ODESSA, Texas — In their younger years, Cindy and Stephen Weber of Mount Vernon loved to take long biking trips together.
They always wanted to go cross-country by pedal, but as life happens — with the demands of jobs and raising four children — they finally got their opportunity to set out after 34 years of marriage.
They sold their home in Washington, quit their jobs and hit the road for Key West, Fla.
Never could they have foreseen what happened on Jan. 17 in West Texas about 1,300 miles into their cycling journey that began in San Diego.
While riding in a remote area about 12 miles east of Marathon, Cindy was hit by a pickup pulling a horse trailer.
She suffered a compound fracture of her upper arm, a crushed left elbow, broken left wrist, nine broken ribs, a punctured lung and a burst fracture of a vertebra in her neck. Four surgeries have helped to stabilize her neck and elbow.
Her doctor was amazed that despite the damage to her vertebra, she was not paralyzed. It was an occurrence he had never witnessed, Cindy said.
Sitting up on a bed in her hospital room recently at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, Cindy was hopeful. Although they are strangers in Odessa — a town they had never visited — the amount of help and kindness has been tremendous, Stephen said. He sat in a chair next to her bed, looking on as she shared about their life and journey.
"I kept thinking 'I'm done.' Most people don't get back on a bike after this," she told the Odessa American. But in an epiphany of sorts, she made up her mind — this time, in her favor.
"Biking gives me such pleasure in life," she said. Recuperating is possible and she will ride again, maybe even this year, maybe even on the path they started in December.
The day that would flip their lives upside down, started much like any other, Stephen said. He was journaling the trip on a popular cyclist blog and share site, www.crazyguyonabike.com. They began journaling in October and Stephen continues to from Odessa, now giving updates on Cindy's progress.
"There are great roads, so wide open," Stephen said this week about the Marathon/Alpine area. "You feel like you're the only one on the road."
Earlier on the day of the accident, Stephen posted a photo of himself standing in the middle of the road showing the long line of sight ahead.
The couple uses German recumbent bikes, a bike designed to be ridden lying almost flat on one's back or sitting up with the legs stretched in front. Cindy was riding slightly to the left behind her husband when the man driving the pickup at 60 mph struck her left side.
and sent her airborne past Stephen. Her helmet sits on the window sill in her hospital room, one side cracked through.
The driver admitted to the Webers, and as cited in the police report by Brewster County Sheriff’s Department, that he was distracted.
“(The driver) was traveling eastbound on U.S. Highway 90 when the driver was distracted by his cellphone ... he looked up and saw (the bicyclists) eastbound and swerved left,” the police report reads.
The driver was never cited, Stephen said.
“I don’t remember any of the traumatic parts of it,” Cindy said.
It certainly got Cindy and Stephen to thinking.
Even on a roadway out in the expanse just north of Big Bend National Park, far from city traffic, or any traffic, a driver with a cellphone can still be distracted.
“It is a little hard to take,” Cindy said. The man was helpful; he stopped and called 911, but the lack of any consequences seems behind the times, the couple says.
“Feels like the laws haven’t caught up with culture,” Cindy said. “It’s just hard to take.”
Despite the distressing situation, Cindy’s spirits are high. Her children have come to visit. And their 19-year-old son even drove their truck from Washington so they could get around. They expect to stay in Odessa for a few months during her recovery.
“We are thankful most of all she survived the impact,” Stephen wrote on the blog a few days ago. “Her spirit is so strong and gentle. She is heartbroken at the loss of this time and trip, all gone in an instant. But we are grateful she, in time, will make a good recovery.”
And the messages on the blog posted by friends around the country, acquaintances and strangers have inspired and helped Cindy. Some people from the local cycling club even came by the hospital room to deliver homemade chocolate chip cookies.
“Especially the notes of, `Hope to see you out on the road again!’ Those little comments, it really helps,” Cindy said.