Vallegrande, Bolivia 3 Nov 06
Odometer 33.584 m 54,048 km

In the proverbial sense, we’ve all been run over by a truck. The flu, insomnia or a nasty hangover can flatten us like cartoon characters in the path of an Acme steamroller. But when a figure of speech turns into twenty tons of moving metal--you don't want to take it lying down.

Few of Bolivia’s roads are paved. So, what might barely pass as an unmaintained Jeep trail in the United States is considered a vital commercial artery in one of the world’s poorest countries. Rivers often flow across the road. Signs and guardrails are nonexistent. Washboard, ruts and dust are everywhere. And narrow switchbacks clinging to steep mountainsides are alternately dubbed the Road of Death or Highway to Hell.
As I churned up one sinewy section of backcountry road en route to where the Bolivian Military gunned down Che Guevara in 1967, a heavily loaded truck rounded the bend up ahead on his way down. Typically, I pull aside to allow larger vehicles to pass by unimpeded, but in this particular situation I didn’t have much room to move. To my right was a 300-foot precipice topped with boulders ranging in size from tennis balls to watermelons. I inched as close to the edge as I dared and made certain the driver saw me. I was precariously perched, but could only sit still and wait for the lumbering giant to swing wide and pass me.
My Image
Commercial trucks ply the backroads of Bolivia, moving goods from one place to another.
He almost made it, too.

But in the cloud of dust and raucous chorus of confusion that ensued, his 18th wheel contacted the side of my left aluminum pannier and sent me flying. I leapt off in time to prevent myself from sailing over the edge, but failed to prevent El Viento’s crash into the rocks.

The impact broke my windscreen, damaged the hand-guard and fog-lamp, and twisted and dented one pannier. Though I angrily yelled for the driver to stop, he just kept on truckin’.

I later learned that three weeks prior--at the very spot where I was run down--a bus full of 43 people was pushed off the edge by another truck. There were no survivors.

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