The Epic Boombox Bicycle Wreck of 1983
Feeling the writing bug gnawing at me I cast around my brain looking for the storeroom where I file away brilliant potential blog topics for future reference. But it appears that the room is either locked at the moment, or it’s mysteriously moved locations, or maybe it’s the tequila begging me to just sit and enjoy her tasty goodness without expending brain energy which is impeding my search. I would like to write about something other than motorcycling since that’s all I’ve been on about lately but that’s tough since that’s all I ever seem to do any more. NOT that I’m complaining about it – I LOVE riding and it’s given me many great adventures to entertain the masses. But I don’t want my audience thinking I’m a one trick pony, so after throwing ideas out against the proverbial wall to see what sticks (and nothing does) I opened the floor to my husband and asked him to give me ideas. A potentially dangerous proposal – he’s got some really off the wall thoughts. You think I’m wacko? Oh, he makes me look like the sane inmate in the asylum. He rips off a few topics which are quite thought provoking and blog-worthy, but require way more time and effort than my soon-to-be tequila influenced brain will be able to tackle.
“Let’s keep it light,” I say. “I’m in the mood for funny; I don’t have to think too hard to be funny.”
“I’ve got it – write about your boombox bicycle wreck!” he exclaims.
“Hmmm… That is a funny story.” I close my eyes and play the memory reel of the event in my head and confirm that I think I can cobble together a decent tale from the decades old event. So here goes…
It was the summer of 1983; the last summer before my senior year of high school. Heavy Metal was the reigning choice in music for anyone who had any taste whatsoever (you can stick your Madonna up your ass) and I was the metal queen – my nickname was Marion Metal! Sony’s Walkman was all the rage but I didn’t have one; instead, I carted around a rather large Panasonic boom box as my portable listening device of choice. All my friends should remember this box; it was my constant companion and you hardly saw me without it in tow. My preferred mode of transportation was my brand-new-bought-with-my-own-money blue, Sears Free Spirit 10-speed bicycle. And my very best friend Susie and I were inseparable cohorts in crime.
If I wasn’t in the barn or riding my horse, I spent my free time hanging out with Susie listening to music, going to concerts, or plotting some epic adventure which inevitably never came to fruition. Or sometimes we had exploits that SHOULDN’T have come to fruition but did anyway – these usually ended badly. Like the one time she was staying over at my house and we snuck out of the basement in the middle of the night to go roam the streets of Hillcrest. We literally only walked to the local elementary school and swung on the swings for a few hours then walked back and snuck back in. No smoking, drinking, drugs, or meeting up with boys, were a part of any of it. Sounds like it should have been easy to avoid parental detection right? Oh no, not with us. On the way down, taking a shortcut through the hay field, we saw something glowing green in the field. What is that??!! Oh Crap!! I recalled that somewhere I had heard about skunk spray glowing in the dark but had never seen it in real life. “RUUUUUUUUUUUNNNN!!!” I yelled at Susie, and as we took off, the most abominable stench ever wafted over us, making our nostrils burn, our eyes sting, and our stomachs wretch. By the time we got to Hillcrest proper we could still smell the despicable little beast. How can that be? Did it follow us? We inspected our clothes and saw we were splattered in glow-in-the-dark green spots. OMG, we suffered a direct hit and were doused head to toe in the noxious substance. By the time we got back home (avoiding the hay field shortcut) we had no choice but to undress outside and leave all our clothes out there on the patio stinking to high heaven betraying our transgressions. Needless to say we had some ‘splainin’ to do the next day…
So, here I was almost 16 years old and beginning to experience some freedoms in my life (despite dumbassery like “skunk night”). My parents eagerly allowed me to ride my bicycle to work (slinging spiedies at the local Char Pit) or to any other approved social gathering/destination. This wasn’t a privilege as much as it was a necessity. I know all of you were surely driving by that age – but I was vehemently opposed to getting behind the wheel of a car. Why would any sane 16 year old oppose that rite of passage? Well, I had had a few not-so-pleasant experiences with motorized vehicles at an early age. Picture an 8 year-old me clinging to the handlebars of a 3-wheeled trike with the throttle wide open, my long, Laura Ingalls braids streaming behind me, and (I swear this is how I remember it) my body flying straight out horizontally while my dad chased me around trying to tackle the machine to stop it.
Then there was an episode around the same age when my dad insisted I learn to dig a hole with our Case 680 Backhoe but when I thought it was going to tip over I jumped off the machine crying, well, like a little girl. Then my dad put my experienced brother in the seat and told him to dig the hole. He gave me a superior, condescending look and then proceeded to almost accomplish the actual tip-over while attempting the same maneuver I had just tried. Experiences like those left me paralyzed with fear when it came to operating anything with an engine. Since I was a social butterfly and my folks were sick of hauling my ass around town, my transportation options were: 1. get a ride from someone else, 2. hoof it, 3. ride the bus, or 4. ride my bicycle. Seeing as we lived out in the country and a mile up a steep road, getting somewhere usually involved some sort of combination of all four.
On this particular fine summer weekday, Susie and I made plans to take over the local radio station by force, blockade ourselves in, and play non-stop AC/DC until we either passed out or got arrested… or maybe we were just going to ride our bikes around and talk about Star Wars characters. One or the other – the mind gets cloudy with age. Our plot (whichever it was), began with meeting precisely at 11 AM at Cornaby’s, a general store/post office/restaurant, which was the neighborhood place in Hillcrest everyone met up for anything.
It was an easy ride for me – all downhill – and I always enjoyed going as FAST as I possibly could. With my bike in 10th gear, I would pedal as hard as I could until it was freewheeling faster than my legs could keep up. I bet I had gotten up to 40 MPH down the steepest slope. Because I was a rockin’ Metalhead chick, I was probably wearing one of my awesome concert t-shirts to compliment my cut-off shorts, high-top sneakers, and at least one bandana tied somewhere on my body (more likely 3 or 4). AND of course, no trip anywhere – for any reason, could be made without my portable music system – the big honkin’ boombox – BLASTING out shredding guitar and screaming vocals from one of my favorite bands. This particular day it was Quiet Riot’s Metal Health cassette. I knew it would take me less than one song to get to Susie, so I calculatingly queued up the most obnoxious awesome song I could think of to produce the most repugnant effect on entertain anyone I passed. Yes, I was THAT teenager. Knowing my objective, I’m pretty certain I selected the title cut “Metal Health.” Now would be a good time to click the video link below and let the song play in the background to put you in the moment while you read on:
And right about now, you’re asking yourself, “Where did she carry the boombox on her bike?” The answer is, I didn’t carry it on the bike – no self-respecting Metalhead would do that. It was firmly lodged on my right shoulder with my right hand gripping the handle and the speakers facing out for the sonic benefit of everyone within earshot. I usually rode either no-handed or with a light touch on the bars with my left hand.
I punched the play button, cranked the volume up to 10, adjusted the EQ and set off down our gravel driveway. I hit the main road and shifted up through the gears and pedaled hard, nodding my head to the beat. The final descent, where top speed is achieved, comes immediately after crossing the top railroad tracks and I approached it with gusto. Over the tracks I sailed and flew down the hill with what might have been my all-time speed record. Feeling extremely confident in my skills I always made a point of skimming around the cars parked on the street as close as possible without touching them, as if I was on my horse pole-bending.
Everything was unfolding in utter perfection up to this point.
And then right about here’s where things went horribly awry. At the very bottom of the hill, with me hunkered over the handlebars, surely moving faster than the speed of light, I made a slight miscalculation in swerving around one of the parked cars: my right handlebar caught the back left corner of one. Even if I had had both hands on the bars I wouldn’t have had any hope of recovering from that minute yet devastating blow. Me, the bike, and the box tumbled cartwheel style over and over, bike parts and blood fanning out in a lovely arc, and Kevin DuBrow belting out, “Bang your head,” until we all eventually came to rest in the middle of the street directly in front of my friend Lesa’s house. As you yourself might have experienced when a traumatic high-speed event occurs, weirdly, time seems to slow to a crawl and you become hyper-aware of everything happening. From the moment I nicked the car I remember thinking these thoughts:
“DON’T DROP THE BOX, DON’T DROP THE BOX, DON’T DROP THE BOX!”
“TUCK AND ROLL, TUCK AND ROLL”
Like a mother heroically sacrificing herself to save her baby, I hoisted that boombox over my head and writhed gymnastically rivaling Nadia Comăneci’s perfect 10 Olympic performance allowing my body to take the brunt of each impact so that no matter which way I hit, the box never touched the ground. Got that?
NEVER TOUCHED THE GROUND!
With the wheels still spinning on my crumpled beloved bicycle and the music still blaring from the box, I lay there in agony, stunned, not hardly daring to move in case something (on me) was broken. A passing car approached the scene of the accident, slowed down, and carefully drove around me – not even bothering to see if I was alive or needed help. Really??!! I set down the box and clicked off the play button. One of Lesa’s older brothers ran out into the street, picked me up and carried me into the house and upstairs to the bathroom. Their mom checked me all over, decided nothing was broken, then cleaned and patched me up pretty well. While she was taking care of me, her son took my bike and did his best to repair the bent handle bars and God knows what else.
This was the dark ages – no wireless communication devices – so I couldn’t contact Susie to inform her of the delay. The incident happened only a block or so from our meeting point but there was enough of a curve in the road that she couldn’t have seen anything unfold. I didn’t end up meeting her; instead, I limped home dragging my contorted bike behind me and my pristine boom box no longer held valiantly aloft over my shoulder, but instead, drooping like a lead weight from my low sagging left arm.
No music played.
The boom box lived a long and happy life, continuing to blast out the tunes from the passenger seat of my Ford Bronco (yes I eventually learned to drive!) until it finally passed on of natural causes. The bicycle was repaired and I rode it into many more battles until I gave it to my brother-in-law to borrow while I was pregnant, who irreparably tore it apart in an attempt to “modify” it. I still have that original Quiet Riot cassette which actually plays decently without warbling too much. And to this day, I have the scars on my hip and elbow from the deeps holes scrubbed into them and I still have a speck of asphalt embedded in my right leg to prove this story really happened.