So, ten to five on a Wednesday afternoon, and I set out southbound from the highway on Mailbox Rd., still in search of my photo of the bloody Black Mailbox. I reached the confusing cattle pen intersection and, surprised again to not find the mailbox, successfully navigated the westerly turn according to the unofficial green "51" alien marker, onto what Garmin calls "51 Rd" and what I would come to learn is more commonly known as Groom Lake Road -- the main access road into and out of the top-secret Air Force research facility that doesn't exist over the mountain ridge at Groom Lake. I would be told later that the Black Mailbox had been entirely removed just this past August -- in a final act of frustration by its rancher owner -- so this entire diversion was in fact a wild goose chase. I didn't have any interest in approaching the Area 51 border or guards; I'm actually too paranoid to do that as a solo foreigner.
The bike went low side to my left, with me ejecting over the right handlebar and impacting the road primarily on my right shoulder. I tumbled after impact, and as I rolled, I saw the bike mid-air above me. I went fetal, and it went over me. I came to rest behind the bike, roughly in the middle of the road, as was it, further along and on its right side. I instinctively got up, walked over to it, and shut off the fuel petcock. I felt OK, head was fine, walking was fine, shoulder was a bit sore, but without any contemplation I moved straight into 'scene cleanup.' I reached down, deployed the kickstand by hand, and righted the bike, to prevent fuel spillage or flooding. It now standing in the middle of the road, I began picking up the pieces of the yard sale. This seemed important in the moment, as I believed there to be a fair amount of traffic on GLR, and like a good Canadian I didn't want my wreck to be a hazard to the next vehicle.
In his tumble, I believe K landed on his nose, as the front headlight/cowling/windscreen assembly had completely detached from the frame, with all instrument cluster and throttle wiring torn out, and the right-hand Barkbuster having pulled its mounting screw right out of the bar end. The damage seemed incongruous to how fast I was travelling, but I believe that with the tumble, most of the energy was absorbed into the plastic front end. Furthermore, one of my aluminum pannier lids had popped open -- the one holding my loose laundry, naturally -- so the roadway was literally strewn with my dirty socks and underwear. As I collected plastic shrapnel, and re-stuffed socks, I saw a plume of dust coming towards me from A51: "Yes," I thought, "Help already."
As the plume drew nearer, I saw the shape of a bus. Like a white school bus. I figured this was either a tour group or a load of public servants. I stood in front of my bike (still in the middle of the road), waving a downward motion with my good arm in the universal sign for 'slow down.' But that bus did not care. It squeezed right and hauled right past me and my wreckage. Not even brake lights. I would later learn that this was the Area 51 staff shuttle bus for ground-commuting staff from Alamo, which reportedly by protocol stops for no one. At the time, I of course didn't know that, and rationalized it away in the adrenalin-soaked moment as the driver just not having realized I'd wrecked.
I pushed my bike towards the side of the road. This took a fair bit of effort, because the front brake was locked on, and I felt a bit woozy afterwards -- likely from using my busted shoulder without feeling it. I gathered my survival gear, drank a liter of water, unsheathed my knife and bear spray, and, still optimistic that I would soon be rescued by road traffic, sat on a rock.
Sitting, I checked myself out quickly, testing limbs and poking for sore spots. My right shoulder hurt and, after noticing that it had two bumps compared to just one on my left, I thought that it might be dislocated. I had a burning sensation on the right side of my neck, but I couldn't find blood and assumed that it was just a bit of rash. Otherwise, I was good. Mentally, I felt clear and rational. I snapped my first pictures (above; note the front tire's skid track from my push).
About 15 minutes later, at 17:18 and exactly one hour before sundown, there had been no road traffic, and for the first time I pushed the 'Help' button on my SPOT satellite messenger. This would send my coordinates and a 'non-emergency' message instantly to my support at home. I kept the '911' button, which messages directly to search-and-rescue, in my back pocket, not believing that I was in imminent danger.
I pre-emptively took an Advil. Sipped some more water. Kept waiting.
Then, some dust, again from the west. I again expected some type of official government vehicle who would at least have a radio to use. But to my surprise, it turned out to be two motorcycles. The two R1200GS's which had cruised by me at the non-Mailbox corner. They turned out to be a father-and-son duo, fellow Canadians, from Edmonton (small world!), and they had been up at the secure perimeter when I crashed. They slowed as they approached. I hollered, "I need help. Can you help me?" He responded, "Yes." In consideration of their anonymity in this part of the world, I will refer to them only as F (father) and S (son).
We collectively assessed damage to both bike and rider, with S concurring that it was neither rideable nor towable out. We brainstormed options, and loosely agreed on Plan A being that a government vehicle would come across us, and give me and my gear a ride eastward towards Highway 93 -- their likely destination, and the direction I would need to go for both medical attention and to organize bike retrieval. Plan B would be transferring as much of my gear as possible onto the two BMWs, and me riding 2-up with S back into Rachel, where they were motelling, for a phone line and further assistance.
With the sun dropping, we started loading and strapping for Plan B, hoping to be interrupted by Plan A. Sure enough, another dust plume appeared from A51, and we momentarily paused. The dust disappeared. We waited. Odd. Concerned for daylight, we resumed strapping. Now, a vehicle was in sight, distant and stopped on the side of the road, facing us. F and S said that it looked like a security vehicle they'd seen at the fence line. We kept packing. The vehicle crept up on us slowly, twice getting slightly larger on the horizon, sans dust. At one point, we paused and attempted to distress signal it: Jumping, waving arms, waving bright yellow jacket, flashing flashlight S-O-S, and finally the guys parking the two good bikes in the middle of the road, 4-way flashers on, and flashing high beams. No response. We briefly discussed riding up to them with a good bike to explain the situation, but F and S weren't interested after their experience at the border, and I wasn't in a position to argue. The fact was, as I think F said, they were undoubtedly watching us with excellent binoculars, could see exactly what was going on (maybe they had even x-rayed me already...), and if they had any interest in being approached, they would have done so themselves. In subsequent reading, I learned that these were the so-called "cammo dudes," an enigmatic force of private security contractors whose mandate appears to be securing the Area 51 outer perimeter with the loose motto of 'defend, deter, but do not engage.'
No other help arrived, so we left my KLR for the night, supported my arm in a makeshift luggage strap sling, and headed towards Rachel in the waning light.
Now, you'll still recall that I didn't suffer a head injury. I can't explain these momentary lights. Was it a UAV, dispatched to surveil us? I wouldn't say that's impossible. More likely, though, I would guess it was a scheduled "Janet Airlines" staff commuter Boeing 737, flashing its landing lights on a southerly approach into Groom Lake, although I can't explain why the plane itself was subsequently invisible to us all. I did find a picture of a Janet with four frontal landing lights.
I owe a great many thanks to all who helped me come out of this in better shape than I otherwise may have. To F&S, for being there, for being Canadian, for helping and hauling me, I'm in your debt. To my home support, for knowing what to do and doing it, for your love. To deputy sheriff Tyrel, for responding to Rachel, for helping with the logistical chaos, for not finding a need to cite me. To the three volunteer EMTs who responded from Alamo/Caliente, you ladies are awesome, for coming in the first place, for the intrusion into your Wednesday evening, for keeping me occupied with stories on the ride in. To the Little Al'E'Inn, for the phone calls. To Dreamland Resort, a website that has since provided much context for my experience, and its trip report authors (example). And lastly, to the Cammo Dudes, for apparently making a distress call, though in the moment I wasn't so enamoured with you guys and your observation tactics (but your road sensors and microphones probably got all that, huh).
Night total: 217 km by ambulance.
Trip total: 4925 km by motorcycle.
Start: Groom Lake Road, NV. End: UMC of Southern Nevada hospital.
Soundtrack: Silence, radio chatter, ER chatter.