Twigs, leaves, and rocks pressed against my helmet’s cracked face shield. I lay face-down, my vision filled by a macro view of the ground.
I rolled onto my back and unclasped my chin strap, needing fresh air to gain my bearings. My last conscious memory was of my rear tire snaking side-to-side as my motorcycle hurtled off the road. Apprehension held me in place, fearing I could be seriously hurt.
A whisper of wind wafted through the pines. Late afternoon sun hung in a cloudless sky. No one around. I reclined on an embankment to the side of the road.
Who parked my bike? In front of me, not more than two feet away, my prized one-hundredth Anniversary Harley-Davidson Fatboy rested against a wooden mileage-marker post. My motorcycle’s handlebars drooped while brake fluid dripped onto the engine. The gas tank looked sledgehammered. The windshield and mirrors had sheared free. My seat and backrest torn apart.
“You all right?” I heard Tucker shout. He had ridden his bike behind me.
“I’m okay, I think.”
“Looks like your hand’s bleeding.”
I raised my right hand. Blood oozed from my pinkie.
“What happened?” I asked.
“You and your bike somersaulted twice in the air,” he said, as he moved his hands in circular motion.
“Was I on it?”
“No, you weren’t.”
“Why is my bike sitting here like this? Did you park it?”
“No, it came down like that and stopped,” he replied, shaking his head. “The bike should’ve landed on you. Or you should’ve landed on it.”
The thought of being crushed by eight hundred pounds of searing hot machine made me gasp.
“Big John was behind us. He went for help,” Tucker continued. “There’s no cell service here.”
We’d driven through the twists and turns of the mountain highway in the El Dorado National Forest region, 5,000 feet elevation north of Sacramento.
Minutes later, a green U.S. Department of Forestry truck parked to the side of my bike.
“I’m Dan,” the ranger said, walking to me. “Paramedics are on their way.” He bent over; his face filled my sight.
“What’s your name?” he said.
“What day is it?”
“Do you know the date?”
“Friday, the thirteenth?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Just my luck,” I said.
The other four in our riding group who’d driven ahead of me arrived. They hadn’t notice until further down the road that I no longer followed. Grim expressions covered their faces.
An ambulance stopped and two paramedics hopped from the back and hurried to me. One of them, Kari, hovered, making quick assessments. Her calm but concerned manner settled me down.
“Any pain?” she asked.
“No, but my hand’s messed up.”
“You think it’s broken?”
Jason, the other EMT, sliced my shirt open to reveal a small purple blotch. Before losing consciousness, I’d pulled in my right arm to cover my heart, fearing I might be headed for a ravine. My hand absorbed the impact when I landed.
The rapid sound of rotating blades diverted my attention. Hovering in the clear blue sky, a red helicopter posed like a hummingbird inspecting a flower.
“Anytime there’s a motorcycle crash, they’re sent automatically,” Jason said, noting my gaze.
Pulling her shoulder radio to her lips, Kari said to the copter, “We’ll take him. His vital signs are okay. He knows his name and knows where he is. We’re going to Marshall Hospital.”
While they secured me inside the ambulance, Kari advised me. “We’re closer to Auburn, but Marshall in Placerville is the major trauma center in this area. We’re 45 minutes away.”
The ambulance wound through the hills while I observed through the back window our group’s ride captain, Rafael, following on his Honda Goldwing. The siren stayed silent. The ride seemed more for comfort, rather than urgency. Each paramedic kept a watchful eye. Jason periodically checked my blood pressure.
The hospital’s emergency staff called twice for updates.
On the third, Kari told them, “He’s looking at me. In fact, we’re having a nice little conversation.”
I peered at her curiously.
“They’re concerned. Believe me, they’ve seen a lot worse than you from a motorcycle crash.”
“Where were you going?” the young ER physician asked while the staff pushed my gurney through the corridor.
“We were on our way to a church retreat,” I answered.
“I see. A bunch of outlaws up to no good,” he said, grinning.
“Yeah, you bikers and skiers keep us in business,” a nurse added.
Hospital staff was kind and professional. They took x-rays, other readings, and cleaned me up. A short time later, the doctor stepped into my room.
“I have the results of your x-rays.” His face gave no indication of my status. “You don’t have any broken bones.” He reviewed his clipboard and then pressed his finger to his temple. “I think I’m going to look at them again, a little closer.”
He marched out the door.
Other visitors included a social worker and a CHP officer who was instructed to wait his turn by a nurse.
After several attempts, Rafael, got a text through to the retreat.
The doctor reappeared. “I didn’t find any fractures.” His half-smile expressed satisfaction. “There are no indications of internal trauma. I’m going to discharge you. From what I hear, you are a very lucky man. Must be that church gang you ride with.”
A church brother, Phil, arrived Sunday afternoon with groceries. I sprawled on my couch, my body dealing with the pain that happens after initial shock wears off.
“Pastor Mark didn’t tell us until the evening service. He said you’d been in an accident. There were no details. Cell phones don’t work very well up at the retreat.”
I pictured the pastor making the announcement in the venue’s small, theater-like facility.
“I gotta tell you,” Phil said, “There were 189 guys praying for you. Some of them were in serious prayer. It was really something.”
“Wow,” was all I could say. I normally feel humbled when one person prays for me.
“Big John arrived at our cabin around eleven o’clock.” John had brought up the rear of our biker group. “He said you were airborne and landed face-first on a tree stump. He told us, ‘Pete should not have survived.’”
I pointed out my banged-up, dirt-strewn, full-face helmet on the counter. It was a memento of a ride gone wrong.
“I’ve been riding about forty years, and have always worn a half-helmet with sunglasses,” I said, tracing my finger along my forehead. “I only bought that helmet a few weeks ago and hadn’t used it on a ride until that morning. I think the Lord impressed upon me to wear it.”
“The damage to your face….” Dread came over Phil’s face and his voice trailed off.
I looked away and considered the grave consequences of what would’ve happened if I’d used my usual head gear.
“Big John said when they pulled your bike away from the post, the post crumpled. He said that’s when he knew it was a miracle.”
After months of physical therapy to treat my hand and muscle soreness, I was the same as I ever was. When the next May thirteenth neared, I reminded myself of the day my life was spared. Although grateful, I still wondered.
“It’s not your time yet,” and “He still has plans for you.” I’d heard the usual from other people.
“Why, Lord, did you spare me?” I asked.
But His answer eluded me. There was no still, small voice. No human or supernatural messenger. No Bible verse, radio/TV or print media offering revelation. Nothing.
Nonetheless, I awaken each morning roused by daybreak filtering through drawn blinds.
God’s answer is as plain as day. Each morning He says: The breath of life is My gift to you. A new day beckons. Rejoice.