I have no idea how long sat in the van covered with blankets. The only thing that I remember is Rob telling me that I had a choice to make. He reminded me about the huge investment of time and effort that had brought me to this intersection. “The most expensive double century ever”, he said. The thought of quitting was not in my mind. I just needed time to get myself back together.
I got back on the bike and made a feeble effort to start the climb up Townes Pass. I don’t think that I made it very far before I rolled off the bike again. This time I ended up lying down on the most comfortable patch of gravel that I had ever seen.
Once again, Rob and my wife Desiree saved my life. They dragged my incoherent empty shell back into our van; I think they let me sleep for a few minutes. In my fog, I lost track of the passing of time.
Rest and a few small bites of fresh strawberries must have done some good. Out of the blue I blurted out my first complete sentence. I had been thinking about Rob and what a great crewmember he was. “Why the hell did you decide to become an English professor?” I said. My brain was an old incandescent light flickering on. Finally the electrons were blinking back to life.
Rob must have sensed that the time was right to get me back on my feet. He and Desiree yanked me out and propped me up against the van. Rob handed me my tennis shoes and told me that if I couldn’t ride up Townes Pass, I’d have to walk up. He tried to put my left shoe on my right foot. I protested and switched the shoes to the proper foot. I figured that he was testing my coherency; that flickering light was stabilizing.
I walked for quite a while. On the road ahead I could see the flashing lights of the teams that had passed me. They were a ghostly amber snake flashing up to the stars.
The fresh strawberries and small bites of banana eventually brought me back to life. My light bulb was no longer flickering; but its dull glow was steady and getting stronger. I put on my cycling shoes, got on my bike and rode the rest of the way to the top.
At the top of the pass it was bitter cold. The wind was howling but it did not matter to me at all. I had made it. It was not the way that I had dreamed of making it. But, with the help of Rob and Desiree, I made it. I hugged the Townes Pass Elevation sign and we all celebrated together. I had survived.