Ride for Johnny

By: Victoria Trainor


John Provenzano, otherwise known as “Johnny Bullzeye” graduated early from Jesuit High School in his junior year, and is currently studying at the University of New Orleans for a degree in mechanical engineering. Following in his cousin’s footsteps, John took an interest in working on motorcycles. He started off riding street bikes with his cousin. At the age of 17, John bought his first motorcycle, a 2009 Kawasaki Ninja 250cc. One day while out on a ride, John saw his cousin fly past him doing about 150mph with a girl on the back of the bike. John says, “After seeing my own family member scream past me doing 150mph on a bike, I immediately craved larger engines.”

Riding at dangerously high speeds is one of the perks that many bikers talk about. When asked what is so significant about motorcycles, John replies, “It makes you feel free, the wind in your hair, the engine underneath you… Not to mention, it’s only $13 for gas and $50 per month for insurance.” John enjoys the risk of riding fast, and is able to do so because of his years of patience and experience. It is important to be completely involved in your surroundings because, “stupidity on a bike can be unforgiving.” Doing wheelies and going fast are an adrenaline rush. In the past, it was more likely you would see John on one wheel more times than two. However, this changed when he got into his first accident. A truck pulled out on him on the way to school, which resulted in him having a broken arm and road rash. This caused him to calm down a lot with doing tricks, wheelies, etc. He still did them, but was not as reckless. John bought a Suzuki GSXR 750 after his first accident.

John has been riding for five years. He and his friends are probably the loud engines that you hear revving late at night, riding up and down the interstate. There wasn’t much that could keep him from his bike, including bad weather conditions. He has met some of his lifelong friends through riding and has developed a true dedication to the lifestyle.

On Jan. 19, 2014 John and 17 other bikers were on a group ride to the coast. Five of them, including John, were going pretty fast around turns, nearing 140mph. They were in Bay St. Louis when things took a turn for the worse. John remembers going down a long, winding turn at around 150mph, when it suddenly became very narrow. “A couple of people went down with me, but my bike—I slowed to about 120mph when I lost my rear tire to gravel in the turn. My bike hit a sign.” When his bike hit the sign, it bounced back and hit John, breaking his back, neck and ribs.

John was airlifted to a trauma hospital in Alabama. He said he remembers how loud the helicopter was, and the EMS staff shouting, but that’s where things fade to black. John ended up breaking the two top sides of his pelvis, his femur, five of his ribs, and 14 spinal vertebrae. He also punctured his left lung and bruised the right, ruptured his spleen, lacerated his right kidney, and got plenty of road rash. He had a lot of nerve damage following a neck surgery where metal rods were attached to some of the vertebrae. When I met with John to talk about the accident, we ordered coffee at PJ’s coffee shop, where he drank a frozen granita for the first time in three months after his accident.

John says, “I woke up three weeks later in the hospital. My mother was looking at me.” The doctors told John that he would never be able to ride again, because he may never fully recover from this. John found out it would be six months before he could walk again. John is now able to walk using a walker after only 3 months. Before John first woke up, a couple of his friends came to visit him in the hospital, but said he wasn’t all there.

The accident showed John how many people really love him. “My family has been amazing through this. My sister is really pulling a lot of weight,” John says. John’s friends used Instagram and other social media to raise awareness for a fundraiser at the Lakefront to help fund John’s recovery. Hundreds of people showed up to the fundraiser and John’s friends that rode with him put stickers on their bikes or cars featuring the hashtag, “#RIDEFORJOHNNY”

When asked how the accident has changed him, John said,

“The accident has taught to me to appreciate little things I took for granted, such as eating. Just being able to sit and drink a cup of coffee with you is a blessing. For so long I literally dreamt about food, and what things taste like. Other than the little things, it definitely taught me how many people love me. Hundreds of people showed up to the fundraiser at the Lakefront for me. This made me want to use this experience to help other people, which is exactly what I’m going to do. So many people helped me through this hard time, so I’m going to do the same for others.”

Before the accident John went to school for mechanical engineering which he hopes to get back to once he recovers. He also hopes to get back to working at Dragos, and lifting weights. Ultimately, John wants to be able to ride again. “There’s nothing in my life that makes me as happy as riding does,” he said.


John on his Suzuki GSXR 750.

Photo credits: Nick Delatorre

Fundraiser Stickers on Ed Fabre’s truck and on Chris Champagne’s bike.

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