SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Beware: Dangerous Curves Ahead!
By Dave Kiffer


June 26, 2007
Tuesday AM

Ketchikan, Alaska - Marriage is an interesting institution.

jpg Dave Kiffer

And I mean that in the Chinese way of "cursing" someone by saying "may you live in interesting times."

We had a perfect example of just how "interesting" recently out on North Tongass.

A few days ago, there was a traffic accident involving a single motorcycle near the Ward Cove Bridge.

I will quote directly from the Alaska troopers police report.

"On 06-21-2007 AST along with the North Tongass Fire Department responded to a report of a single vehicle motorcycle collision near the Ward Cove bridge. Investigation at the scene showed a 57 year old Canadian resident lost control of the 2005 Harley Davidson he was operating while negotiating the curve. He was traveling north bound and was carrying his wife as a passenger. According to the driver, he could not get the motorcycle to respond while cornering due to his wife leaning in the wrong direction. The motorcycle left the roadway on the north bound side and traveled 77 feet along the shoulder before coming to rest in the ditch. The passenger was transported to KGH via ambulance with an injured leg and other cuts and bruises. No citations were issued."

One thing not noted in the police report was the fact that the couple had reportedly not ridden a motorcycle together for some 30 years. I guess now we can see why.

I'm sure it seemed like a great idea at the time.

"Hey, Hon, let's rent a Harley when we're on that cruise up to Alaska. We can ride like we used to when we first got married, back before we had all those kids and you made me sell my Triumph Scrambler and get that &%@#@%#! station wagon!"

"Uh, sure, yeah, whatever."

In the writing world, this sort of story is filed under "Manna from Heaven."

Writers love this sort of thing. Can you think of a better "example" or anecdote about the realities of married life than "well, gee, officer, I leaned one way and my wife leaned the other."?

Henny Youngman ("Take my wife, please!") eat your heart out!

Although I have no intention of renting a Harley and asking my wife to go for a ride (I have - and continue to want to have - a most excellent marriage!!), I can relate to the Canadian gentleman's sudden inability to negotiate a turn.

Back in the days of yore - when I had the meanest Honda CL-70 (alright, it was the only Honda CL-70!) at Schoenbar Junior High School - I invited a sweet young thing to the movies.

She lived out by Bar Harbor, so I met her at her house, showed her how to put on her helmet and gave her a brief explanation of riding a motorcycle. It was her first ride.

"Whatever you do," I said, "go with me. If I lean, you lean. Got it?"

"Uh, sure, yeah, whatever."

"Just sit back, relax, but hold on tight."

"Uh, sure, yeah, whatever."

"Keep your knees in on my hips."

"Uh, sure, yeah, whatever."

For the record, I drove relatively slowly and carefully. When a cute girl is holding onto you, you really don't want the ride to end, do you?

All was copacetic, until we got to the 's' curve by the Lutheran church. As we swung past Talbots, I went to the lean the bike into the corner. This is how you go around corners on motorcycles. You lean.

There were times in those days when I would dive so deep into that 's' curver corner that I would first scrap the left foot peg and then scrape the right one as I exited by what is now Model Builders. Sparks would come up and my fellow Hell's Angels-wannabees would applaud.

This was not one of those times. I entered the corner very gingerly because I didn't want my date to get too freaked out. After all, she was still hugging tightly and the date was off to a great start.

But my cornering was apparently not gingerly enough.

I found myself fighting the bike to get it to lean into the curve. I realized that I was leaning into the curve and my suddenly unnerved date was leaning away from it.

The result was the bike was bisecting the middle of the 's' curve and heading straight for the building that is now Murray Pacific.

"Lean," I shouted, trying to be polite.

"No," she screamed back, trying to sound dainty.

I yelled something unintelligible (even to me) and - using all my strength - managed to swing the bike away from the building, around the corner and back into the correct lane of traffic.

In doing so, the bike slid to the side on one its tires, and I put my foot out to balance it, kinda like those cool posters you see of professional dirt track riders. My date grabbed me extremely tightly. It was not in any way pleasant.

Neither of us said another word until we were safely in our popcorn and soda encrusted seats at the old Revilla Theater.

In fact, we didn't say much of anything at all during the movie or the way back home. I drove up over Water Street (slowly!) to avoid another repeat of the 's' curve.

When we got to her house, she gave me a perfunctory peck on the lips.

"Are you going to get a car someday?" she asked.

"I can't until I turn 16," I replied. We were both 14 at the time.

"Oh," she replied.

We never went on another date.


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2007

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