Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Living Strong

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Race Across AmericaThere is that horrible, frozen moment when you know something terrible is going to happen and you are powerless to stop it. We entered the intersection on our bicycles at close to thirty miles an hour, my riding partner ahead of me.

The silver Audi struck my friend Wil dead center. He flew over the hood into the windshield and pin wheeled fifteen feet into the air. I knew, as he disappeared from sight on the other side of the car, that he was dead.

When I got to him, he was trying to stand.

Fast forward seven years. Three of us are returning from the Triple Bypass cycling event, Wil driving his pickup. He mentions the Race Across America - coast to coast as fast as possible. Years fall before my eyes.

June, 1976, and an incredibly naïve, painfully shy twenty-one year old leaves Pittsford, NY in a United Airlines 737 bound, eventually, for Eugene, Oregon. Bike, clothing.... Everything I'd need for the summer, in one bundle. Deposited by creaking school bus in Reedsport, I left two days later for Virginia. You read that right. Bikecentennial 76. My parents picked me up in Williamsburg mid-August.

Reading the Hobbit provides all of the relevant details. An unlikely participant, I had grand adventures, encountered all manner of despair (including the death of a rider on the road) and emerged changed forever. It was a demanding endeavor and I'll never forget it. In a sense, it made me who I am.

"Race Across America," Wil repeated. "It's a life goal. We should do it."

I'm in. I'll follow, lead and ride beside him because, once, I almost lost him.

I Can Manage

Love this.My distress grew out of an innocent comment, a remembered passing compliment from an unlikely source to a receptive officer. An easy "thank you for what you do" offered in all sincerity, costing nothing to utter and demanding nothing in return. An example, I was told, of what too few others summoned the energy to attempt. Those few did not include me.

Puzzled, I took this up with my favorite subject matter expert on leadership - my wife Pat. Dinner conversations become seminars, dog walks explorations of theory and practice, victory and defeat. Lessons from soon-to-be Doctor Greer. This one required her level of expertise. I mentioned that the person no longer worked for me and I had allowed myself to lose touch.

"Did you lead a person, or did you manage an asset?" Pat asked calmly, already knowing the answer.

"I managed." I felt immediately ill.

Later, at lunch with a dear and trusted friend, I recounted the story. In the end we agreed - I'd been anesthetized into passivity. I was an unlikely victim but the proof was there for all to see. Parting, she mentioned her intent to pick two work associates with whom she'd lost touch and send them an e-mail.

As did I.

The Stakeout

Chris Lecce: Don't worry. I'll go to the supermarket. What do you want?
Bill Reimers: Truth and justice.
Chris Lecce: Anything else?
Bill Reimers: Doughnuts.
Chris Lecce: Why not? We are cops.
The Stakeout, 1987.

We sat on camp chairs at the edge of the bike racks, two off-duty cyclists dressed in shorts. Alicia wore a Crossfit sweatshirt, hair pulled into a pony tail. I had a several-day unshaven look, an earring, glasses instead of contacts and would soon fetch the jacket I should have brought in the first place. Early afternoon at the Loveland Pass rest area, Triple Bypass day two.

We were twenty-four hours removed from our ride, a day beginning at oh-dark thirty and ending early evening. She'd made it from Bergen Park to Avon in the company of a mutual friend, while I noodled along a few miles behind and stopped in Vail. We had committed to "sagging" for Wil and Jeromy on their leg - from Avon back to Bergen Park. Cycle sagging does not entail jeans worn around thighs, but does include a truck full of food, dry clothing and an emotional boost to tired riders.

So we found ourselves at meeting place three, the ski area parking lot. Riders came and went among the dozens of bikes sitting unattended in neat rows. Chatting idly, enjoying a restful interlude, two athletes with little to do beside await our friends' arrival and gobble ibuprofen to offset the previous day's efforts. A squat man in a gaudy lime-green volunteer's shirt ambled over.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bike Bites - UPDATED

"A bike is not a frame, wheels and a saddle. That's what a bike needs. What a bike is...is freedom." Anonymous.

Triple 2013 LogoThree mountain passes in blustery weather.  Complications, miscommunication, injury...spilled blood. Mechanicals that would render the most tenacious cyclist pedestrian. Yet, four friends find themselves supporting each other, encouraging each other and celebrating achievements not only for themselves, but for the inner cyclist who understands that their training investment, pain and tenacity represent only a part of the journey. That we could share them with each other is the real reason we turn the pedals.

Purple-323_4-48-17 PM.JPGThe Triple Bypass is one of Colorado's keynote cycling adventures. Bergen Park (Evergreen) to Avon - or Avon to Bergen Park - over three mountain passes. One hundred twenty miles of steep climbs, daunting descents and some of the prettiest terrain our state has to offer. Several thousand participate each year.

It's not about the bike. It's not even about coming face-to-face with a rider's limitations (of which I have many). This year, it was about four of us who accepted a challenge far more daunting than simply riding a bike.

We accepted the challenge of friendship, in all of its glorious permutations.

Well done, Wil, Jeromy and Alicia.

Update: Alicia proudly displayed her Triple finisher medal when she arrived back in Vail. A short length of bike chain around a circular, poker-chip-sized keepsake suspended on a red ribbon - beautiful. We offered her congratulations and fussed over the award. Of course, I had not ridden to the finish line so I was empty handed.

Wednesday (which is my Monday) I arrived at work, sat in my cubicle and prepared to face the day. A work partner stopped by with a few notes of local color and said - "Oh, that's a nice medal. You finished!" Someone had left a Triple finisher ribbon dangling on my partition. Jeromy, it turns out, had picked up two and decided to give me one of them.

One cannot buy kindness like that for money.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Remembering A Patriot

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

He called it "Traitor's Day" and reminded us that in 1776 bandits absconded, in the dead of night, with property rightfully belonging to the King of England. We were the rabble whose illusion of self-government paled in comparison to what might have been, or ought to have been. Then, he put on the uniform of an American Police Officer and dedicated his life to preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States. Ultimately, it was the cause of self-government to
which he made the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life on November 9th of last year.

James Davies - husband, father, Welshman and talented police officer. Remembering you on the day we celebrate the freedom and self-government you worked so hard preserving.