Alone. Pinned under your motorcycle. Outside of cell range. A nightmare for many, this is what Erica from Los Angeles experienced earlier this month. In a remote stretch off Hell's Canyon National Park in Oregon, Erica had nothing but her SPOT to help her.
On August 18, 2009, Erica from Los Angeles successfully used the Help function on her SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger to notify a friend of her GPS location and need for assistance. Erica became stranded while riding her motorcycle off-road on some challenging remote terrain outside of Hell’s Canyon National Park in Oregon. At one point, she was even pinned under her bike. Here is the first hand account of the incident and all the twists and turns…
“At some point, my GPS navigational device told me to cross over a road that didn't exist, so I started to head back to Oxbow and see if it would re-route me. Sure enough, it did. It was leading me down to a gravel road and eventually I was starting the climb onto Hess Road.
Now if I had known that this road was compiled of switchbacks with incline/decline, I definitely would've reconsidered doing it by myself. But I was in too deep to turn back. It eventually led me onto the 39 and I headed into Joseph, OR. Tired, I found a campground at Wallowa Lake. As I went to pay for the site, I had realized that my wallet was missing.
And I've got to say, it was a horrible feeling. It slowly dawned on me that it might have rattled out of my tankbag somehow on Hess Rd. My mind was racing at this point, realizing that I had absolutely nothing to my name, not even a penny. I gave my friend Finn a call and told him my situation. He offered to wire me some money, but I opted instead to get a head start for the search for my wallet. I met a biker who gladly filled up my gas tank for the ride back to Oxbow (thank you Bill!). And so off I went, back through 39, and onto Hess Rd. At this point, I was pushing my limits to race daylight, and with the stress of losing my wallet, was really nervous about everything. As I was descending through one of the switchbacks, I took a corner too fast and ended up on the ground.
Now the only way I can lift my bike is if it's completely naked with no luggage. It was a bit of a struggle to get my panniers off, since my right one was pinned between the ground and my bike. When I finally had the luggage off, it took me a while to get the bike upright because of the decline of the road. Twenty minutes later, I finally had the bike upright, luggage loaded, ready to ride. I continued down a few more switchbacks until I took another corner too fast and was down again. This time, the right pannier had completely detached from my bike, leaving my leg pinned to the ground. Thankfully, I wasn't in a position where I was in pain, but I had no more energy to move. I laid there for about 20 minutes and then finally squeezed out from under the bike.
The sun was rapidly setting now, and I was trying to unload/reload my bike as fast as I could. But with fatigue setting in, it was getting harder and harder. The right pannier had a bit of damage to where it mounted onto the rack, and was almost impossible to get back on. At this point, it was really hard to see and decided to call it a night.
I pitched my tent next to my bike and tried to get some rest. But with my mind racing about my wallet and the struggle to come the next morning with the bike, I was restless.
Finn had loaned my his SPOT device which I had been using for Tracking my ride. At this point I decided to press the Help button on SPOT.
I laid there wide awake for the next couple of hours, and noticed headlights coming up the road. Amazing! I put it together that Finn probably received my Help message and notified someone. Sure enough, it was the Baker Sheriff Department. They had received a phone call and got the coordinates to my location.
I had explained the entire situation, and they were pretty much there to help me with whatever I needed. I initially thought that they could help me get my bike upright and have my bike loaded with my luggage so I could ride away in the morning. Then it dawned on me that I was still probably going to struggle going down, so I suggested that they carry all my luggage in their Jeep and they can follow me down to a campground. They happily complied, and so off we were, down the Hess Road at 1:30am. They dropped me off, talked to the camp host and told her my situation. I can't thank these guys enough:
While we were at the gas station in Oxbow, a white truck pulls up, and out comes a man, asking if I was Erica! What the hell? Who is he and how does he know my name? He had explained that he was contacted through ADV about my situation, and that he was the closest to my location. What really gets me though is that he had just gotten off of work on a graveyard shift (5:30am), checked ADVrider as he got home, and then drove straight to Oxbow. I couldn't believe it. He doesn't even know me, and yet Greg had gone out of his way to help me. He had told me that Finn had been updating my status on my thread, and that's pretty much how it all started. Greg had offered a place to stay in Lewiston, Idaho, which I gladly accepted.”
Bill, current President of Ruby Valley Search and Rescue and a "retired" Army pilot, is an avid hunter and fisherman. Needless to say, Bill spends a lot of time outdoors; he jokingly states he knows most trees on a first name basis.
Several years ago, Bill developed a preparedness plan, which included having a SPOT device. He even developed a messaging system for friends and family on his contact list: (1) Check In message in the morning and evening to family and friends, (2) Check In messages back to back to let them know he got an elk, and (3) Check In messages back to back to let everyone know that he was headed out of the backcountry.