It was supposed to be a fun weekend. My wife and I were excited about our long standing plans of taking our Polaris RZR for a night ride on the red river. It was to be my wife’s first night ride, and a trip to the river we would never forget.
It’s Friday Oct. 11th, 2013. A group of Great Plains Duncan customers had planned this night ride for some time, and had invited me on multiple occasions. I was excited to share the night riding experience with my wife, because it offers a completely different experience. The cool night air rushing my face, while navigating a darkened river under a sleepy Oklahoma sky is why I love a night ride. Night rides also let me put all the money I’ve spent in LED lighting and effects to use!
My wife and I had to work late that evening, and although we’d known about this ride for some time we still weren’t prepared. After work we took our daughter to her grandma’s house. Then we hurried home, grabbed a couple snacks, changed clothes, and headed south. This was the first mistake we made.
Robles Rule #1 Always ride prepared.
We didn’t pack anything in case of emergency. We dressed like a couple of beach bums,,
and we didn’t have a plan if something were to go wrong.
Bringing a few basic essentials on a ride can be the difference between a good time, and a horrible time, or in extreme cases, life or death. For example: flashlights, first aid kits, tools, recovery gear, and phone are all basic essentials. These items should be packed on even the quickest trips, because you never know what might happen.
We arrived at the river around 10 p.m. that Friday. Most of the people we were meeting had already started riding. We unloaded the RZR, and made our way down to the bridge. After visiting with some friends my wife and I decided to take a quick trip while our friends rested. The decision to take this quick lap down the trails alone was our second mistake.
Robles Rule #2 Don’t ride alone, especially at night, or unprepared!
Trail riding is a fun, and typically a harmless activity enjoyed by many people. However, many times we take for granted the dangers involved. A tire blow out, wreck, or mechanical issue can have devastating effects. These incidents become much worse if you are alone, and this is exactly what I found out.
We ventured down the trails, zigging and zagging our way through the sand and brush. It was very exhilarating, because at night you can only see as far as your lights shine. We made it through the trails and down a drop off that led to the river bed. We cruised along the river bed until we couldn’t go any further. It was also time to head back. If we turned around then we’d get back in time to ride out with our friends. Without thinking I threw the RZR into reverse. I hadn’t paid much attention to my surroundings, so I didn’t notice that I was backing into a little neck full of sticky red clay. I quickly realized I was stuck and going nowhere. At this point the first two mistakes we made became very clear to me. I didn’t panic, but after an hour of trying to get the RZR unstuck I began to worry. The cell phone service was terrible. Our phone calls were futile attempts for help, and as time passed we realized no one had noticed we were missing.
The irony of this night was that while waiting on the river bed I was very aware of the possibility of encountering a snake. We saw small frogs by the droves, and I just knew we would come across some type of serpent looking for an easy meal. Now that we were past the hour mark of waiting, we started to get inpatient. We were only a mile or two from the bridge, so we decided with a brisk walk we could get back to the group within the hour. This was our third and possibly biggest mistake.
Robles Rule #3 If you get stranded, stay where you are.
I’d heard this many times in movies and TV shows, Sorry Bear Grills I didn’t listen! What got me was I didn’t take the situation seriously. It’s important to think a couple steps ahead. Considering the consequence of my actions during what seemed like a menial situation would have saved my wife and I some grief, and over 100K in medical bills.
We decided to make the trek to the bridge by following the trail that led away from the river. It’s a sandy trail that is as crooked as the snake that shared it’s venom with me. Since we weren’t prepared, we had to use a cell phone for a flash light. Using the LED light on my wife’s iPhone we attempted to make our way back. To avoid a possible snake encounter we walked away from the water, however, once we were on the trail I become more concerned about being hit by a RZR. Most people drive fast on this trail, and power through it’s many sharp turns. This would leave little time for a driver to react before hitting us. Therefore, the plan was to walk side by side, and be ready to leap out of the way should we meet an oncoming vehicle. The trail is narrow which forced us to walk on top of a divide between trail and brush. We’d made it about 100 yards from the stuck RZR when I stepped on the result of all our bad decisions. When the snake struck it felt like a freight train hit my ankle. I’d never seen or heard a rattle snake in the wild until that point, and even then I didn’t see it myself. My wife was holding the phone, she turned after I started jumping and yelling, and saw it sitting there ready to strike again if we gave it the opportunity. My mind started racing, because I’ve seen and read things about what happens after a rattle snake bite and it had me a little worried.
Thanks to my wife I can write this story. I owe my life to her. She helped me remain calm while walking me the next two miles. She is the reason I am still alive today.
The bite hurt really bad. However, after a couple minutes of panic we composed ourselves and realized our only hope was to walk. We walked as quickly as we could back to the group while trying to maintain a relatively normal blood pressure. One of the bad decisions I had made that night was my wardrobe. I was wearing some tennis shoes because I thought I wouldn’t need to get out of the RZR. I WAS WRONG! The rattler got me right above the shoe line. If I had my boots on the snakes fangs might have not reached my skin. I took advantage of my tennis shoes by using the strings to tie around my ankle tightly above the bite. I found out later that this is considered a mistake by some because many times people will tighten them too tight, and the lack of circulation to the limb will do more damage than the bite will. This wasn’t the case in my situation. For me, it greatly reduced the amount of swelling that occurred before I received medical attention. This could be contributed to other things, but I strongly feel that my shoe laces helped my situation immensely.
We walked for what seemed to be an eternity, but was actually a little over an hour. The combination of the powdery sand, years of mamma’s mashed potatoes, and a rattlesnake bite drastically effected my walking speed. We finally made it to the bridge and found some friends. Thanks to Kris Palmer, we were able to get a ride to our truck. The next couple of days required intense medical supervision. I initially went to the Waurika hospital for medical attention, but they sent me home after a couple hours of observation. They told me it probably wasn’t that bad of a bite, and I shouldn’t worry unless the swelling increased. The bite occurred sometime around 12 a.m. Saturday morning. I made it to Waurika hospital around 1:30 a.m., and was released at 4 a.m. At 9 a.m. I awoke to immense pain which was now all the way above my knee. My wife quickly called my family to assist her getting me to Duncan Regional Hospital.
Snake venom is a weird poison, because it’s a neurotoxin and a blood thinner. After coursing through my veins for nearly ten hours the venom had taken a major toll on my decision making ability and mental response to the pain I was in. I was hurting, but I wasn’t worried. I had a strange uncaring attitude, and didn’t even want to go to the hospital. Thankfully, I have a really stubborn wife and family. While on a gurney at the Duncan E.R., the nurses and doctors surrounded me. They poked, prodded, and stuck me, in an attempt to save my life. At one point they told me my blood was so thin that if I sneezed I would have busted a blood vessel in my nose, and bled to death. I bruised on contact as they took blood samples, and started IVs to give me the lifesaving medicine needed to survive this accident. I spent two days in ICU, and one day in the hospital. It took twelve vials of anti-venom to combat the snake’s bite, and keep me around. I found out later the anti-venom cost about $5,000 per vial. It was worth every penny if you ask me! I’ve fully recovered, and have no side effects from the incident except doctors bills and a stolen RZR.
Robles Rule #4 Have insurance for yourself and your RZR.
I was very fortunate to survive this ordeal. I was also fortunate to have both medical insurance and insurance on my RZR. This weekend could have changed my life forever if not for these things. The doctors bills exceeded $150,000. The RZR was stolen while I battled for my life, and anyone who owns a RZR knows they aren’t “cheap” toys. Having insurance is must follow rule to RZR riding.
I’ve told this story to many people since last October, and I’m glad for the opportunity to put it in print. Like a lot of people I took weekend rides lightly. Now I ride prepared and with a plan. What happened to me last October is just one scenario of the many dangers of powersports. My hope is not to deter others from hitting the trails as I still love to ride. The next time your ride remember the Robles Rules of RZR Riding: always ride prepared, never ride alone, when lost stay put, and have insurance.