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Help from strangers: Men build access ramp for Dickinson biker after accident

It has been difficult for Mike Rangitsch to get around the house after a motorcycle accident in early July forced him to use a walker.

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“It’s hard getting from the couch to the bathroom,” Rangitsch said.

Though it was temporary, his wife, Donna, knew they needed to find equipment to help Mike walk and get into the house.

She never thought when she wrote a post on a Facebook page “Dickinson ND, Online Rummage Sale” that three men — Michael Hunter, Spearfish, S.D., Ruben Prado-Prado, Dickinson, and Garrett Morel, Fairfield, — would offer to build an access ramp to the Rangitsch’s Dickinson home — for free.

“It’s a good feeling to do something like that,” Hunter said. “There is just something about not knowing somebody and doing something for somebody.”

The accident

Mike got his Harley Davidson motorcycle in 2002, but he had been riding long before then. He estimates that he has been driving down highways on bikes since 1978, before he left his parent’s home.

Mike doesn’t exactly know what happened on that July 4 weekend. He was going to Spearfish on his motorcycle with a trailer hooked behind him.

“I think I got a little too close to the shoulder,” he said.

He thinks the trailer went off the highway pavement and caught the gravel on the edge, which pulled him off the road. The bike flipped once “really hard,” from what Mike could tell from the damage. He doesn’t remember if he was on the bike when it flipped, he said.

“Then the ambulance showed up and I went to the hospital,” he said.

Mike wasn’t sure if his bike was totaled in the accident, but it was on a trailer to go to Mandan for an assessment, he said.

Doctors performed surgery on both of Mike’s legs that night, Donna said. His right leg now has a rod in it, and the left has a plate and screws.

More than two weeks after the accident, Mike is lucky to be alive. He wears a walking boot on each leg and uses a walker to get around. The doctors expect he’ll likely make a full recovery.

Not all out-of-staters are bad

Mike is expected to begin six weeks of physical therapy on Tuesday. Doctors told him that he’ll need at least 16 weeks to recover.

Until then, Mike has to use a walker, and that meant he needed a way to get in and out of his home. To access the Rangitsch house, one must go up an inclined driveway and then a small set of stairs on one end.

Donna said she turned to Dickinson Rummage to look for equipment and supplies to build a ramp.

“I wasn’t actually asking for anyone to do it for nothing,” Donna said. “I was just kind of wanted materials that people weren’t using and we had some friends of ours that would help build (a ramp).”

Then she got a message from a man she had never met before. Hunter, a 27-year-old construction worker from Spearfish, saw the post and knew he had boards in his garage.

“I got to thinking … it’s just sitting there,” Hunter said. “I don’t do anything on the weekends anyways, so why not do something?”

He exchanged messages with Donna. The offer was surprising, the couple said.

“I was really surprised that someone would volunteer to do it,” Donna said. “I even asked him then, ‘How much would you charge?’ He said nothing.”

Hunter, Morel and Prado-Prado came out to the house on July 12 and built the ramp in one day. Mike was able to use it the same day.

It’s rare that people stop to help a stranger, Donna and Mike agreed. Hunter posted pictures of Mike using the ramp on the Dickinson Rummage Facebook page. The post received more than 100 likes and several positive responses.

“You hear all this talk about how the out-of-staters are so bad and they are coming here and doing bad things,” Donna said. “After this, I know they are not.”

Both of Hunter’s parents ride motorcycles, he said, and he felt for the couple. He wanted to help them, knowing how important riding is to bikers.

“We do the same thing every year we can,” Mike said, adding they go to benefits to support fellow motorcycle riders. “We try to attend all of them that we can.”

The accident isn’t deterring Mike from hitting the road again, he said.

“I got another one waiting,” he said.

April Baumgarten
April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, as the news editor. She works with a team of talented journalists and editors, who strive to give the Grand Forks area the quality news readers deserve to know. Baumgarten grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college,  she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.