EAST GULL LAKE -- Joe Lorek's driving style turned heads Saturday at the 30th annual Paul Bunyan Time Trials at Ernie's on Gull Lake.
Lorek sprawled across the snowmobile seat with both legs dangling over the back seat edge.
And if you looked closely, only his right leg had a tan leather boot. This 40-year-old, single-leg amputee said he wasn't wearing his neon green prosthetic leg because he couldn't bend it back. He chose his riding style for better traction.
Lorek, a divorced father of two daughters, was lucky to even ride a snowmobile let alone run his sister-in-law's 1998 Arctic Cat ZRT600 at full throttle for 1,000 feet twice during the event.
Fourteen years ago he was involved in a motorcycle accident in California that severed his left leg above the knee and left him in a coma for two days.
"(The accident) made me appreciate life more, that's for sure," he said. "Don't sweat the small stuff, that's for sure. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
Lorek was driving his Kawasaki KZ1000 drag racing bike to his friend's funeral when the accident occurred only two blocks from his friend's house.
Lorek chose to drive his motorcycle to his friend's funeral because the two always argued about their motorcycles. His friend, who died in a motorcycle accident, rode a Harley-Davidson.
Lorek said he was hit from behind by another motorcycle rider. It was the first time Lorek had driven his cycle on the street, and that he didn't wear a helmet or his leather racing suit.
"I think my leathers would have saved my leg ,if you want my opinion," he said.
Joe Lorek, Burlington, Wis., piloted his snowmobile Saturday at time trials at Ernie's on Gull Lake. Lorek's prosthetic leg does not allow him to bend his leg back so he opts to remove it and sprawl out on the snowmobile for better traction. (Dispatch Photos by Clint Wood)
Lorek said the impact of the crash spun him sideways and his cycle went under his leg. Then he went end over end with his cycle hitting him in his head and leg for at least 100 feet.
"(My cycle) just beat me up," he said.
Lorek landed in his uncle's and aunt's front yard. He remembered wanting to get up, but his uncle told him not to.
He was on life support for a day and spent nine days in the hospital. Other injuries included severe facial injuries and a broken arm in four places.
Lorek, who worked as a gourmet chef for his uncle's catering business for movie and television sets, did return to race his cycle a few times on dragstrips in the Los Angeles area. He has clocked a speed of 175 mph in 9.38 seconds aboard his supercharged nitrous oxide rocket.
"I ran 9-second passes with that bad boy," he said.
After the accident, he worked in the post production editing department of Universal, Paramount and Columbia studios. He moved to Burlington (his former wife's relatives lived in Milwaukee) in 1998.
Lorek is currently a school bus driver. The last time he raced a snowmobile was three years ago and the last time he raced his Chevrolet Monte Carlo was two years ago. His top speed in his Monte Carlo was 145 mph and his top speed aboard a snowmobile, an Arctic Cat 600, was 105 mph in a radar run.
"Anything with speed, I like it for some reason," he said.
Saturday's experience renewed Lorek's interest in returning to radar runs. He wants to build a modified sled capable of speeds over 130 mph.
Lorek said if he does build a snowmobile, he would build a bracket or strap to hold his prosthetic leg.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.