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    Nothing stops him from riding

    Nothing stops him from riding

    By Courtney Mabeus
    Staff writer

    HOPE MILLS - Ron Garren lost the use of his legs six years ago, but that hasn't stopped him from riding his motorcycles.

    Staff photo by Steve Aldridge
    Ron Garren, who grew up in California, has spent much of his life around motorcycles.
    In October 1996, Garren owned a tree service and was helping to clear debris from Hurricane Fran at a Hope Mills home.

    Garren had climbed about 20 feet up a ladder and cut a limb. Suddenly, the limb hit him in the mouth and knocked him off the ladder. He fell about 35 feet to the ground.

    "When I first hit the ground, I could move my eyes and lips," he said. "I couldn't even breathe. Blood was going everywhere. It freaked me out, but I couldn't do anything about it."

    Doctors later told him he had shattered vertebrae in his neck. The spinal cord injury was similar to the one suffered by actor Christopher Reeve when he was thrown from a horse in 1995 and paralyzed from neck down.

    "He (the neurosurgeon) went all over me with a needle and a feather," Garren said. That was to determine how much feeling Garren still had.

    In addition to the spinal cord injury, Garren broke 11 bones in his back, fractured his jaw and had severe cuts on one hand.

    Garren, sitting in his wheelchair, talked about the time he spend in the hospital and his rehabilitation.

    He spent 10 weeks in the hospital. Initially, doctors told him he would likely walk again despite his injuries.

    But after two months in the hospital, Garren learned how extensive his injuries were.

    Garren learned he would be paralyzed from the waist down.

    "I got depressed then," he said. "After that, I realized that I'm going to be in this a real long time."

    Garren spent five days a week for a year doing five-hour rehabilitation sessions.

    A therapy assistant asked Garren about his vehicles.

    "I had about five or six cars and I told him I had about 15 motorcycles," Garren said. "He said, 'Well, you can get rid of the motorcycles.'"

    Garren, who has a sharp sense of humor and loves to talk, looked at the man and said: "I'll get rid of all my vehicles, but I won't get rid of my bikes."

    A life of riding

    On a recent summer morning, Garren sat in his wheelchair, parked on the driveway. He wore dark jeans and a black T-shirt with the logo of a motorcycle shop.

    From his wheelchair, he reached to scrub the fenders of a blue 1989 Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

    Three more bikes, including an immaculate 1954 Harley, were parked in the garage. Among them was another motorcycle that he is customizing for his wife, Sharon. They have been married for 30 years.

    "As soon as I got hurt, I wanted to be back on a motorcycle," Garren said.

    He grew up in California and has been around motorcycles for much of his life. Sharon has been riding a Harley alongside her husband since 1987. Together, they've taken trips halfway across the country and to Canada, attending bike rallies along the way. They share a passion for the open road.

    "I guess it's a freedom, like a convertible on two wheels," Garren said.

    His father, George, taught him to work on cars and trucks when he was a boy. Garren's paralysis has had no long-lasting effect on his handiwork. He enjoys tinkering with motorcycles and can overhaul the transmission on a tractor-trailer rig just as easily, he said.

    "As long as I was able to understand what was going on and could drag tools and help my old man, I worked on everything under the sun," he said.

    When Garren goes riding these days, it's on the 1989 Harley. He customized it by adding a third wheel and rearranged the hand controls, brakes and clutch so he could ride comfortably.

    He's spent about $12,000 to convert it, he said.

    "It works good. It's a real good setup. I made up my mind that it would be the easiest and smartest way to do it."

    Garren has installed hand controls in his cars, too. And he's been talking with a San Diego man who customizes motorcycles about taking on a project for some of his customers on the East Coast, Garren said.

    When Garren rides, he folds his wheelchair and straps it to the back of his motorcycle with bungee cords.

    He has become an expert on paralysis and can name all of the bones associated with the spine, he said.

    "Most of the time, people don't even realize it," he said. "Paralysis is a hidden disease."

    Staff writer Courtney Mabeus can be reached at or 486-3582.


    Copyright 2003 The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer (
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