I was up visiting my parents in San Jose and I had gotten haggard on rum and beer in my friend Andy's garage the night before. For most of the next day I’d been sitting infront of the tv feeling very sorry for myself until my father said “Hey, why don't you ride the bike with me?”
I agreed, for whatever reason. He was all ready to go in maybe two or three minutes; I was stubborn and changed t-shirts twice before settling on a rowing jersey under a Van Halen tshirt. because, you know, my appearance totally mattered.
We were less than a mile away and i was already starting to sweat. We crossed the main road and took the long path, talking a bit, about hangovers and women and nature. Making fun of the Asian jogging man who lived one street over who tucked in his track jacket. That sort of thing.
We get to around 5 or 6 miles in and I’m sweating profusely. I’d smoked almost a full pack the night before. I was dizzy. He’s still going strong. He was a very strong, big guy. Because he loved beer - the social aspect, really, of drinking a beer with someone, he never drunk alone except one single light beer after work - because he was so social he had a beer gut but because he rode the bike so much he had the legs of a fucking horse. So he’s going strong. He let me take the lead for a while. I’ll never forget what happened next.
I hear his big, booming voice say it now. his voice sounded how Oak feels. I heard him say behind me: “Lets go to the IBM hill. Do you think you can do that?”.
I hemmed and hawed. “No” turned into “Ugh... maybe” which turned into “No” again before turning into “OK, fine”. I’m pretty sure I called him an asshole under my breath. He said “We’ll just take a look at it and you can decide if you want to do it”.
So we get to the bottom of this hill, which is literally about 2 miles of just incline. We get to the bottom and I was two seconds away from saying “No, fuck that, I want to go home”, when he just kept on riding. I pedaled faster to keep up. He could here me wheezing and coughing (lets not forget about all the cigarettes from the night before) and said “You're going to want to save your energy. Put yerself into a lower gear”. I steadfastly did nothing of the sort. What, was I crazy? Pedal more?
Within the time it would have taken to halfway make a slice of toast I immediately had to change gears. Surprisingly, it was very easy. Well, as easy as burning in my legs, back, hands and head. as easy as that could be. I was sweating like a pig in the summertime, he’d barely broke a sweat. We got to about half a mile in and it started to incline more, and he said “Only a couple hundred yards”. It totally fucking wasn't, but I kept going anyway.
Panting and wheezing I kept going, though. Three quarters of a mile in and I was feeling dizzy – seeing stars – hardly able to maintain the light conversation my dad was giving me. I could muster up a “faaaah.... queeee” between wheezes, which (he knew) was in jest. We kept going. We rounded the big curve and I could see this was clearly going to end with me saying “Fuck it” and walking the rest of the way. He starts to tell me about how Lance, one of our neighbors who would ride with him occasionally, about he got off about fifty feet of where we were at the time.
“Fuck it”, I decided. I wasn't about to get off now.
“You can get off at any time and walk” he said, barely breaking a sweat still, “I’ll understand. I’ll walk with you”.
“Nope, fuck it, fuck it, I'm going to make it,” I managed to word, “I’ll make it to the top of that fucking thing if it kills me”.
So i kept going. We got to three quarters of a mile away from the top, the IBM research facility in Almaden. I was sweating so much my Van Halen outer shirt was SOAKED. I was dizzy. but I hadn’t gotten off the bike yet. my heart was pounding, but I was still going.
“Just another couple hundred yards” he said, calmly. His big voice was all I could hear. His words sounded like whiskey and chocolate the way he said them.
“Just a little ways to go”
“Just a little more”
“You're nearly there”
“Almost, almost,” he said.
Then, for as long as I'm alive, I’ll never forget those next three words. “You did it”.