Accidents Happen

Not as cool as a motorcycle, but good enough for my 15-year-old self.

Before throwing a leg over a street bike, I roamed around on my bicycle. When I was 15, my dad brought home an old Puch moped that he picked up for cheap. (Cheap means whoever owned it couldn’t get it running and was about to junk it, but gave it to my dad instead.) It had seen better days, but it ran, usually.

That whole summer, I rode everywhere on that thing. Gas was cheap (about a dollar per gallon) and if I didn’t have any money from cutting lawns, I could usually dig up a dollar or so in change that I found lying around the house. It got about 100 mpg, so I could cover a lot of ground for $1. It might have been the best summer ever!

We got it to be fairly reliable, but I did have to carry around a spark plug wrench so I could occasionally clean off the spark plug to get it started. That would usually fix it any time it wouldn’t start, until it wouldn’t. Then I’d have to push it home, or to wherever I was going. Or, I’d have to find a pay phone to call someone to pick me up.

I cruised around for countless miles that summer with no incidents, except for the occasional times it would break down. There was one incident near the end of summer that ended my moped phase. I was riding into town a few miles from home. There was a county truck painting lines on the road, so traffic was backed up and going slow. I was cruising along the side of the road when the car next to me grew impatient with traffic and darted off the road, hitting me in the process.

I remember hitting the ground and trying to roll over so I didn’t get run over by the car’s tires. I was lying on the ground taking inventory, seeing if I could feel all my limbs and making sure everything moved. Before I even sat up, a woman was standing over me, putting money on my chest and saying something about “this should be enough to cover any damage.” Then she jumped in her car and sped away.

I was still on the ground and money was blowing away. A couple of people stopped and helped me to my feet. Someone picked up the money and handed it to me. (It was seven dollars and would not nearly be enough to cover the damage!) Then everyone was gone. I wasn’t sure what to do. I was about 2 miles from home, my left foot might be broken, my moped was bent, and I had seven dollars in my hand.

This was long before cell phones and there wasn’t a pay phone around, so I leaned against the moped and started limping home. I was about half way home when a cop pulled up next to me. Someone had stopped at the police station and told them about the accident. He asked me a bunch of questions, filled out an accident report and went on his way, leaving me to finish pushing my broken moped the rest of the way to my house.

I made it home about the same time as my dad. He asked what happened and looked me over, then checked out the moped. Nothing could really be done. I didn’t see the license plate and only had a vague description of the car and the woman driving it.

The rest of the summer was not anywhere near as fun. My foot was not broken, but my moped was bent beyond repair. I was back on my bicycle after this and never did get another moped. I did get a dirt bike later that fall, but my days of street riding were over until I became an adult.


  • Hit and run accidents are unforgiveable and seven dollars was nowhere near enough to cover the damage done to my moped, or to me.
  • Breaking down on a moped a few miles from home when I was 15 with no place to be is not near as bad as breaking down as an adult, even though I now have AAA.
  • I did not break any bones but had a badly bruised foot.
  • Helmet saved me from injuring my head –I think.
  • If I’d been wearing a jacket and gloves, I probably would not have scraped up my arm.


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