This past Memorial Day Weekend, my wife, Sylvia, and I decided on a three-day motorcycle tour. Being a holiday, we ruled out the popular Oregon Coast. Riding on two-wheels, we chose not to tour the wineries of the Willamette Valley. Due to the warm winter, we couldn't go skiing in the Cascades, as we could in May most years. So, we decided on the beautiful Wallowa Lake, out towards the Snake River Canyon, the border between Oregon and Idaho.
We loaded my BMW R1200GS Adventure and Sylvia's Cagiva Gran Canyon. Our 9:00 a.m. scheduled departure was rescheduled for noon, despite our best efforts. We rode out on Washington's Lewis & Clark Highway, a less busy and more fun ride than Oregon's Interstate 84. Both hug the great Columbia River on either side. About eight hours later, we stopped at a general store in the little town of Elgin for a break. It was close to dusk and we were more than 60 miles from our final destination. With dusk approaching, I was concerned about deer. I bagged one 13 years ago in Alamo Gordo, New Mexico, on my old ST2. Silently, I wondered if we should have looked for a room in Elgin for the night. But, we had paid for a reservation at the Wallowa Lake Lodge, so we stuck to our commitment. I didn't want to make Sylvia worry, but I was thinking like Han Solo "I've got a bad feeling about this."
Leaving Elgin, I rode point with my fog lamps and brighter high-beam. The road was smooth, and we had a nice long, wide view up ahead. I started to relax and feel confident that we might arrive in Joseph before too late. We were east-bound and the sun was setting behind our backs. As we crested a hill, and dropped down the other side, it got a bit darker.
And then there he was.
In front of me and a bit off to my left, staring at my lights, and waiting to cross in front, from my left to my right. From my past experience hitting a deer, I knew that swerving was futile, because we can't predict which way he's going to run. I hammered my Beemer's ABS brakes as hard as I could, without fear of skidding or locking up. As if intentionally, the deer leaped right out in front of me and I hit him.
Amazingly, my bike didn't flinch or wiggle, but stayed straight and upright. I nearly brought the GS to a stop a few yards past the point of impact, but as my mind factored in what just happened, what could've happened, and what didn't happen, my right wrist rejoiced in celebration and I accelerated hard! Then I decided I had better stop, so I turned on my emergency flashers, and pulled to the shoulder.
The front beak/fairing was broken, the driving lights were both busted-off and gone, the crash-bars that surround the tank and engine were pushed back and upward on both sides, and the front half of the fender was broken off with only one side of the rear portion remaining, but otherwise, it looked okay. I felt surprisingly calm, and remembered back to 2002 in New Mexico and how shaken up I was with that deer-hit.
Sylvia, the animal lover, was concerned for the deer, so we walked back to look for him. She told me that she saw a cloud of dust explode in front of me and didn't know what I had run into. As we walked back, I found part of the case for my smart-phone, and then another part, and then the phone. We never found the deer.
We rode on at about 40 mph, and then I saw another deer, and hit the brakes. We kept going at about 30 mph, then saw three deer, and hit the brakes. We were on high alert for the rest of the trip.
We finally made it to Enterprise and then our destination in Joseph where I checked-out my bike after a relaxing dinner. There was deer hair in the front rim and in the crash-bars. The headlight was shoved back and upward. The frame-work in front of the oil cooler was pushed in, but the oil-cooler was okay. The side-panels on the fuel tank didn't click into place, because the tank was shoved-back towards the saddle. Otherwise, My Precious was rideable.
We continued our vacation for the next two days which were enjoyable and otherwise uneventful. Of course, every rest-break included conversation about the deer, My Precious GS-Adventure, and how this might have been avoided. I broke my own personal hard-rule that I always adhere to religiously: Remain flexible. In my three-decades of street-riding and touring, I used to know better than to ride in the woods at night. Writing this story will help me to remember it again in the future.
My 2007 BMW R1200GS Adventure was banged up but not finished, not in my mind anyway. She looked like I could just bolt-on a few pieces and have her as good as new. I took My Precious in for a repair estimate and reported the damage to my insurance company. It was nice to learn that my comprehensive coverage treats hitting a deer as an unavoidable incident, like a rock hitting your windshield, they don't consider it an at-fault collision, and it won't raise my rates.
Unfortunately, the labor and parts to repair My Precious would've cost more than the value of my 60,000 mile bike. She was totaled. I took the bike home, and rode her to work every day while waiting for my insurance company to come up with a settlement. In the end, I received my settlement, and couldn't think of any other bike I'd rather use for hitting deer, so I bought another 2007 BMW R1200GS Adventure, in the same color with 35,000 miles, the very next day.
In the future, I vow to remember that my favorite high desert and mountain roads, which I know so well in the daylight, are unfamiliar to this city-slicker after dark. I vow to enjoy the journey, and be willing to adjust plans if necessary. I hope that everyone reading this will remember these points, too.
Ride Long and Prosper.
Paul Andor Nagy