Have you ever had a dream that felt so real it left you wondering if you had lived it? Did you ever see that dream become a reality days after having it? Is it Dejavú, a premonition, a warning, or a vision of the future? I don’t know, but I do know that it happened to me.
This is a true story, and one I have been reluctant to share with everyone, but sometimes we are called to bear witness to the wonders of our world, and today I feel this calling falls on me.
Weeks ago I had a dream. In my dream, I am walking around my motorcycle on a desolate road, wearing a red and black coat, and on the ground are two hard aluminum cases, a black bag, a blue bag, and a yellow bag, and on top of them, a black scratched-up helmet. I am walking around the bike and looking down at the bags. The ground is dark, and there are snow-covered mountains in the distance. But I don't feel hurt or distressed. I am smiling, yet also puzzled and disoriented. I wake up and ignore this dream, as I usually do. It's just a dream.
Some dreams come true. Yes, even dreams about crashing. I've heard movie pilots say that any crash you can walk away from is a good crash. The military pilots I know tend to stay away from talking about crashing unless it is for a post-event debrief. Me, I'm used to joking about crashing. After all, bikers are always crashing! Well, at least we are used to dropping our bikes now and then, and watching lots of motorcycle crash videos, sometimes wincing and sometimes laughing. Me, I’ve had some benign crashes in my life, but the one I’m going to tell you about was truly epic!
To me, an epic crash is one that by all counts you should not have been able to walk away from. But I was meant to walk away from this one. I’ll tell you why. For starters, my life did not flash before my eyes when I crashed. I think I slept through it. Yes, epic as it was, I didn't get to witness it! I had a dream about a crash, and on the day of the crash, I was asleep! Or maybe I hit my head so hard I can't remember anything!
Now, there I was, riding my 2022 Harley Davidson Pan America 1250 special through the beautiful and majestic Peruvian Andes mountains, over 14,000 feet above sea level, en route to the marvelous city of Cusco, intent on visiting the wondrous ancient Inca mountain city of Machu Pichu.
This particular trip is one of my “must-do before I die" bucket list items! I'm with Cynthia Franklin, whom I met in Texas on the 12th of January, and who has been traveling with me since then. She is a true biker, road warrior, and super safety-conscious rider! She has become my safety net and helps to keep me riding at a safe speed.
We have become like brother and sister in this short but meaningful journey across Mexico, Central, and South America. 11 countries crossed and over 11,000 miles traveled. An extraordinary journey so far! Visiting Machu Pichu is high on our list of must-see wonders. But we are not rushing there this morning.
It is the 4th of March, 2023, and we are up around 5:30 AM, and we plan to head out on the road with the rising sun.
The temperature this morning is in the ’40s. I put on my red and black motorcycle jacket, instead of the gray one I have been wearing for days because it is meant for cold weather. I’m wearing four layers below my leather LAMA vest, and two layers below my motorcycle waterproof pants, one being kevlar jeans. I hate feeling cold, and I like to feel safe when I ride. The ground is dry when we leave the hotel, the air is crisp, and the wind blows lightly. It's going to be a great riding day. As we head through the mountains, the road is fairly clear of traffic and our objective is to drive straight to Cusco. The mountain roads are beautiful albeit somewhat poorly maintained. It is a bit chilly this morning, and after about an hour on the road, having climbed several thousand feet, we start to see snow on the ground. The snow-capped mountains in the distance captivate us.
So beautiful! I’m smiling, because of this landscape, this feeling of euphoria you get when riding in these picturesque landscapes, this is why I ride. This is what makes the journey worthwhile.
Nature in all its splendor and beauty, unadulterated, naked nature, unadorned by man-made structures, or the trash we spill every day. This is what we ride for. We stop many times this morning. We stop by a lake, by the side of the snow-covered road, with the snow-capped mountains as a backdrop, and along the way, to photograph the curvy roads we just traversed. The beauty of the mountains is captivating. It is just past 7:30 in the morning, and Cynthia and I are on Bluetooth coms. I’m telling her to be careful with the many potholes on the road. It is a clear road, fairly straight, with no traffic ahead or behind us, a little gravel, a little wet, my helmet is down, face shield closed, and that is all I remember before it happened.
I’m standing up, there are some men around me, and we are pushing my bike up a small hill. I’m confused. I ask Cynthia “what happened?” “What happened to my bike?” She says I ran off the road. What? how? I don’t remember that.
The bike is standing up now, and the few men who drove by and stopped to help are gone. It’s just me, Cynthia, our bikes, and the windy mountain road ahead. I can’t remember anything other than telling her about the potholes.
I ask her to tell me where we are and what day it is. I remember we are on our way to Cusco. It is March 4, and it’s only 7:40 in the morning. We have barely ridden for a couple of hours. At 7:13 we were taking pictures with a snow-covered mountain. Less than 30 minutes later, my dream was unfolding before my very eyes. I have had Deja Vu before, but never as real as on this particular day. My journey was meant to stop here. This is as far as my bike would go. She’s wrecked, her entire front destroyed. No fixing it in a day or two now.
I’m standing by my bike laughing and smiling while telling Cynthia about my dream. She had arranged my bags and gear exactly as I had seen it in the dream. There I was walking around the wrecked bike, red and black jacket on, and looking down at those black, blue, and yellow bags, just as I saw them in my dream. Shit...
The funny thing is that I left home with a black, yellow, and red strapped black bag. The blue bag belongs to Rafael Banquetero Borja, and he gave it to me in Mexico, after a laundry mix-up, where my bag was left behind and he let me take his, and is now carrying mine. Fate is a wondrous thing. I have never truly believed in fate. We make our own destiny. And yet, it is obvious that I was not meant to die this day. Of this I am certain. Perhaps my dream was a warning, or maybe it was a reassurance that I would not be ending my life journey on this day! Who knows. All I know is that by the grace of God, I am still here. Men and angels abounded on this fateful morning. I have no idea who the men that stopped to help lift my bike were, they left before I could even ask their names or get a picture with them.
My bike was done, and on the day of the crash we should have waited for the police and a tow truck, but as we were up in the mountains, about 7 hours from Cusco, we had no idea when help would arrive. I needed to get to a Hospital to get checked out. Minutes after the crash, a red passenger bus stopped next to us. The driver came out and asked if we needed a ride to Cusco! He offered to put the bike in the cargo bay, and take me to Cusco. Hell yeah. Let's get out of here.
The emergency beacon on my GPS had been activated, but help from Garmin was going to be more than four hours away. I couldn't wait. For $160 I got my bike and myself to our destination. I sat on that bus, with my body in pain, my back full of gravel, unwittingly grinding the tiny black volcanic rocks deeper into my bloody wounds for 7 very long hours, but I made it to Cusco and a clinic that evening. Cynthia was following us for a while, but eventually got ahead and waited for me at a hotel in Cusco. A few hours into our bus ride, the driver stopped at a restaurant area so the passengers could eat something. I got off the bus, barely able to stand on my left leg, and certain I had hurt my right side rib cage. It was like hell getting up, and I contemplated just sitting there. But I was more afraid of falling asleep, so I got out. In the restaurant I overheard two young men talking about how much food they could afford. They were debating how much they could afford, and one said to the other "let's just buy something for the kids." They were traveling with two young kids, 4 and 6, with almost no money, having escaped Venezuela days before, and looking to make it to Brazil, where they believed they would find work. I forgot about my pain, my $25,000 motorcycle, and the very expensive trip that I embarked on because I could. I bought them all lunch and gave them all the Peruvian cash I had left. I am truly blessed. The universe puts you where you need to be. I'm learning to listen.
I made it to Cusco that same day and went to Machu Pichu two days later. We had originally bought tickets for Machu Pichu for the 5th, but decided to change the day to the 6th, to have more time to rest. Strange. Dreams come true, and miracles do happen.
What happened to the bike is repairable. She's a wreck but only in the front.
So what happened to me? Initial diagnosis: acute respiratory insufficiency, poly contuse, concussion, evolutionary head injury, chest trauma, fractured ribs, left knee trauma, left knee fracture, and scraped back. Ouch!! Nah!! I was dehydrated and my oxygen level was at 87%. My knee hurt and so did my chest. And yes, I must have rolled on the ground a little, as my back had some pretty deep scratches, and some rocks were still attached to it when I got to the hospital. After a good cleaning, a cat scan, and xrays, I was admitted overnight, put on oxygen, and on an IV drip for pain and hydration.
The next morning my oxygen was back at 95% and I walked out of the hospital with a soft knee brace. My back looks like a lion and a bear had a clawing match and I was the one who lost. Fortunately, their nails were short! The doctor asked me to stay in Cusco for 5 days under Cynthia's observation. The very next day we went to Machu Pichu, walked for hours around Cusco, and then I went on an awesome ATV ride to the "dwelling of the gods."
By the way, the Incas believe in interdimensional travel between the realms of earth, heaven, and the underworld! All of these are represented by animals, the Puma for Earth, the Condor for heaven, and the snake for the underworld. Strange that I should find myself sitting in the mouth of a Puma a couple of days after my accident!
We ended up staying in Cusco for 4 days. I flew to Lima to make sure I left my bike in good hands and to do the paperwork to ask for a customs extension until October, and then I flew home on the 10th of March. Once home, I went to the clinic to have new xrays done and found out I have a cracked rib (#8), the Peruvian doctors missed that one, but it should heal by itself. No wonder I couldn't sleep on my right side! The day I got to Lima I was taking off my boots and noticed my left ankle was swollen and black and blue. The doctors missed that too! I truly believe my Italian Sidi Adventure Goretex boots saved me from breaking the bones in my legs. The funny thing is that I almost left on this trip without them. I delayed my departure to wait for FedEx to drop them off at my house! I'm glad I did. Sprained joints and torn ligaments hurt, but broken bones, well, who needs that? As I write this, my left leg, left knee, and ankle swelling has gone down, my rib cage hurts a little less, and I'm sleeping a little more comfortably. I am alive. Life is the journey, and I am glad mine will continue a little longer!
My bike? It is still in Peru being repaired by my biker brothers from the Latin American Motorcycle Association (LAMA) Lima chapter. These guys are awesome. They picked up my bike and kept it in their shop so I could visit Machu Pichu without worry!
I intend to fly back there one of these days to finish my journey to Ushuaia, Argentina. If have another dream, I will pay closer attention!
Believe, or don’t. I do. Some Dreams do come true.