Here’s a picture of my brother David last Friday at the top of Mt. Diablo, the 2nd highest peak in the Bay Area at 3849 ft. Q: Why is he wearing bike gear? A: Because he biked all the way to the top and, most unfortunately, not quite all the way down.
Every summer David and his family travel from Austin to visit us in Palo Alto and Dale and Tom in Concord. He has been getting in fantastic shape over the past few months, dropping quite a bit of weight, watching his diet, and picking up running, swimming, and biking. I was delighted to have an eager and available workout partner during his visit, particularly since I will be barred from vigorous activities for several weeks this fall. We ran around campus and the Palo Alto High School track, swam laps at a local pool, and introduced him to road biking. After he purchased bike shoes and rented a fancy high end carbon fiber model from a local bicycle store, we headed out to sample routes I’ve been frequenting over the past couple of months.
David had already been riding his hybrid bike in hilly Austin and deftly adjusted to the foothills surrounding Stanford. He brought the rental bike along when he and his family drove across the bay for their Concord visit in the hope of fitting in another bike ride while in the East Bay. With its base just a few miles from Dale and Tom’s house, Mt. Diablo presented a very visible and challenging option. Friday morning, he strapped on his helmet, packed water, energy gels (portable calories), high tech gear, and headed out just before 8am.
Cycling up the bottom half of the mountain posed the steeper, more formidable portion of the ride, but once he passed 2000 ft. in elevation, the pitch eased and the panoramic views justified the ascent. At several points along the way, he resorted to serpentining his way up steep grades, yet steadily plugged away and had the above photo snapped just after noon, capping off an 18 mile climb. After taking a well-deserved rest near the summit, he headed back down the winding road, carefully heeding the park ranger’s suggestion to stay below the posted speed limit of 25 mph.
One moment, he was enjoying the exhilaration of effortless downhill coasting, savoring the last miles of an awesome ride, and anticipating sharing the details of his day’s accomplishments with the family. The next moment, the rear tire blew.
David clutched his brakes, quickly slowing the pace of the bike from 23 mph. His descent continued in a different direction, however, and he now recalls the odd sensation of his head travelling a mere foot from the road’s surface while the rest of him was still mounted on his bike. According to a nearby motorist who called 911 just moments later, David lost control, careened forward, tilted right, and flew off the bike, landing a few feet away, blacking out.
Miraculously, whereas his helmet split on impact at its back left, back right, and right, the contents survived relatively unscathed, unmarked by the gravel now pitting the back of the helmet. He regained consciousness quickly and was lucid enough to be able to provide the newly arrived paramedics with Dale’s phone number. David suffered some slight abrasions on his back and a small cut to the bridge of his nose from the sudden impact of his helmet pushing on his glasses. Other casualties included a sizable nick on his Garmin watch face, a gouge on his protective carbon fiber iPhone case, and miscellaneous rips and holes in his Lycra shorts and shirt. No contusions, no broken bones, no other road rash.
I received a call from Dale soon after and hurriedly made plans to drive out to the hospital with my mother and 4 year old. Horrified by the thought of my beloved brother being injured, I was also secretly and selfishly relieved to no longer be the center of medical attention, especially since it appeared he escaped serious injury.
At the emergency room, he had a physical exam and CT scan, which happily failed to show any brain trauma. Perhaps still fueled by the adrenaline rush, David inquired whether he could go out for a run the following day (no!). Alas, he’s grounded for a month and during that time must avoid any activities which put him at risk for another head injury, bicycling and running included.
To our surprise, Menlo Velo (the bike rental shop) called today to say they were able to true the rear wheel, replace the tube and tire, write off the helmet loss, and decline to charge my brother for any bicycle damage. Back at home in Austin, David continues to improve incrementally each day. He is achy and tired, nevertheless still plans to buy his very own fancy road bike and looks forward to climbing back onto the saddle for more adventures, like the day he fought the devil and lived to tell the tale.
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