Hanging Out in Rockford: The death of a friend—part three

Suddenly, Ron passed me on his belly. His motorcycle was cart-wheeling through the air. It landed perfectly upside down in the thick mud alongside the road. He continued on tumbling as he hit the thick weeds and roughage along the road. Finally, he did a sort of sit-up and then flopped down on his back. I remember thinking I should find a good place to set up my bike because he was probably dead, and the time wouldn’t make any difference. Brad must have thought the same because neither of us was in that much of a hurry.

While we were doing this, an over-the-road Mexican bus pulled up, and all the passengers emerged. I walked over to Ron. He was moaning. Now, I was worried because now something might have to be done. Something almost impossible out here in what might be considered wilderness. We were still at least 30 miles from Victoria. Finally, Ron asked us to help him up. Brad was worried he might be in shock, but he waved him off. “Where’s my camera?” he asked. “I’ve got to have a shot of this.”

I walked back along the road looking for his camera, a really nice little half-frame he had brought along for the trip. The fairing of the motorcycle had shattered, leaving chunks along the side of the road. Miraculously, in one of those chunks I found the half-frame. I took a picture as he stood triumphantly leaning on the motorcycle with his good arm, with the other clutched against his chest. The crowd of Mexican people applauded loudly. They thought he was mui macho.

A group of Mexican men waded into the mud and pulled the motorcycle out. They picked it up bodily—there must have been a dozen of them—and placed it on a waiting pickup truck. Brad and I followed the pickup, with Ron riding in the seat with its two passengers. As we approached hills in the darkness, the pickup’s front end was bad, and it wandered badly almost halfway into the other lane. Suddenly, it would wander back into its own lane just in time, and a big Pemix truck would come over the hill, barely missing it. Brad looked at me and shook his head in disbelief. He was pretty upset.

Once we got to Victoria, we drove around for some time trying to find a hospital. Finally, Ron said he was tired and just wanted to get a room and that we would deal with the hospital thing in the morning. We tried to check into the Hotel Sierra Gorda, but we were too disreputable looking, and they rejected us as customers. We were covered from head to toe with thick mud. We walked outside shaking our heads and wondering what we were going to do. Then, a voice asked, “You guys Americans?” We found a savior. A local boy who made his job as an interpreter. He directed us to a courtyard hotel. They allowed us to bring the bikes right into the courtyard. Then, we went back for Ron’s bike.

Ron had read that when you have an accident in Mexico, they think it is your fault, even if you don’t hit anything. They will arrest you for having a damaged vehicle. But we needed to get his bike to the courtyard so we could attempt to repair it. There was a Federale on every corner with the ubiquitous M16. We decided to try to explain it in advance. We stood there saying “el motorcycle,” making crashing noises and saying “accidente” to the obviously confused police officer. Somehow it worked. He just waved and smiled when we pushed the wrecked motorcycle by.

More next week.

Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

From the Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2007, issue

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