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Ask Our Lawyer - October 2012

A Place To Ride to Die - the Pyrenees Mountains - Col d'Aubisque

When I lived in Wayne county about a thousand years ago, I dreamed of riding the Pyrenees Mountains. No more dreaming, because I just did it, and I would never ever think of doing it again. In fact, knowing what I know now, I would have paid criminal amounts of money not to go. And I would tell every friend of mine to never even think about it. Because of this trip, a good argument could be made that I have a case of post-traumatic stress syndrome, treatable only with good whiskey - for now.

I went with two friends Andre Lacy, Don Palmer and Ann, of course. The bonds formed as a result of surviving the ride can almost be described like that of combatants having survived a battle. Here is why. Don Palmer, Ann and I are motorcycle cruisers. We are not MotoGP kind of riders. Andre is hard core. His 73 years belie a man of steel and guts. His ability to handle a BMW sport bike is impressive, especially when he encountered a 13 percent grade on a 180 degree switchback. He took a fall, did two perfect rolls, shook it off, picked his bike up and went on like nothing happened. Simply amazing. I see why Tucker Rocky has done so well with him at the helm as well as any other business/activity he chooses. The state of Indiana is so lucky to have him as a citizen.

Ann and I have ridden nearly every major mountain range in the good old U.S. and we love it and the safety attention usually afforded roads in our country. But that experience did not come close to preparing us for the Pyrenees mountain pass from hell - Col d'Aubisque. The motorcycle rental company only rented BMW's - great motorcycle, but I had never ridden one. My friends know me as a Harley guy and that is the bike that I know well. It was a big mistake to take an unfamiliar bike to that pass, but I am an old farm boy with a "how hard can it be attitude". I found out.

Here is what happened. In taking the roads up to the pass from hell, we encountered narrow roads - no big deal. That is, until you take away guardrails, leave the roads at about a 13 per cent grade and throw in a menagerie of farm animals, all loose and roaming around looking for handouts like an NYC panhandler. Then there were the French tourists driving mini campers, seemingly always looking the wrong way and driving on your FIVE FEET of road. Not sure if the middle finger was a universal sign before I rode there, but I am pretty sure it is now. Cows with bells, sheep with bells, goats with bells and did I mention bulls with horns? And of course throw in a horse with a cowbell (I felt sorry for the horse; he looked embarrassed). In this open barn yard I learned all about the coefficients of friction of manure, which was everywhere. Crudely put, cow shit is slicker than goat shit, which is slicker than sheep shit and horse shit is slicker than all of them. Am not sure about the bull shit. This is very important information to know with a two wheeler on steep roads.

A smarter man would have turned around at Col de' Tourmalet - the famous point of the Tour de France - and gone back home to Indiana. Forrest was right, stupid is as stupid does. While there among the animals, I looked over towards the pass from hell. I said to my companions, “surely that was not the road.” It was chiseled into the side of the mountain which was maybe 16 feet wide in some places, and it was at least 2000 feet straight down - a sheer cliff. (Remember, no guardrails!) When I had passed the point of no return, I was thinking that my new Tucker Rocky riding gear with state of the art body armor was not going to be much help with a 2000 foot drop. And what a horrible time to discover that you are a closet height-fearer. Nothing scared me more than when Ann leaned over and whispered in my ear, "whatever you do don't look down". I and my stomach knew she meant it, so I didn't, even when we got to a safe point. My peripheral vision wanted me to look. I refused the bait. I was going up a steep grade in first gear while wishing I had an even lower one and facing a 180 switch back on a blind turn (remember the French tourists in the mini campers looking in all the wrong directions and usually driving on my part of the road). The view of just sky ahead and not knowing if the road continued straight or hung a left out of sight was paralyzing, or was it a 13 percent grade, or a 180 degree switchback on a blind curve? And by the way, when does a BMW 1200 stall out? I had never ridden so much in first or second gear in my life. [Ann, I promise to never-ever threaten to fatten you up and sell you ever again.]

Here is how I put this ride up through the pass from hell in perspective - in hindsight, of course. Most states have a building that is 600 feet high. Pretend some idiot builds a ramp at a conservative 6-7 percent grade three times higher than that. Next, he builds a wall on one side and makes the ramp 16 feet wide. Then, he leaves the other side wide open - not even a dandelion on the edge. Then, he spreads herds of sheep, goats, cattle and horses along the way and don't forget the French guys in the mini vans he has invited to start up from the opposite direction driving a lot on the “not their” side. Then he invites you to ride your Harley up the ramp to enjoy yourself and the view. What do you say?

Some of you may be thinking that this bike trip was a Darwin theory screening device to get rid of those (me) who are not smart enough to deserve a place on this earth. In my defense, I had some more great traveling companions like Bill and Amy Corbett. He is a law school professor and former dean, and Amy is one of the heads of the FAA. We followed them through the tough parts. Their presence was greatly comforting and their disappearance either to the left or right, or over the crest was equally discomforting. We just met them, but I think we have bonded for life because of this experience.

If someone ever tries to talk you into riding up through the pass from hell, call me and I will give you some of the best advice you will ever get. As for me, Ann, and Don, we are left with the best feeling ever - the one of being shot at and missed.


On my way over to ride the Pyrenees Mountains, I stopped and paid my respects to those that died at Omaha Beach in Normandy. If you ever get the chance to go, take it. You will never forget what was done there. On June 6th, 1944, among the many units, Company A of the 116th Regiment was going to hit the beach at Dog Green Sector in a Higgins boat-not a good place to be. All 200 of them were from Bedford Virginia (a wonderful place to ride to if you are riding the Shenandoah Valley). They have a monument on the town square to the 176 of Company A that died when the ramp of their landing craft dropped and exposed all of them to German MG 42 machine guns. At 1500 rounds per minute, the boys from Bedford didn't have a chance. The MG 42 sounds like a chainsaw when it is fired - probably the most dreaded sound at Omaha Beach. So distinctively terrifying was this machine gun that the Army developed training films to help our troops deal with the psychological trauma of facing this weapon. It made a sound like ripping cloth. Our boys called it crudely Hilter’s zipper. It bothers me that, I am pretty sure our soldiers knew what they were in for when the ramp on that Higgins boat dropped. The thought of dying for my county is ok with me, but dying before I even had a chance to shoot back is not. I gathered some sand from Dog Green sector; I couldn't help it. I will put that sand in an hourglass and set it on my desk to remind me of what they did and what a bad day is all about.

After I left the beach, I had to visit the Colleville cemetery where the Bedford boys and many others are buried. It overlooks Omaha Beach and by any definition is a holy place. I couldn’t talk there - draw your own conclusions. The gravestones are marked with the name and state of the fallen soldier. Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Missouri are inscribed on too many. Before leaving, I thought Omaha Beach was a long way from home for those guys and I wondered how many of their folks were able to visit the graves before they too, passed on. It bothers me that most of their loved ones didn’t get the chance to pay their respects.

P.S. Our guide took us by the German cemetery. I didn’t ask to go there and he did not ask if I wanted to go. If he had, I would have said no, after all I had lost family in that conflict. I learned there was a 13 year old German soldier buried there, and there was a marker that said, “Most here did not pick the fight or the cause”. I think, I am glad I went.


COMMENT. Rod - I am an ABATE member and enjoy your monthly column. With respect to the “Am I Covered” question, [this question and answer appeared in last month’s column] you mention “The standard coverage for ABATE events will provide coverage for the ABATE member if that ABATE member is listed as an additional named insured under that policy”. My comment has to do with “additional named insured”. Named Insureds are those folks that purchase the policy and if there is more than one Named Insured, there has to be some connection between them such as co-owners of the property or one person or a group of persons together own 51% of the various entities or assets. Named Insureds have rights under the policy which include requesting policy changes and cancelling the policy. They also get to pay the premium. Additional Insureds are those folks that are added to the policy via an endorsement for a certain reason such as, in the case of the writer, being the property owner where an ABATE event is being held. The coverage provided to the Additional Insured is contingent on the acts of the Named Insured. Example – during the event, an invitee falls and is injured. Since this occurred during the event, the ABATE policy would come into play. Additional Named Insured – this is a figment of the imagination of most attorneys nationwide. There is no such animal –never was, never will be. While I have seen requests for this in many contacts, I have to advise the attorney that they are asking for something that does not exist. Sometime in the past, some attorney put this wording into a lease agreement or other agreement and the error has been carried forward even to this day and will be until attorneys correct their master documents. Jan R. Bednarz, Vice President, MJ Insurance, Inc.

ADDITIONAL NOTE FROM JAN: I also see requests from attorneys for a Comprehensive General Liability Policy which was eliminated in 1986 when the Commercial General Liability Policy was published. Same carry forward error issue.

NOTE FROM ROD: Jan thank you for your input as it helps make this column worth reading. Lawyers using confusing terms reminds me of a story. Back where I am from, there was part of the county that had inexplicably reversed the colloquial terms for the male and female sex organs. Since the guys that had this reversal of terms problem were pretty tough guys, we never got around to correcting them, and we knew what they meant any way-or at least we thought we did. As a matter of fact, I wound up befriending one of those tough guys and besides, having him as an ally came in handy at the local VFW and the Sims Tavern. The day of truth, however, came one time when I invited him up to a University of Illinois football game. Unfortunately, he was still afflicted with the reversal of sex organ terminology problem that I alluded to above, but I had forgotten all about our unique county confusion. Apparently no one from Wayne County had dared to correct him. At my favorite bar Kams, painfully, I recall him exclaim that he was going to go out and get some (FILL IN THE BLANK). That declaration of intention created a show time intermission-the likes of which I had never seen before, or since. I could tell by the shock and awe, that this confusion in terms, caused a serious need of explanation of intentions. That moment became one of the best pre-lawyering efforts of my life. To this day, some of those that were there, still recall my “moose of a friend” who was “confused in his terminology” and my acceptable explanation. The moral of the story is that off-the-mark terms can sneak into our language and remain for many and varied reasons and can cause horrific confusion. Such is with "additional named insured". Again, thank you Jan for keeping the lawyer words correct, and reminding me of a skeleton from my past.

Q. I am an A.B.A.T.E. OF ILLINOIS MEMBER. What is the law for using ear plugs [ear phones] and listening to music on my Harley which does not have a radio?

A. I have been riding for legally and illegally for six years less than three score. How can I have ridden for so long and not known that we have a law in some states concerning ear plugs and ear phones? I am now convinced we have a law for everything - there can't be anything left to law on. With one deaf ear, the law in Illinois and Ohio lets you put the ear plug in your good ear and leave the plug out of your bad ear- no problem. I guess that is so you can hear with your bad ear? And Indiana does not have a law period. Go figure. I will do a summary of the laws of the various states as to the use of ear plugs-ear phones in a future edition as the laws are perplexing.

Ride Safe and Free,
Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services

ABATE, though many know it not, is one of the greatest rights organizations ever; but what it reaches for, by far exceeds what it has achieved, and what it has achieved is magnificent.

Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery and expenses as approved by client, consistent with and conforming to applicable state law. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery. ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to your motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at (800) 25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to RodTaylor@ABATELEGAL.COM. © 2012