On his ride in an ambulance, snowmobiler Colten Moore was thinking of a witty comment to cheer up his older brother, who had crashed moments before him at the Winter X Games and was already at the hospital.
''I was going to roll up next to him and be like, `Hey man, I couldn't leave you hanging.' And then we'd joke around,'' Moore said. ''I just wish I could've talked to him. I wish I could've joked around with him.''
Caleb Moore died three years ago on Jan. 31 from injuries he sustained in a crash during the snowmobile competition at Winter X in Aspen, Colorado.
As a tribute to his big brother/best friend/push-the-boundaries training partner, Colten Moore wrote a book with Keith O'Brien entitled, ''Catching the Sky,'' that's available next week.
In the novel, Moore reminisces about growing up in Texas and learning how to flip all-terrain vehicles before almost seamlessly switching over to snowmobiles despite the Lone Star state not exactly being a snowmobile hotbed.
The book explores:
- Colten's relationship with his older brother (always game for whatever Caleb wanted to do)
- Their rise in action sports (even spending more than $30,000 to construct a foam practice pit in their backyard)
- Caleb's engaging persona (his competitors used to spin stories about the ''Legend of Caleb Moore,'' almost like they were ''telling a ghost story around a campfire,'' Colten recounted).
- And the accident, which remains a hard topic for Colten to discuss, acknowledging he broke down numerous times when he was going over it with O'Brien.
''I've been holding it inside for so long,'' Colten said in a phone interview as he prepares for Winter X later this month. ''It was really good for me, to get it off my chest and tell everyone about it.''
On Jan. 24, 2013, Caleb crashed while performing a trick known as the Tsunami Indy Flip - a maneuver he's ''nailed 100 times before,'' his brother said. ''But sometimes things go wrong.''
Caleb under-rotated and his machine caught the lip of the landing area. He flew over the handlebars and the 450-pound sled rolled over him. Remarkably, Caleb walked off the hill with the help of his father, even telling him: ''I had a perfect run going, and then I had to go and ruin it on that one last jump.''
Watching Caleb stand up was an immense relief for Colten, who was next to go. But he crashed, too, and was taken to the hospital with a separated pelvis. There, he expected his brother to give him a hard time about wiping out.
''When I did see him, they had him sedated so I couldn't talk to him,'' Colten recounted. ''I just had a real bad feeling, like `Why isn't he awake?' Especially after I'd seen him walk off and thought he was fine.''
The impact of the sled caused bleeding around Caleb's heart and he was airlifted to Grand Junction hospital. But because of bad weather, it took nearly six hours to get him there. Shortly after arriving, Caleb stopped breathing and was in respiratory arrest for 20 minutes, causing irreversible brain damage.
Although Colten was in pain because of his broken pelvis, he was driven to Grand Junction because he wanted to be there with his brother.
On Jan. 31 - Caleb's racing number - the Moore family took Caleb off life support and donated his organs, which were his wishes. In the book, Colten describes the tearful goodbyes of his family members:
- ''I love you,'' his father whispered in Caleb's ear through tears.
- ''I'm so proud of you,'' his mother said, draping her arms around his neck.
- ''I'm going to keep riding for you. I'm going to carry on your name,'' Colten said.
And so he has. A year after his brother's death, Colten returned to Winter X and captured gold in the snowmobile freestyle competition. That win, Colten said, belonged just as much to his brother. To honor him, Colten stuck three fingers into the air on one hand and his index finger up on the other to represent his brother's No. 31.
''There's no way I could stop riding,'' Colten said. ''If I even thought about quitting, Caleb would be like, `What are you thinking? That's what we love to do.'''
Gone, though, is the person who handled everything for Colten, from bills to practice sessions to media interviews to entertaining friends. Colten never minded being in the shadow of his big brother - relished it even.
''I have to take his role now,'' Colten said. ''It's about waking up and setting my own goals and pushing myself without my big brother there saying, `Let's go. Let's do this. Let's push, push, push.'''
''I know he's here with me still,'' Colten said. ''And when I ride, that's where he's with me the most. He's looking over me and helping me push.''
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