One could say, at the age of twenty-five, I had everything going for me. Little did I know, that in a flash, my life would be irrevocably changed forever.
Now, looking back at my life then, I realize there was no challenge I could not have conquered. I would be set on a path of extreme measures and put to a test of endurance, patience and, above all, will power to keep progressing forward towards a healthier and happier life.
I was working at a high-octane car dealership, with a distinguished reputation. As a young, healthy, charismatic, intelligent, enthusiast, I was fearless and ranked as the best salesman of the company. I had a beautiful and intelligent girlfriend whom I soon planned to marry, respect from my peers, great friends and a life worth writing home about.
Quite literally, I could write my own ticket for the future. Practically anything that I desired, I could make my own. When I was inspired or became focused and committed to something, it was as good as done. At twenty-five, a world of possibilities awaited me. And I was ready for the world to throw at me all it could.
My life-altering occurrence came when I least expected it. But then again, is that not always the case?
One unforgettable day in Colorado, in the Fall of 1995, I found myself riding along the Continental Divide, on a windy mountain road. It was a sunny day, the kind every motorist dreams of. This Madman and his motorcycle felt as one, on this fateful day. Taking advantage of every twist and turn, we glided our way along the mountain’s edge, testing fate with every move. We speed racers, or adrenaline junkies, would call it, “railing,” commanding the bike and pavement to bow to the skill and will of power and speed.
The chance to be there would never have happened if fate hadn’t reared its ugly head.
The morning started out with great intensity and frustration. The dealership owner was holding back my check for unknown reasons, for a great length of time.
I had earned nearly $15,000 that month, a record number, and he felt it necessary to hold back my check until he was forced to eventually give it up. Tension grew, as I demanded my pay and was repeatedly declined. I pleaded with accounting, but to no avail.
Finally, with anger growing, I stormed out, trying to regain my calm. It was, at that point, necessary to take a moment away from this frustrating situation. So, I stepped outside, looked west into the blue skies of the Rocky Mountains and felt the cool breeze.
“What a perfect day to ride,” I thought to myself and so, that’s just what I decided to do. I could kill some time, cool off and gather my wits once again. Little did I know I was about to get into another fight…only this time, it was one with death.
The canyon I chose is located between Golden and Boulder. I had ridden about twenty miles up the hill, when I started noticing gravel on the road. It then occurred to me that there had been at least two snowstorms prior to this sunny day. I soon decided to turn around, knowing this would be the last ride of the year, due to unforeseen road conditions… and little did I know it could be the last ride of my life.
“If only” I had been wise enough to just take my time exiting the canyon down that twisted terrain. However, being young has its disadvantages, and I was young and wild. The thought crossed my mind to just go for it and tear up that canyon, as it was my last ride of the season…
I was taking curves between 60 and 80 miles an hour, dragging my knee on the pavement and flying far faster than the road conditions would allow. I was a speed demon, and I loved “playing the edge.” The road was free of cars, and the frustrations that had built up in me needed release. This was the way I knew how to express myself and let it all out.
On this particular day, however, the edge that I was playing was a steep cliffside, with an unforgiving 60-foot drop. Trees littered the side of the hill and the ground was nearly indistinguishable.
I was quickly approaching a sharp S-curve, with a wicked bend. As I went into the bend of the curve, I noticed a large patch of gravel not too far from where my bike was headed. I knew that if my front tire hit the gravel at the speed I was going, the tire would slip out and I would face plant into the pavement.
Thinking very quickly, I stood my bike up straight to avoid hitting it, which could have resulted in quite a messy situation. My reaction, split seconds too short, and my bike, too awkward to maneuver from one tire, I soon realized I would not be making it through this turn. As I was propelled close to 80 mph off the road, my mind was a whirl. I was trying to imagine a scenario out of this, but none had come. The last place you would want to find yourself in the canyon is falling into it from a steep incline. I knew the outcome wouldn’t be good.
Then, suddenly, as I made my way forward, I noticed the road curved back in front of me. So, for a brief second, I imagined I could pull this one off. What I had failed to realize is that when I left the road, I went down a slope and now I was about to go up another, as if I was hitting a ramp.
In an instant, I could feel that I had lost control of my bike. I felt explosions of pain, as my body was violently and repeatedly hit. My crotch and stomach were being riddled with bruises from my handles and seat, every time the bike bounced. I was gripping the handlebars with great strain, trying, with all my might, to keep myself on the bike.
The next thing I saw was the guardrail passing below me. The thought had occurred to me then, that I must be flying through the air, if I was looking down at the guardrail. Looking ahead once again, I could make out the tops of trees, as I was launched into the air. My bike and I had become less than one at that moment in time, as I watched it glide over the treetops and out of my sight, leaving me to fend for myself.
In my mind, it was no longer a matter of the pain I would soon endure, but rather my thoughts leaned in the direction of survival. “Will I survive this?” and “Is this the end?”
The fear transformed my curiosity into panic and all I could think of then was the fact that I was on my way to meet death. A deep feeling of sadness came over me, as I realized this could be the end — the day we all dread. The day we never think will come. The day my life ends.
Crashing through the forest, my body took on branches and limbs that were violently tugged from the trees on which they were attached. I was tossed and tumbled down the cliff’s side. I’ll never forget that noise of my body being ravaged and torn, as I flew through the towering giants. The impact of hitting the ground knocked me out cold. Unconscious, my body lay lifeless, face first in an icy, cold stream.
Regaining consciousness a few moments later, I found myself unable to raise my chin much higher than the shallow water my head had landed in.
The seconds felt like hours, as I struggled to catch my breath. The wind had been knocked out of me. The feeling of calm came when I was finally able to take a deep breath, but it was soon quite apparent to me, I was unable to move my arms or legs. I couldn’t be sure if it was just shock or if I was, in fact, paralyzed.
Fortunately, for me, somewhere along the ride down the mountain, the shield was torn off my AGZ Quasar helmet. With the weight of the helmet and the state of my being, I somehow managed to briefly lift my head out of the water, just long enough to gasp for air.
I tried, with all my might, not to gulp water with each strain of my neck. And back down again, dropping my face and helmet back into the water, when I lost the strength to hold my head up any longer.
It took me a while to grasp what was happening to me. The terror hit when I became fully aware of the fact that I had survived the fall, but was now in just as bad a predicament, face down in water and unable to get out.
Realizing just how impossible my situation was, and how much more so it would be in a very short period of time, I began to panic.
I thought to myself, “I can’t move my body. I’m in excruciating pain. Nobody even knows I’m here. I can barely get my face out of the water and I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to do this.”
And then, panic gradually turned into anger and frustration, as I knew I was not in control of my destiny, that I couldn’t easily pick myself up and be on my way. I was losing hope and the will to continue on, with each agonizing minute. I felt my body getting numb from the ice water and I knew that I was going into hypothermia shock.
Knowing whether my head was in or out of the water was becoming more and more difficult to determine and I knew I was facing the last moments of my life. I had been riding solo and was remembering the empty hill I had flown down, with no one present to witness my disappearance.
As the last of my strength left me, I could feel myself drowning. I couldn’t save myself and I knew there was no rescue coming. So, instead of suffering a slow, drawn out, death, I made the decision to end the suffering. I decided to finish myself, before the water could. I could at least go out the way I wanted to, and not with fear and frustration.
I wanted to make a clean passage to the other side. I couldn’t imagine myself exiting this realm on such a negative note and my body in anger or panic. I willed myself to stay alive long enough to leave with positive, loving and grateful thoughts in my mind. I took a few moments to feel gratitude towards my life, my father and my mother, for my ten brothers and sisters and for everything I was given the chance to experience. I thought about all the amazing and incredible friends I had made along the way. I remembered the good times that we had all shared together.
It must have been nearly a half an hour before my strength had almost completely ebbed away. I could feel myself slipping in and out of consciousness.
Now was the time for my final act. I would drop my head into the water, breathe it deeply into my lungs and drown quickly. Unfortunately, my common reaction was to pull my head out of the water every time I tried to drown myself.
I was experiencing the power of spirit, soul, life force and manna, which over road my selfish choice to op for the easy way out… Never again would I take the easy way out!
I was surviving second to second, prepared for death at any moment, while surviving on Divine Intervention…
Then, like being blasted off my bike, I felt as if my head was being forcefully yanked out of the water. Suddenly, to my utter shock and amazement, I was sitting up with someone standing in front of me.
The moments turned, as I regained my ability to focus once again. It hadn’t quite registered, the full impact of my current situation. I felt as though I was still on death’s doorstep and, quite literally, not out of the water yet.
My Spanish rescuer, who spoke broken English, was standing in the water, pointing behind me up the cliff, repeating the same phrase over and over. “Mr.,” he said, “you flew so far!” Shouting and pointing, he again turned to me and said, “Mr.! Mr.! You flew so far!” After the third or fourth time, I pleaded with him to stop yelling, as my head was spinning.
Feeling like I was still on the verge of death, I asked him to tell my family that I loved them and that I would miss them greatly. At that point, I lost consciousness and passed out once again. Although, this time I was clean out of the water and there was no chance of drowning.
When I regained consciousness once again, there he stood, in the same position, hollering for me to look at the cliff from which I fell.
All I could think of was that I was still in the process of dying. I asked him to be quiet so that I could finish preparing myself for death. As I passed in and out of awareness, I could only think of one thing — how to convey my wishes to someone who could barely speak English. Once again, I would ask him to refrain from telling me how far I had flown and pleaded with him to pass along my love to my family and friends.
His reaction, I’m sure you’ve already guessed, was a short pause and then again, pointing behind me, he replied, “Mr.! You flew so far!” My guess is, he thought I flew a long way.
As I was sitting, with my body half-way out of the water, twisted like a pretzel, I gathered my wits and began searching my body for any broken or damaged limbs. Still unable to move, my head was the only thing that felt functional. I couldn’t see my right leg, as it was hidden behind me, in a very contorted manner. Broken, was my guess.
Looking around, I noticed what appeared to be a rescue worker, nonchalantly walking past me. My immediate thought was, “where the hell is this guy’s sense of urgency?”
Then, as though in slow motion, he laggardly turned around and looked down at me, as though he saw me for the first time. Suddenly, and without warning, his eyes popped wide open and his jaw dropped dramatically. I could see the fear in his eyes, as he grasped the situation at hand.
According to him, he was prepared to retrieve a dead body, and was entirely unprepared to find someone in a state of emergency, and alive, no less.
When he saw my eyes open and my chest rising and falling, the shock that enveloped his face, left an indelible imprint on my memory. He looked as though he had just seen a ghost.
I said, “Come on, man, aren’t you supposed to be a reassuring professional?”
He quickly gained his composure and told me that they would get me out of there.
I remember saying, “You think?” Soon the response team sprung into action. The pain I experienced, while being placed onto the stretcher, was so indescribable and powerful, I was unable to bear it and soon passed out, once again.
As we were reaching the top of the mountain, I vividly recall a state trooper saying to one of the rescuers, as he was passing us, “Can you believe he lived?”
At that moment I have a hard time understanding how it’s possible myself. But, there I was… I Survived to tell the tale…
Read about my continuing recovery…