A rainstorm of epic proportions accompanied us on our way to the finish line. I couldn’t believe it; and yet, of course I could. It only made sense that this was how it would end. We finished.
We had one last bit of drama before getting there. Our tuk-tuk wouldn’t start. So we rolled it down the hill, apparently the only one-way road in all of India, where people actually cared that you were driving the wrong direction. So amidst people screaming at us, rolling downhill with no power against oncoming traffic and torrential rain absolutely unsafe, halfway down, we were able to pop the clutch to get our rickshaw running again. Derek was the boss. We were close to being done, and I don’t think I’d ever admired him as much as I admired him at that moment. I was directing us to our destination. DaveRisner was providing encouragement. We were an incredibly good team. From one hairpin turn after another, weaving in and out of traffic — cars, trucks, other tuk tuks, dogs and people providing obstacles through our very own Frogger racetrack — and soon losing a GoPro, we finally found the polo grounds where the finish line stood.
We made it. And just like that it was over. We couldn’t believe it!
After the laughter had died down, pictures in front of our rickshaw taken, and a bottle of beer was opened, I was alone in the middle of a crowd of racers wondering where Derek was, while DaveRisner was bouncing around taking pictures of everything giving his unique commentary on what he was seeing. In a magical world, where everything was a surprise and where everything though unexpected and surprising, was welcomed, DaveRisner was the most magical creature of all. And yet, I wondered where Derek was.
“He’s by our rickshaw!” DaveRisner bellowed from his perch.
Looking in the direction of our wheels for the past two weeks, I didn’t see him. It was still raining extremely hard, visibility at a minimum and the air extremely wet and cold, a far cry from our days of oppressive heat we had experienced just a few days before.
After a few minutes, Derek came into view.
“Just had a few words with Tucker.”
He had tears streaming down his face.
We embraced. “Tucker was with us the entire time, bro. We couldn’t have done this without him.” I thought of how we had put our lives in the hands of our buddy. Derek drove 75% of the entire journey, maybe more. His strength throughout it all was the stuff of legend. There were times it wasn’t pleasant, but we appreciated every moment of it. He had dropped himself into our embrace, the weight of the race finally off his shoulders, left with only what was important.
A painting of Tucker adorned one side of our rickshaw, the side Derek no doubt kneeled down to, for his prayer and his talk with him in heaven. A painting of Taylor adorned another side of the rickshaw; and Bella took a spot in the rear.
After twelve days of a 3100 km journey that took us from one end of India to another — Jaisalmer to Shillong — with adventures that could fill any lifetimes of adventures, that moment said it all.
RIP Tucker Bear. Thanks, we couldn’t have done it without you looking down from above.
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