The Charlie Bravo Story

The life you save may be your own

Charlie’s out like a light from an apparent tryptophan overdose. Before anyone starts freaking out and turns me in to the ASPCA, tryptophan is the ingredient in turkey that causes drowsiness, and it appears that the Charles is remarkably susceptible to its properties.

As promised, here’s the story of the accident that ultimately led us to Charlie. It’s a long tale, with many twists and turns, but bear with me; a lot of of miracles happened in a very short time to bring us to where we are today.

Zach and I ride what is commonly known as dual sport motorcycles, or adventure bikes; street legal motorcycles that are also dirt worthy. ADV riders are notorious for loading their bikes down with camping gear and taking them into desolate places under all kind of extreme conditions. If this group of misfits could explain why they do what they do, they probably would quit doing it, but it gets in your blood; a trip across the state becomes a trek across the country, and if you’re incredibly lucky, eventually around the world.

The day after Thanksgiving in 2014, we loaded up the bikes and headed west for a short overnighter into the Ouachita mountains; we hooked up with Bryan, a fellow rider we had met in Moab, UT on a previous excursion. After a cold night under the stars, we saddled up for a day of dirt in one of the most remote areas of Arkansas; everything was perfect. The leaves had reached their peak color, the sun rose high in the sky, chasing the chill from the air as we chased each other down dirt roads which eventually gave way to rugged trails. It was on a long downhill section of such a trail that was so much fun that I just HAD to ride back to the top and run it again; Bryan and Zach wisely waited at the bottom. When I didn’t arrive in a reasonable amount of time, they knew something was amiss.

This particular trail was laced with water bars, mounds of dirt crossing the trail to control erosion; these also serve as great launching pads for a middle aged idiot on a DR650. Even though I wasn’t going THAT fast, it was on the backside of one of these jumps that my front tire landed in a rut, whipsawing the bike to the left and me to the right and off the bike. I landed abdomen first on a recently sawn stump roughly the size of a paint can; I say “landed”, but I actually remember bouncing. I blacked out for a bit, but I think I had recovered enough to sit up by the time Zach got back up the hill to check on me.

The pain was was bad, but not debilitating, and as the impact was to the left side of my stomach and away from any vital organs, or so I thought, we elected to press on. I had no idea that the colon descends down the left side, and I had ruptured mine, the contents of my bowels turning my insides into a toxic waste land. The pain began to gradually build until I couldn’t even see, let alone pilot a bike, so Bryan turned back to retrieve a trailer while Zach and I tried to make it to where we could at least find a cell signal.

Finally, after approximately three hours, I had to say enough is enough. I didn’t want Zach to see me laying on the ground, so I remember slumping over an old split rail fence. The pain was such that I couldn’t even focus my eyes on the GPS to find the next town; we knew that Mena, AR lay approximately ten miles to the west and had a small hospital, so Zach had no choice but to leave me and ride cross country in search of help; only then did I slide off the fence onto the ground.

Words cannot describe the feeling of watching my son’s tail light vanish into the woods, knowing that it could quite possibly be the last time I saw him, or anyone, for that matter. At the same time, I had the peace of knowing that this wasn’t his first rodeo; we had been in some tight spots before and he could keep his cool with the best of them. If there was help to be found, he would find it; he had his job, and I had mine: staying alive until he returned.

I faded in and out of consciousness, then heard people talking; “I think he’s drunk!”. A group of off road vehicles had become lost and had stumbled across me laying on the ground. One of the riders happened to be an ER nurse out of Ft Smith, and upon hearing my symptoms, had the other riders strip their coats and coveralls to cover me. She then lay down beside me to use her warmth to keep my from going into shock; during one time of consciousness, I remember asking her, ” I know you know the signs; am I going to make it?” Her response: “I can’t say, but if you go out again, I need permission to do what I can to resuscitate you”. I’m thinking, “permission? Hell, hook jumper cables to my nipples and shock me back to life if you have to!”.

On a side note; since that day, I have tried my best to find the name of that lady, or anyone else in her group. I have contacted the area ranger station, the local sheriff, state police, etc, to no avail, and I’m usually pretty effective at finding that type of information; it’s like she just vanished. Make of that what you will, but I know what I believe.

Meantime, Zach was making the ride of his life, and actually found a park ranger eight miles away; the ranger had received a snippet of a phone call concerning a rider down in the Ouachitas, but had lost the signal before he could get the particulars of my location. Zach led him to me, and I awoke to the sight and sound of blue gloved snapping fingers in my face, and a voice saying, “stay with me, now! Don’t close your eyes!”

The rest is a pain racked blur; a rumble of a 4wd truck, then the chop of a helicopter, cold air as they wheeled me across the ramp and into the hospital. Someone ripping away at my favorite pair of armored riding pants. Then, buck naked and strapped to an operating table, masked faces and bright lights, then nothing. If this was heaven, I sure didn’t want to be here.

To be continued…

Join the discussion

  1. Liz Bell Dotterer

    I’m glad I know already that it ends well. Even so, my eyes are leaking a little….

  2. H Marie Goodermuth

    So glad this has a happy ending.Wow.

  3. Sarah Reynolds Adair

    Makes my heart race…just glad to know the outcome already….

  4. Darcy Roberts

    thank you so much for being there Jesus!!! and Zach and the angel nurse and crew of course!!

  5. Diane Brannon-Keech

    Your story is like a movie….leaves us hanging. There better be some good commercials. Btw carry a personal defibrillator, easier than jumper cables I assure you!

  6. Lori Stiefel

    Oh my! As a nurse, I was very concerned (and frightened! Yes, nurses sometimes quake in the face of of a crisis but always push through!!) reading this part of the story!! Thank heaven for Good Samaritans and Zach!!

  7. Sam Howard

    Ye be right, we are of one blood. No bike but I know your feeling, but mine was in the upper part of my body. Nothing better looking than an Air Life Helo . I still call them my red Angels. Thankful we both know the ending, can’t wait to read ye’s.

  8. Mindi Tei McConnell

    I find it very…….ironic? Is that the word I am looking for? That you even came across anyone in that desolate area let alone a nurse! You have a lot of angels looking after you my friend!❤️

  9. Charlie Bravo - The Motorcycle Rescue Dog Story

    Update: I got a wild hair this morning and called the USFS station over in Polk County; I actually spoke with the ranger who worked the scene, and remembered it well. He pulled the report and gave me the actual coordinates of the trail head and the extraction point, as well as the number of EMT service. Mom doesn’t understand why I feel the need to go back the place that almost killed me, but I’m going anyway; I at least want to buy the ranger a cup of coffee and let him meet Charlie… Mena isn’t THAT far!

  10. Danielle Scott

    We at least know how it ends, and I’m glad you’re okay, Bret 🙂 Charlie needs you! I look forward to the rest of your tale, even if it is full of danger and sadness!

  11. Sandy Runyon Lough

    My face is a bit wet after reading this post. We know full well, as do you, that your life had a far better and more vital assignment to get on with and, yes, there were angels all about you. We’re all behold to them and their Boss for the gift of you and yours. Chark on.

  12. Kimberly Nalley

    Thank God your better. Sometimes the journey is what we need to completely heal.

  13. Maria Dawybida Minerley

    I believe in miracles. This, like Charlie’s story, definitely proves that I am no fool. 😉 God sent angels to you that day…human or not.

  14. Marjorie DeLillo Fagre

    Love this …as I work rescue more than twenty years here in little Rhode Island and I can’t tell you how often we remember those types of rescues and wonder how they made out …it’s awesome that you are trying to find those who saved your life

  15. Mikki Calm

    Those “people, the nurse etc.” weren’t there by accident! I fully believe that. You had many many important things to still do in your life….Charlie being one of them! Will patiently wait for the rest of this tale!

  16. Sue Robilliard

    You may never find your ER nurse. Guardian angels only appear when we need them. She’s watching you, though

  17. Fran Scott

    I like to think we’re accompanied by angels all the time, both seen and unseen…

  18. Sherry Ralph Jadrnak

    Jeez Louise, as a former EMT, this is giving me the willie’s! I can’t wait to read the rest of the story! One thing I do believe, though…yours and Charlie’s souls are intertwined, and were predestined to meet.

  19. Jeannine Prince

    Where was Bryan during all of this?

    • Charlie Bravo - The Motorcycle Rescue Dog Story

      Bryan had turned back to Albert Pike, the to retrieve a trailer to drag my butt out, but it’s a loooong way from Wolf Pen Gap; he and Zach had to deal with the aftermath after the helo picked me up. Both performed like superheros under the most harrowing circumstance, for which I owe them both my life. Bryan Boyce Zach Winingar

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