By Kelly Visel
An Instagram search of #idyllwild will reveal many of the local attractions tourists and locals love about our town; hikers on trails, Tahquitz Rock under an alpine glow, diners at local restaurants and motorcyclists on the winding roads. With so many devastating motorcycle fatalities this year, I am drawn to those motorcycle images. One specific image sent me on a stomach twisting exploration of Youtube videos posted by the people who race up and down Highway 243.
An image featured a blurry road, blue sky above, and a black-and-white clad motorcyclist dragging his knee along the pavement, just inches away from the yellow line. The photo belongs to a young man, I would estimate to be in his early 30s, who goes by the name SIRGRODY. I clicked on the profile to find a surplus of similar motorcycle images, photos of his shoes, and a link to his Youtube channel “MrGrody.” This is where I found myself enthralled and I could not look away.
We have all seen these riders, racing up and down the hill, little cameras strapped to their helmets. A video called “Big Red Trucks #Aintcare” begins as MrGrody and his friends follow two red trucks down Highway 243. At 49 seconds in, a text on the screen reads “… but that’s when all hell broke loose.” One red truck goes to pass the other red truck and our cameraman makes the decision to pass the passing truck on the right as it changes lanes. The motorcycle is almost sent over the side of the road into a ravine, but he barely makes it out in front. As he does this maneuver, a school bus can be seen approaching the location of the near miss.
The four men pull over and joke about the incident; MrGrody rationalizes his move by stating, “I said to myself, self, I’m tired of this truck.” Here is the problem leading to these dangerous decisions: frustration. Motorcycle riders approach Highway 243 as a racetrack that has fun curves, is nicely paved and is relatively close to the larger cities where they live. The expectation for a good time is disrupted by motorists going the speed limit, or are uncomfortable with pulling over; the speed seeker then becomes frustrated and potentially dangerous.
Another excellent example of frustration in action is a video by Spider Rider. For most of the video he takes the position of educator, discussing how to avoid taking a spill by staying away from the yellow line, among other tips. Unfortunately, his educational stance quickly fades into teaching by example; as soon as he gets behind a car he wants to pass, after warning about the yellow line, the words “Now for some fun!” flash on the screen and all four riders pass a truck on the double-yellow line. They later pass a car that pulls over for them, and I realize that it’s someone I know.
Watching friends and family make cameos in these riskier videos is actually very upsetting. Almost all the videos are edited to show these riders as if they are in a video game, executing turns at peak speeds as the scenery flashes by in a blur and fast-paced music blares in the background. The other cars on the road are just background noise, like props in the rider’s way.
Only one user posted a video that showed anything other than the perfect ride. SuperVulgarian, who rides with MrGrody, has a video of a hillside crash. After about 20 seconds of a picturesque ride he nicks his foot on something, panics and ends up crashing into the side of the mountain. In the video description he states that he doesn’t remember anything after the crash, even though he stands up and walks around; he had hit his head, and in the footage the helmet camera actually bounces, still attached to his head. This had been his third ride of the day, and he is not a new rider, yet he still ended up in the ER with his bike on a tow truck.
I have tried to contact several of these people for comment. The only responses thus far have been insults and immaturity. I don’t expect them to approach the highway with any more respect than they have shown me, but I hope I’m wrong. Stay safe, Idyllwild.