly remarkable that more places don’t require their use.

    With that in mind, this thread inspires me to share a rather remarkable “public service announcement” that Danes with Too Much Time on Their Hands have generously released to help encourage people to do the right thing. This is priceless: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0m-c4GixUpg

    Get vaccinated. Wear a helmet. Don’t poke a bear with a stick.

    • Fran of the North says:

      While not wearing a helmet doesn’t endanger those in your immediate vicinity, the incredible expenses associated with medical care for TBI for helmet-less riders does endanger the availability of health care for others, at least here in the U.S.

      It isn’t right, but healthcare in the U.S. is not distributed equitably, and there are finite limits to the total $ spend. When those dollars are consumed by one patient, they aren’t available for others. I’ll leave value judgements of where healthcare $ should be spent to others.

      A case can be made that allowing stupidity and personal choice to dictate where we spend those scarce dollars is folly.

  29. Another blue J says:

    I’ll be 70 next month. Got my motorcycle license 54 years ago. Started wearing a helmet 53 years ago. Still riding.
    Went for an eye exam in my late 20s. The doc was rider,too. We talked, and he said “You got a quarter?”. I took one out of my pocket, and he said hold it out in front of your face, then using only your peripheral vision, move your arm slowly to the side, and tell when it disappears. “Hold it there, and now look directly at the quarter. If you were driving a car, and looked quickly to check oncoming traffic, that quarter would completely cover an oncoming cycle.”
    When drivers say “I never saw him coming!”, that’s why.
    Helmets have saved my life. I retire them after 5 or 6 years.
    But you know what? Anti-Vaxers can’t SEE a virus coming at them, either.

  30. Mart says:

    In college we had access to blast caps that are used for emergency railroad signaling. Told equivalent to 1/3 of a stick of dynamite. Thought it would be a good idea to hit one in the garage with a hammer. Suited up with pillows and a full motorcycle helmet. Tried tossing a hammer hiding behind a door, but kept missing. Got closer and closer until bam! Had that strange sensation wondering where the fuck am I, and what is that ringing sound. Then realized I left a lot of neck exposed. One of the metal straps used to hold the caps on the tracks made a good slice on the neck; also dozens of sand particles embedded in neck.Luckily the strap missed something important. Should have cut those straps off, or maybe not attempted! Had to buy my roomate a new helmet as it was trashed like my neck.

    Much safer in my old age. Family is fully vaccinated. I holler at stupid ass almost all Trumper friends to get the damn jab already. Think many will never talk to me again – which is fine by me.

    • bmaz says:

      Lol, yeah, stupid shit you do when young. Think was before cycle racing days, but had a mini-bike, actually Honda 70, which was a glorified minibike. We also had fireworks. And did not think M-80s were enough blammo, so emptied a few into a metal 35mm film canister and set a firecracker fuse in a small hole drilled in the top. MUCH bigger explosion than anticipated.

      • Mart says:

        Ha! We put an M80 in an old paint can and when it went boom splattered paint on four garages – and five kids – who had no idea what happened. We did learn how to paint after that, so it was not all bad.

      • Raven Eye says:

        Risky kid stuff: Three boys, two years between each.

        Once grown up and when these things could be talked about “safely”, it was amazing what our parents DID know about our goings-on. On the other hand, there were some conversations that went something like:

        Parent: “Yeah, we knew about that.”
        Son: “So you also knew about ”
        Parent: ” You did WHAT?”

        • P J Evans says:

          My brother at one point was climbing out the front window of his bedroom onto the porch roof, then shinning down the TV antenna to go out at night with friends – he would have been in junior high. (Our father took away the bottom several feet of antenna pole and stopped that.) I remember going out the back window of the room my sis and I shared at that same house, onto the roof over the end of the kitchen. Shake roof – it was splintery, so didn’t do *that* often.

    • P J Evans says:

      My father’s best bud from work was a pyro guy. He once took det cord away from someone who had it in their desk around the corner from a swaging operation. Stuck it in his own desk. But he knew what it was and what it could do. (He was a character. They went rock-cod fishing sometimes on party boats in Monterey Bay. Came back once with a fish that was sky blue, all the way through – turned white when cooked, and was delicious. ETA: he also brought us a bunch of wild mushrooms once. We waited a couple of days before eating them, as he’d already eaten one.)

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