It's been 40 years and 250,000 miles of motorcycling for me -- scarcely "dropping" my bike in the driveway. Until last Tuesday evening, when the ER trauma surgeon told my wife I'd not have survived the afternoon's traumatic brain injury without my helmet.

Awakening as if from a bad dream in a hospital bed at Mayo in Mankato with a mild concussion, my most recent memory was playing under a tree with my granddaughter at lunch nine hours earlier.

My confused eyes spotting the slightly abraded motorcycle helmet atop the hospital cabinet nearby, I learned I'd been in a minor accident with my motorcycle.

Witnesses said I stopped quickly to avoid rear-ending cars stopping suddenly ahead of me, ultimately going over with my bike sideways and hitting my head on the street. (A macho biker would say, "Just had to lay it down.") 

Retrograde amnesia may prevent my ever remembering jumping on the smaller of my two BMW motorcycles that afternoon -- apparently quickly donning only the helmet and half-gloves to return some DVDs to the public library downtown. 

It's scary; the woman who saw it all happen told me, to my astonishment, that I got to my feet conscious, amiably chatty, with only a scraped elbow. The other witness helped me upright and park my motorcycle, and called the police.

Thankfully, the Mankato police officer who lost a brother to motorcycling recognized my condition and called for an ambulance. Visiting with them days later -- my brain healing after losing two hours of memory before the accident and six hours afterward -- it's as if we've never met or talked before!  

Though I'm mostly back to normal, my plans for Sturgis 2011 are canceled. If yours are on, use your helmet this week as you head to western South Dakota!

And do enjoy the gorgeous Black Hills vicariously for this recovering veteran motorcyclist.

JOHN BIPES, MANKATO, MINN.