What would you do?

Yamaha FJR Motorcycle Forum

Help Support Yamaha FJR Motorcycle Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Well-known member
Sep 5, 2005
Reaction score
Creston, CA
My last trip was to Death Valley . The primary lesson learned was that you worry about is least likely to happen. I was worried about 6 hours slogging in the rain. I got 30 minutes worth. I was worried about snow over Tehachapi pass. It wasn't enough to even cloud the shield. I had no worries about eating at Denny's yet that was what caused the most grief. See the pattern here? The true concerns were *not* what I initially fretted about.

The biggest moment of concern was when, on the way home, at Tehachapi, my riding partner, Toecutter, went missing.

Scenario - I still ain't right; not feeling complete from the poisoning at Denny's. It's getting 'duskish' and I seem to always press hard about then. Call it the homing instinct, but when the sun lays low in the afternoon sky, I *always* find my self working hard to find the roost, even though I know better.

So it was that late afternoon as we headed west bound on CA 178 over Lake Isabella. I was running point, with ToeCutter running wingman.

Now then, let me explain about ToeCutter. He's a thinking rider, all the time. Never seen him with ruffled feathers. He can lead or follow. When running wingman, Toe always stays in sight, not too close, not too far behind. He's the consummate rider.

So I was immediately concerned, worried, WTFO, when I checked my mirrors and did not see him anywhere as we approached the west end of 178 prior to dropping down into the central valley.

What to do next, I wondered? My riding partner, my good friend, has vanished. No 2-way radio, didn't see any signals, just gone.

What would you do?




















  1. I stopped in a safe place on the roadway, well off from the cages and trucks, and waited, for approx 5 - 8 minutes.
  2. Called his cell phone.
  3. Not seeing Toe, I crossed the highway when no traffic was present, and backtracked to the last exit
  4. I rode past every restaurant, gas station, etc. along the main drag. Shit, what happens if I'm off the hi way, and he gets back on? So I was careful to try and spot the freeway as much as possible while I was on the parallel business route.
  5. I started to try and recall, exactly, confidentantly, the last place I saw him in the rear view mirrors
  6. I then backtracked to that point, found a safe U'ie zone, and slowy rode in the original direction, looking over the cliff for the 'Old Michael' trick
  7. Not seeing anything, called ToeCutter back on cell phone.
  8. Decided the best thing to do was to keep heading in the original direction (home), then stop at the well-known gas station at the bottom of hill. All this time the stomach is churning and I'm fearing the worst
  9. Get to the Chevron station, call Toe on cellie again. No answer.
  10. Call KaitsDad, but my cell phone battery is very low. Ask KaitsDad to look on thread, find ToeCutter's SPOT page, see if he's still moving. Did he turn off route for some reason?
  11. While waiting for KaitsDad to return my call (low cell phone batt), I pull out the map and realize *fuck*, Bob had most likely turned off to head north on a little 2-lane road he had talked about earlier.
  12. Call KaitsDad back to say 'emergency over', I'm a dumb phuck.
  13. After arriving home ToeCutter calls to say 'all is good' and 'I flashed my Solteks at you, you didn't see the signs ahead of you light up?'
Lessons Learned

  1. Always have the capability to charge your cell phone from the bike while in route. It was horrible to have a low bat condition limiting phone conversation length.
  2. Two way radios and bike to bike communication is really cool. ToeCutter had problems with his radio, so we never established the link.
  3. Listen more and talk less. Toe had stated he might take the alt highway to get back home. I recall thinking, 'yeah, got it' without ever looking that hiway up on map. I had no clue the junction was where it was, I was thinking it was waaay further west than it actually is.
  4. Have a good life-line, like KaitsDad, to help you out. I can't tell you how relived I was when he answered the phone and was *immediately* engaged to find Toe's Spot page, see if he was still moving or not.
  5. Don't be afraid to care - Toe is a good friend, and I care about his health and well being. When he went 'missing' I was like a dog who had lost his best friend. It took alot for me to say 'he's ok, just keep going home', and I was formulating a complete Emergency Response Plan should KaitsDad had said the SPOT wasn't tracking progress.
  6. It would be very cool to have a netbook or iPhone to quickly find out SPOT progress. I had to call, and KaitsDad was hunting down over what, 12 pages of postings, trying to find the link to Toe's SPOT page. Let others know your SPOT url -
  7. ??? What do you say? What would you do?

Well, that's it. I'm done with this. Just wanted to share. I learned my lessons, here's hoping some of this makes sense to you too.

Good topic. Only one bit of slightly off topic info I'll add right now. This info from a friend who retired from the telephone company. If you have a means to continuously charge phone in/on vehicle, this is not an issue, but if you are relying on the phone's battery, here's what he told me a few years back.

When riding in remote areas (where there is no cell tower coverage or it's intermittent), turn your phone OFF. He told me that when a cell phone loses signal from a tower, it starts searching for another cell tower signal, and it keeps doing that until it finds one. Worse, this is the thing that most saps battery power. So, e.g., in riding from Auburn to Reno ~100 mi.), even though there are several cell towers along that way, your phone is searching and changing towers so frequently and so long that by the time you reach the other end of that ride where the towers are providing constant connection, your cell phone battery is very low. Turning it off avoids this.

Unless you have an on bike phone connection like Jeff (bikeffects) with his slick Starcom and Zumo caller ID setup, you can't answer the phone or call from it while on the bike anyway. So turn it off until you stop. Then you can call your voicemail and see what you missed, even though your phone won't display missed calls that were made when it was off.

I always carry mine in the inside breast pocket of my jacket, just in case I do an OM and land somewhere away from my bike. Hopefully, I can get the phone out, turn it on and get reception. I make my pillion do the same with her phone.

Last edited by a moderator:
Seems the problem was a lack of communication, I always ask my ride'n partner where our next stop will be.

Another great learning opportunity from this very fine FJRForum. Very much appreciate you sharing this info Don. Having always traveled solo, it’s an issue I have thought a lot about and wondered how you all deal with someone who may turn up missing from your group. I’ll be following this with great interest.

Thanks again.

Keep Going!!!!!!

Last edited by a moderator:
Three of us were once riding in the Santa Cruz Mountains in CA. Two of us were used to riding with others, one not. Myself and another were "entertaining" ourselves greatly and quickly and a "CHIP" would not have been a welcome sight. We slowed down a few times to allow the third to come into sight again.

The "fun" section was over. We pulled up in front of a store to await the tardy fellow, the one that had not ridden with others as often. He didn't show! We went back many miles looking over cliffs and such looking for any sign of him. None found. We got to the area of our last recalled sighting and started back looking, looking, no sighting!

We got back to the store and discussed the situation. My friend said he'd call his wife at her parent's house and ask if his father-in-law had showed up yet. Not a good idea I told him, imagine if he had not. We decided he'd go home and see if his father-in-law was there and call me with an update with a redo of the ride area on the table and a call to emergency types to boot.

The father-in-law was at home blowing leaves off his driveway. The son-in-law was furious and speechless. He called me to talk to his father-in-law. I did, explained that riding together means you MAKE DAMN SURE your partners know when you decide to go elsewhere!

We had been in the vicinity of the father-in-law's vet. He figured we had gone ahead and decided to stop at the vet's place and do whatever. The vet was unknown to us, was not on the road traveled.

Interesting questions. I guess for me, when I'm riding with someone(s) else, I stay within visual of the people (almost) at all times. If I'm leading and they lag to sightsee, I slowdown too. If they are leading and get stay up with them so long as I'm not over my head. So, since I am constandtly taking or giving queues with them, I would almost immediately notice their absence if I didn't also see them turn.

In my mind that's what it means to ride "with" someone else. If you want to flex your inner squid, well I would generally do that when I am by myself and therefore do not have to worry about endangering anyone else. Since a large percentage of my riding time is spent by myself, where I can decide whether to take it easy and jam on the tunes or wick it up a bit for a little adrenaline, I really don't think this is such a big imposition.

dcarver, just count yourself very lucky that you have Hal-KaitsDad to use as a "lifeline"! My "lifeline" is Barry-Bustanut joker; whenever I need to call him for help it winds up being a half hour of talking about sheep, his latest modifications to his anus shaving kits and how deep the snow drifts are today in Owosso, Michigan. I usually forget, due to my Alzheimer's, what I called him about. May have to contact odot and see if he'll substitute for Bust as my "lifeline"! Could us pgrhodes1, too!

Last edited by a moderator:
You raise some good thinking points DC. I guess the best plan is one that is made ahead, as to what each party will do if separated. Will you ride to a certain point and wait there? Will you check in with a friend if a message cannot be got to your buddy?

Good idea to start every ride with a fully charged cell phone too.

And good to have a riding buddy who cares as much as you do, and another buddy who will go the extra mile to help you out. Toecutter and Kaitsdad are good people.

IMO Toe should of came along side you and let you know through signals he was pulling off. This way the communication chain would of been complete, you and he could of went on your merry ways without incident.

As is stated in TOPGUN, "NEVER EVER LEAVE YOUR WINGMAN". Unless of course you let him know. Flashing your lights is not letting someone know you are peeling off, who knows where your brain could of been when he did that.

Good of you to exhaust your resources to locate your buddy and most excellent of him to call when he got home to let you know he was safe.

As someone said, we normally talk and let people know we are peeling off here! Communication is always key.

I had an experience similar to this last year.

My friend and co-worker, Mike, and his brother were returning home from our Quebec trip to Mauricie Ntl Parc. Riding down the hwy we hit some rain that quickly turned into a monsoon. Mike is leading, his brother following, me in the tail gunner position. Visibility is nil and were rolling down the the express lane in moderate traffic. All of a sudden Mike hits his brakes hard and pulls off onto the *LEFT* shoulder. His brother, hits his brakes hard and does the same. I don't have time, nor do I want to, pull the same dumb ass stunt. Theirs a pick up behind me who see's whats going on he swerves to the right.. triggering several other vehicles to do the same. Survival dictates that I do nothing and keep going straight.

"WTF is that dumbass thinking!"

The last time I see Mike and his brother, their crossing the median (about 50' wide of tall grass and rocks) heading for the northbound lanes. I work my way over to the right side collector lane and take the first offramp about 5km up the road. Theirs a big service station there and I pull off into it. I'm friggin upset. A hundred questions are running through my mind on what I just saw. I get on the cell and call him. No answer, so I leave a msg on his voice mail. I go inside for a whiz and come back out. I call him again. No answer. I go grab a coffee and wait for the return call. I imagine he's running in circles somewhere looking to get back on the hwy. I have a smoke and call him again. No answer - I leave him another voice msg. It's been about 40 minutes now. I realize, he's not going to call me back. He must know I'm not with him and probably thinks I'm just going to ride on without him. I punch up a route back to Ottawa on the GPS avoiding the depths of Montreal, I jump on the bike and ride. The entire time I'm just *fuming mad*. He doesn't know if I carried on ahead, hell, for all he knows his stupid stunt got me pasted on the hwy!

I end up riding through the worst rain storm I've ever ridden through (the rain was coming UP bouncing off my gas tank under my helmet!).

I run a Collett bluetooth wireless setup to my cell phone. I got no phone call the entire time. Thinking maybe the rain got it, I pull off for a smoke break and physically check my phone. No calls.

I continue on up the hwy to Ottawa, the sun had come out briefly but now was clouding over again. As I pass through an underpass I see two bikes pulled off to the side of the road, the riders, putting on rain gear. It's Mike and his brother! I lay on the horn to get their attention, I see both look up - and I give them the biggest finger ever.

Longer to story short I asked Mike WTF. He said didn't even check his cell phone for msgs. Even when they stopped for lunch. I asked him about the dumbass move on the hwy. He said he thought he missed the turn - "So why do that stunt you pulled".. "I dunno" he says.

Net result of all this?

We've both lost a riding partner as I refuse to ride with him. The real shame of this is that his thoughts and actions were so far out of character for him. What happens if I really did get pasted on the hwy, will he gonna leave me for dead?

Carver, you did the right thing. Nobody wants to be outright abandoned far from home.

When I ride with someone for the first time I usually do a short run through of riding rules courtesies. Often the new riding partner(s) say WTF is up with that :lol: One of them is the courtesy of separation. When following, I will always try to stay in sight and only bunch up to keep traffic lights and turning traffic from getting between us. When leading I always try to keep my fellow co-rider in sight, I check often. I let them know that if they loose sight of me to pull over and stop, I will turn around and go back as soon as I notice they are missing. Don't try to find me, I will find you because I know the route. If I pass through a light and you don't make it, I will pull over and wait. If a car or cars get in between us I will pull over when convenient and group up again. If it is a significant trip I will have some preplanned meeting places or preset phone call times so it doesn't mater when, where or how we got separated.

When riding as a group it is ok to spread out and follow a 3 second or 5 second spacing on the open road. When sport riding, ride your ride and I will see you at our preset meeting location. When riding in traffic or areas with traffic control, please keep the grouping closed up; close but safe. Again, the traffic light and interleaved car courtesy applies, I will pull over and wait.

I've never had a problem with these guidelines, never lost a rider and have never been separated. The guidelines may change for other areas of the country, riding between Palm Springs and Las Vagas is sure different than the little warren of roads through the mountains of Vermont.

What do you say? What would you do?
The best solution I have found is to tie all riders together with monofilent fishing line. The monofilent line has some "give" in case one of the riders falls behind, and it will break if someone goes over a cliff and so won't pull everone else down the cliff. And when the line breaks, this serves as immediate notice that someone has left the group.

Last edited by a moderator:
OK, now my thoughts on the subject (not just on cell phone battery discharge).

I believe in the "never leave your wing man" thing. Maybe it's from scuba diving years ago, or from years of ski mountaineering in the back country. If you're riding together, unless it's stated otherwise to begin with, you're the lifeline for the other rider if anything bad should happen.

If I'm leading, I'm regularly looking in my mirrors and counting headlights. I can't always be sure everyone knows the route, so sometimes it's just the desire not to leave someone baffled and stranded at that signalized intersection we all made a left from. If that number drops below what we started with, I first slow down and give the missing headlights a chance to come into view. If they don't show up soon, I stop and wait. If the rider still doesn't show up, I go back and do exactly as you did, Don. In fact, that's exactly what happened when madmike2 did his KLR get-off into the guard rail post in Aug. '07. I was leading, Bluestreek was 2d, Mike was 3d . . . until he stopped showing up in my mirrors. We slowed, stopped and then went back to find the worst -- the very thing you don't want to find as you hope he just stopped to take pics somewhere. If I'm leading and someone's headlights disappear, the first thing I'm doing is trying to recall exactly where I last saw them, because it's between THAT point and where I stopped that they will be found if the worst - a crash - occurred.

If I'm sweep, and someone drops off in front of me, I pull up and check with him that everything is ok before going on. Beyond that, from the back of the pack, I try to be aware that the leader may be counting headlights, and I try not to be the rider who dawdles so long somewhere that I end up coming upon the whole pack stopped or coming back to find me. If I got lost or stuck in traffic, however, I appreciate them doing that. I recall (on a Yosemite trip in June '07) when FJRob and the cell phone lady were kind enough to wait for me and my GF getting under way after lunch on the way down -- I didn't know the route from there and would've lost the pack if Rob and Terri hadn't waited just ahead.

I don't ever want to have someone ruin their own ride having to watch out for me, nor am I necessarily going to ride like an old lady when I lead. If you wanna rip the twisties or take the engine to redline, do it. But let the rest of us catch up a reasonable distance ahead before you dash off again. I'm always reminded of how lucky OM was to have flown his first FJR off a steep embankment in that remote area and have bokerfork (that was who it was?) close enough in front to have immediately noticed his disappearance and gone back to find him. Given the road he was on and the terrain, he could have been there for days without being found. That kind of assistance is especially important on a trip a long way from home where maybe none of you has ever even ridden the road before. If someone is missing, you need to have the best possible intelligence on the area in which to look (and within a reasonable time). It could be fatal if a crashed rider isn't found soon. I think we all remember last summer's Wing rider that crashed on 93 in Idaho near Salmon and his body and bike weren't found for over a week. He was alone, and that's one of the risks of riding alone. But if we ride together, I assume that part of the reason for that is to minimize that risk. That isn't accomplished if you simply dash off ahead and never look back until you get to the motel.

Don, you did what you could about a situation created by less than perfect communication, but we all do that on occasion and trying to learn from it is the only intelligent response. I think your suggestions were as good a lesson as could be taken from it. You're thinking and concerned, and that's the kind of riding partner I like to ride with. Good on ya for that, and for such a good discussion topic.

Last edited by a moderator:
This is a great thread with some great responses. It should be pinned in an appropriate section IMO.

Riding Bin O' Facts. (no don't do that. It will never be read then. :D )

Another issue with cell batteries is digital vs analog service. All modern phones have digital voice service, but can switch to analog if digital is not available. There are lots of places where analog service is the norm, especially routes less travelled. If your phone is on analog voice you'll use the battery at about 5 times the normal rate, even though you have service.

A car charger is not that hard to disassemble and hard-wire into the bike. If you've got an open cig-light plug you don't even have to do that.

A car charger is not that hard to disassemble and hard-wire into the bike. If you've got an open cig-light plug you don't even have to do that.
+1 - Electrified tank bags are the shizzy!!

(that silver thing at the bottom of the bag is a 3-port cigarette lighter outlet dealio.)


Last edited by a moderator: