Friday, August 5, 2011

This Is Loyalty

Episode 7 was a tough one to watch.

I knew this was where we would see Ike go down and I remember the anxiety we all had for him as, in spite of his injury, we continued to put dozens of rugged miles behind us....potentially exacerbating a previous injury and causing Ike life long repercussions.

It started out simple to the other side of the Kasbah (foreshadowing!) and locate a symbol “hidden in plain view” somewhere in the chaotic yet beautiful city landscape. After about 10 minutes of looking around with the binoculars I finally catch a glimpse of it on the side of an ancient looking stone structure and we are off to the trucks and down into the hustle and bustle of the city.

Arriving at the souk (Arabic for market) we hop out and begin to navigate through the sweet sounds and smells of an enchanting Moroccan flea market...the kind of place I would have loved to have spent a morning strolling and perusing. Instead we are at a half trot, trying hard not to bang into the Moroccans and their wares. This was one of the many times during the Expedition where I desperately wish we could have just called a “time out”. Let’s all just put the race on hold for an hour and enjoy this magical place....see it... smell it....taste it. Although we had been charging through the dynamic northern African countryside for weeks at this point, we had not had much of an opportunity to really “feel” Moroccan culture from the inside and I know from many years of travel to far away places that a flea market...a place of trade and barter... is exactly the kind of place where you can see how a culture truly engages with itself.

But alas...this is a competition and we have to keep the pace at a high level if we expect to stay alive. So we weave and bob...cutting around piles of herbs and antique metal features trying to be as respectful as a bunch of Americans charging through a market can possibly be.

“Sorry....excuse me...whoops...Shukran (Arabic for thank you)”.

I have to say, it’s not exactly easy to guide Erik through such chaos without occasionally bumping or stepping on something or someone. Throughout the market jog we were met with a variety of smiles, looks of curiosity as well as a few Moroccan phrases which were clearly along the lines of “Quit stepping on my shit!”

Check point cleared, one-way “airline” ticket secured and we were back through it again and over to the waiting Explorers... and here is where the game a big way.

As I got in the backseat of the SUV I saw Ike disappear from view as he was getting in the passenger side door and I thought nothing of it. Once we rolled out I could see that Ike was grimacing and clearly in pain. We had been charging through countless miles of super rocky and bumbly terrain for weeks now...where an ankle or knee injury was a high possibility as evidenced by Gypsy John’s twister 2 episodes ago as well as several others. But in the most unlikeliest of places, Ike rolls his ankle getting into the car. And it’s the same ankle that he fractured while serving in Afghanistan a few years previous. Well....this sucks. Ike’s a tough guy and he seemed to be in a lot of pain. Erik and I probed Ike with questions and I took a look with the eyes of an ER physician assistant and it sure didn’t look good. He seemed to have laxity in the joint with lots of swelling and tenderness throughout. Game changer.

The timing was good however as the next challenge was to put me up in an airplane and get saddled up to my good friend Rashid and spill out the door and fall to the ground. Ike had about an hour to rest and be evaluated by the medical staff.

Time out....

one of my favorite lines of the show so far, “I’m skydiving in Morocco. Sick!!”

Back to Ike... once I’m on the ground I am informed by the medical staff (who are all quite aware of my Emergency Medicine experience) that his ankle stability is questionable and he will need to be pulled from the race to obtain an Xray. I have recently discovered that Executive Producer Lisa Hennessy trumped the med staff decision and allowed Ike to make the call himself.

At this point we all know what kind of man Ike is. He is a man that has structured his professional life around “doing it all for his team”. This is the kind of guy that you want on your team. He will not let you down. He has served in combat zones that would make a brave man retreat in a hole. He has committed himself to always being there for the men and women around him. He surely wasn’t going to let some ankle injury keep him from staying up with his boys. At one point I’m quoted “You would have to literally cut Ike’s leg off to stop this guy”. Once Lisa gave him the go (thanks Lisa!), there was no question we were gonna fire and see how it played out.

Miles of rocky terrain, cliff faces and one perplexing challenge later (another Kasbah), we rolled into camp in 2nd place. Amazing effort on Ike’s part. Erik became the 2nd most inspiring person on Team No Limits that day. I was surrounded by 2 men that are as tough as they come. A true honor. Ike is the perfect embodiment of a soldier...brave, committed and tough as nails. We are lucky to have men like him protecting our country.

We all stood nervously near the finish line waiting to see who was going to by taking the flight out that afternoon. I’m not gonna lie to you, I was so hoping to see my Country Boys round that corner. All 3 of these men are stand up, strong, considerate southern gentlemen that I will call friends for the rest of my life. Good ole boys that are a great example of considerate, mature and genuine young men. I was very sad to see them go. That being said...there will be other Country Boys appearances in the world of MountainVision at some point in the future.

Next week will push us beyond what we thought was possible. We are hanging on for dear life at this point. Join us for the rest of the journey.