LACONIA — Charlie St. Clair, executive director of Laconia Motorcycle Week, was a day away from making it to his 37th ride-in at the Sturgis, S.D., rally, Thursday when the motorcycle he was riding struck a deer and he was seriously injured.
From his Nebraska hospital bed Tuesday, where he was awaiting surgery on fractures to his left leg and right hand, St. Clair said he hopes to get a rental car and still attend the nation's largest motorcycle rally.
“I will be all right,” he said.
Others from New Hampshire who made it to the Aug. 6-12 rally in Sturgis will be distributing the N.H. Rally News magazine on his behalf this week. St. Clair was planning to be in Sturgis to promote Laconia's upcoming 90th rally next June.
He said he was riding at night on a remote road in the scrub plains with a rider behind him when when he came up quickly on a massive and unmoving deer in the middle of the road.
“If I had seen a deer before, I would have slowed down to about 15 miles per hour, but I didn't see one” before the violent crash, he said. “The deer took the impact,” and it was killed.
Rock County Sheriff's Deputy Garrett Weidner, who handled the accident, said it happened at about 10:40 p.m. on Aug. 2 on Route 137, a straight stretch of road about 10 miles north of Newport, Neb.
“He's lucky,” Weidner said, noting that “usually with a deer, most on a motorcycle are not as lucky.”
From Weidner's perspective, St. Clair's 2000 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail is likely a total loss.
He said the deer was a “four by four,” meaning an eight-point buck, and it appeared St. Clair hit it square at a speed of about 50 to 60 mph, within the speed limit of 60.
“I laid in the road for 30 minutes waiting” for help, St. Clair said. The pavement was cold and he said it seemed like a long time before the ambulance arrived.
The Rock County Ambulance took him to a hospital a half-hour away where he was stabilized and then taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney, Neb., about two and a half hours from the crash scene.
He said his knee and left femur bones “are shattered,” along with bones in his right hand.
He also said he has a good-size road rash on the side of his face, but the denim jacket he was wearing helped protect his torso.
St. Clair began riding to Sturgis in 1976 and although he missed 1978, he has continued to not only attend the rally in South Dakota, but to drive both ways on a motorcycle. He has places he stays each year and friends along the way.
Deputy Weidner said St. Clair has friends in nearby Bassett.
“He's pretty well known around here, too,” the officer said.
According to Mapquest.com, the trip from Laconia to Sturgis is 1,927 miles or 31 hours riding.
St. Clair said after he is released, he is headed to the rental car desk and bound for Sturgis, another 500 miles away, to try and make it to the conclusion of the rally.
It's as much fun as it is his job, to talk up Laconia's upcoming 90th anniversary as the oldest motorcycle rally in the nation, he said. The rally will be June 8-16, 2013.
For more than two decades, St. Clair has been at the helm of Laconia Bike Week and often warns riders about staying away from the center line and driving sober and within the speed limit.
Asked if anything could be done for him from New Hampshire, St. Clair said, “Yeah ... Stay safe.”
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Paula Tracy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.