Back on the open road

After losing a leg, a man realizes his dream of riding a motorcycle again.

Published February 11, 2007

Ed Tuthill drove his "Detroit Chopper" off the lot Monday. He paused to show his mom and sisters the new ride before zigzagging through Citrus County the rest of the afternoon. He loitered briefly, when his girlfriend made him eat some dinner, but was soon back on the road, testing the motorcycle's capabilities in twilight. It was only when he ran out of gas that he came to a complete stop.

Tuthill had waited a long time. Since a freak accident mangled his legs in the mid 1980s, he wasn't sure he could steer with one leg and one prosthesis.

"The feeling was just unreal," Tuthill, 43, said of being back on the road. "You're out in the wide open, the wind in your face."

As soon as he spotted the chopper around a month ago, Tuthill was in love.

"I drove by Citrus Motorsports and saw a nice little trike sitting out there," Tuthill said.

He had ridden dirt bikes as a child in Long Island, N.Y., and always borrowed his brother's motorcycles when he was on leave from the Marine Corps.

But during Valentine's Day weekend in 1985, he lost his balance boarding a train to go visit his girlfriend. Tuthill fell on the tracks and was dragged more than 200 yards.

"It was like I was doing somersaults under the train," he said. "A guy was banging on the windows yelling, 'Stop the train!' "

Doctors managed to save Tuthill's left leg, but his right leg had to be amputated.

Still, his salvaged leg was stripped of muscle and tissue. He had to wear a brace in his shoe, and eventually learned to substitute a prosthesis for his right leg.

Tuthill moved to Florida around 12 years ago, where some of his family lived. He had found life in Long Island difficult, and was enticed by the number of newer, more accessible buildings in Florida.

"In Long Island, the stores were tiny and had little steps," he said. "And since I had lots of nerve damage, walking around in the snow wasn't good."

In his new Citrus Springs home, Tuthill worked on glass etching and participated in wheelchair basketball.

But something was missing.

Tuthill would attend veterans events and admire the bikes of other former servicemen. They told him he could get a specially made chopper to fit his needs.

After the sighting at Citrus Motorsports, Tuthill finally took their advice.

A mechanic made some alterations and ordered several new parts.

Nearly a month later, Tuthill rushed to the shop when he heard his chopper was ready. He didn't want to wait to have it delivered.

"I told them, fill it up with gas, do whatever you have to do, so I can start riding," Tuthill said.

He's been on the road every day since. And when he's not, Tuthill contemplates his good fortune.

"Every day I look in the garage and I can't believe it's still there," he said. "I got me a bike. Finally."

Elena Lesley can be reached at 564-3627 or elesley@sptimes.com.