Former Mount Vernon residents Stephen and Cindy Weber sold their home in December and set out on a cross-country biking trip they had been talking about for nearly 34 years.
They mapped out a six- to eight-month journey during which they would travel the south in the winter, up the East Coast in the spring and the north in the summer.
To avoid the cold winter weather in the Pacific Northwest, they set out from their second home in San Diego.
The Webers made it through Arizona and New Mexico on their way to Florida, but their dream trip ended abruptly Jan. 17 when Cindy Weber was hit and badly injured by the driver of a pickup truck on a remote highway in Texas.
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Just a few minutes before, the couple had pulled over to take photos that were later posted online; one of the long stretch of empty road on Highway 90, the other of Cindy Weber standing by her recumbent bike on an overpass.
“It was really out in the middle of nowhere — straight, flat road. The safest place to ride a bike, you’d think,” Stephen Weber said.
Yet the driver did not see them because he was focused on his phone instead of the road, Weber said. A Brewster County Sheriff’s report indicates the driver admitted as much, but Texas has no state law about cellphone use while driving.
The accident left Cindy Weber with a broken wrist, a compound fracture of her upper left arm, a shattered elbow, nine cracked ribs, a burst fracture of her C7 vertebrae and a punctured lung.
Out on the desert highway, it took emergency crews an hour to reach the scene and another hour to get to a hospital before she could be airlifted to Odessa, Texas, Stephen Weber said.
After four surgeries, Cindy Weber is recuperating in Midland, Texas. It’s going to take some time, her husband said from the home where they’re staying, but they’re thankful she wasn’t paralyzed by the fractured vertebrae.
“It’s a real miracle in the midst of a great trauma. We are very grateful for that,” said Stephen Weber, who served as pastor of Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church for 10 years.
The Webers, both 56, are also determined to get back on their bikes once Cindy Weber is fully recovered.
“We’re not going to give up biking. It’s something we’ve done really all of our lives,” Stephen Weber said.
However, their journey has changed. They now will follow bikeonly trails in different parts of the country.
“As a cyclist, you have to really trust the car drivers when you’re riding,” Cindy Weber said. “I’ll need to get a little confidence back, I think.”
When the family lived in Mount Vernon, they enjoyed biking across the Skagit Flats, around Big Lake or down to La Conner, Stephen Weber said.
They also ventured up to Rainy Pass in the North Cascades and caught the ferry to Lopez Island.
Their daughter Melissa Chehade, a Mount Vernon resident who is a part-time nurse, said biking was always a big hobby for her parents.
“It’s always been a passion of theirs that they shared with us (kids), whether it was just riding to school or for activities or for exercises,” Chehade said. “They always had this dream of doing this bike trip that they set out on.”
The Webers used a website, crazyguyonabike.com, to keep a blog during the trip to connect with other cyclists and keep friends and family updated. Since the accident, it’s also become a source of support.
“It’s really been a huge source of strength for me. … It’s turned around to be this community supporting me with encouragement,” Cindy Weber said.
Word of the accident spread quickly online to friends in distant places, she said.
She wrote a post Feb. 2, thanking friends and family for their support and cheering on the Seahawks before their first Super Bowl victory.
A family in Midland, Texas, who heard about their ordeal through the grapevine from one of the Webers’ daughters has taken the couple in while Cindy Weber recuperates. “They’ve treated us like family,” Cindy Weber said. The Webers hope their experience will help raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. “We do feel strongly that some laws need to be put into place,” Stephen Weber said of cellphone use while driving in Texas.