THE LURID TALE OF JODY’S BROKEN ARM & HOW HE LEARNED TO LOVE “ADAM 12”
Jody (lower center) takes a moment to comtemplate how steep Mt. Saint Helen is. His bike is hidden in the dust cloud at the top. It only fell a short distance, but Jody quadrupled its downhill tumble.
By Jody Weisel
Like most old motocross racers, my glory days have long since faded. I knew that I would never be on the cover of Cycle News again. I was content to race out my twilight years in the duffer class. So, you can imagine my surprise when my racing prowess made me into an Instagram, Facebook and chat-room sensation decades after any glory had been attached to my meager talent. What did I do to trend on Facebook and become a media darling and an instant overnight sensation? I crashed. No big deal. I’ve crashed many times before without the L.A. Times ever bothering to fact-check the incident. But, as with all news stories, the most important ones aren’t the events with the most social significance; they are the ones with the best photos. And my crash was photographed from every angle by Debbi Tamietti, Jon Ortner and Mark Chilson.
Nothing I ever did on a motorcycle in the 1960s or 1970s had such impact, largely because there was no internet to turn a meaningless crash (except to those of us in it) in front of a small crowd into a big deal. My crash had some interesting features, but it was definitely not newsworthy. I fell at the top of Glen Helen’s Mt. Saint Helen because of the juxtaposition of the season, time of day, steepness of the hill, the positioning of the sun and bad decision making.
It turns out that during certain months (October and November), at exactly 3:00 p.m., the sun shines directly into the eyes of any racers climbing Glen Helen’s ultra-steep 22-story hill. I ought to know that, because I designed the Glen Helen track. I couldn’t see where I was going, nor could the 15 guys chasing me up Mt. Saint Helen. Blinded, I swapped into unseen whoops at the top of the 220-foot mountain, did Cirque du Soleil backflips down the hill and in the process knocked down the 15 guys behind me. Well, in truth, I never touched a single one of them, but blinded by the sun, they didn’t know what was happening above them. As they raced past the waving yellow flags, which they couldn’t see, the cameras clicked until there were 16 riders piled up on the hill.
None of the innocent were injured, but the guilty party—me—broke his left arm in two places. The break in the middle of the arm had to be plated, while the one by the wrist took forever to heal, Amazingly, it was the first bone I had ever broken racing a motorcycle over my 50-year racing career (although I had broken and dislocated the elbow on that arm pole vaulting in high school. It had to be pinned back to together). As Andy Warhol once said, “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” Now, I’m more than ready to fade away again.
I was out of action for seven months. I was bummed, but not about my broken arm, but that my string of 117 straight races without missing one was broken. I have since returned to racing, but can now claim to have seen every episode of “Adam 12” while sitting on the couch in a cast