Women Riders

Inspirational Women: Ursula Marie Wachowiak, Part 2

Written by  November 30, 2015

Ursula was a young wife and mother, having her son at 19. As she states in her blog, assuming the responsibilities of a mom, wife and full time worker has a way of derailing those dreams we had in our youth and of burying the person we are deep inside.

Her husband did not share her love of motorcycles, quads, fishing and tattoos. In a last ditch effort to save the marriage, they embarked on a weekend trip and that was the awakening she had been seeking, but not in a way that was expected.

Driving down a road, she noticed a Yamaha dealer, said she wanted to stop and look around, so they pulled in. A V-Star seemed to speak to her and, although she hadn’t ridden in years, felt compelled to ask the salesman if she could test-drive it. Without asking if she had her “M” endorsement, he agreed. She sat for a moment, acting as though she was just “getting a feel” for the bike, when in reality, she was afraid to let go of the clutch. When she finally let up, she pulled out, “smooth as silk, on gravel yet” and rode for “the longest 3 or 4 minutes of my life”, but those minutes would change her life completely. First up, she stopped and got a tattoo. The marriage wasn’t saved, but she knew her life had been.

It would be a few more years before she would own a bike of her own. Her son received a dirt bike from his father and, as Ursula put it, “we rode the snot out of that bike.” She started dating a man who rode a Harley and knew after several rides, she would not be on the back for long. Her son was required to take the rider safety class due to his age so Ursula took it with him. Her son beat her by two points, but they both passed with flying colors. After riding his bike for a while (a 1992 GSXR750), Ursula bought her first bike, a 1995 Sportster and from July to December of 2011, she put over 11,000 miles on the bike and never left Illinois. As covered in my November column, that would change.

Ursula’s “Broad Bails” send-off was in rock star style. As she states, “We filled Joe’s Bar, we rocked out to Honky Tonk Outlaws, and shared a lot of laughs and a few tears. I was astounded at the number of folks that came out both bikers and non-bikers. I don’t take compliments very well because there are far far better people in the world than myself, but a lot of folks have thanked me for being the catalyst that has bonded so many people together. I suppose I can accept that, because after all, I need them all too.” With plans to first visit family, she hit the road February 25, 2013 in less than stellar weather. There was no turning back and, quite frankly, it would seem she didn’t want to.

As she traveled, Ursula met with business owners dedicated to biker safety and gear and covered these visits in her blog, picking up sponsors as well. With help from her uncle and father, she learned how to work on her bike. When she had down time, she kept up with her business, The Write Hand and her blog. During her travels, she met Scotty, a man who had spent 19 years living on his bike. Although he considered himself “retired” from the road, he joined up with Ursula for a few weeks. While he would stay in one place for weeks at a time, she would only spend a few days, so she knew he would not continue the pace with her. But together they covered the southeast, from Georgia to Virginia, staying with friends, attending events both biker and personal (like weddings) and even were interviewed together by Fox Creek Leather.

After spending some time in Illinois and Wisconsin with her son and friends, catching up and planning for Sturgis, Ursula was ready to hit the road. She gave herself a leisurely two weeks to get to Sturgis in time for the rally. The plan was to ride through Minnesota so she headed to Highway 95 South.

The road is two lanes, one in either direction. Her view was clear and she could see a semi in the oncoming lane. As she approached a curve, she could see something else-a car that had been trying to pass the truck was coming right at her. The young driver and she made eye contact for that moment and knew this would not end well. They both seemed to have the same instinct to head for the ditch. In her blog, Ursula says, “As we both headed towards the side of the road / ditch area, the car struck me hard on the left side. I remember the sound of the crash; metal on metal and the screech of tires on the pavement. Suddenly the entire of my surrounds were tossed in circles and spirals and it all ran together. Only it wasn’t my surroundings; it was me flying through the air. It happened so fast that I didn’t see how the bike moved or how my body moved, but it only took a few seconds and then I was on the ground, leaning against my luggage in a partially sitting position with both knees bent and head upright. If not for the incident you might say that it appeared I was simply relaxing leaning against a tree, or a boyfriend, or even sitting on the living room floor leaning against the couch. But no such luck; I was damaged and I was in shock.”

Her left leg was mangled, the femur jutting through her skin, staring up at her. She couldn’t see her leg from her knee down because it was “mostly gone”. In the distance, she heard a woman say she had called 911. The young man that hit her was there, in a total panic and repeatedly apologizing. She had to calm him down because she needed his help, so she asked him his name. “Anthony”, he replied. She told Anthony to get her phone from the bike and call her friend Larry. “I told Larry that if I lived I was sure I was going to lose my leg and that I needed him to call my son; I told him how much I love him and told him to tell me son I love him too.” She knew that if she called her son, he would have freaked out completely and there was no way right now she could try to calm him down.

Ursula asked Anthony for water and he gave her small sips as they waited for help to arrive. She then asked for a cigarette, which he got for her and held as she drew a couple of puffs. She grabbed his hand, just wanting someone to hold her as she died.

Next month: The Long Road Back