Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Great stories

I heard a lot of interesting stories on the road to Portland, and even more in the days that have followed. My favorite story is from the family riding in memory of a young man named B.J. who died in an auto accident last August when he was only 18. (I understood it to just be an auto accident, not a car-bike accident.)

The seven cyclists were wearing jerseys “in memory of B.J.,” so I tapped one of them on the shoulder and asked who he was. She turned out to be his mother, and she told me about his untimely death and explained that they were riding in his memory and honor.

And then later, I got a little more of the story from CZ, who left a comment on the last blog post:

“In spite of his tender years he had crammed 5 STP's, 1 RAMROD and the summiting of at least 3 of the 5 major peaks that the Cascades have to offer (that I know of). SUCH a spectacular kid!! So we assembled a motley crew of first timers to join his experienced mom and sister .... one of which was his uncle .... the rest friends .... and we took him for his symbolic 6th STP. Everybody in our group had something "BJ" (his nickname) with them. I wore his bike shoes. We all wore what I thought were spectacular jerseys designed by his mom and sister and SO many folk were SO kind and curious to ask about our mission. It was very touching ... and we heard nearly as many touching tales in return. I was impressed. I was moved. I was proud. I was empowered. I was drained. I AM changed!!”

What a lovely way to honor his memory.

Not just spandex and carbon fiber

I got an e-mail from Anthony in Boston, who wanted me to know that “STP is not about multi-thousand dollar bikes or spandex shorts over $100. You will also see the Schwinn Varsities of 1980s vintage and the teenagers with their baggies. I rode my first STP on a used Raleigh Technium 12-speed I bought for $80 and my training in more recent years included commuting to Seattle from Bellevue on an upgraded Fuji "comfort bike" (front and seatpost suspension, but weighs a ton) that was on clearance for $170 at Performance Bikes. I still ride in bike shorts that are on sale at Bike Nashbar or Performance in the $30-40 range.”

This is exactly right – I saw every type of bike out there, from fat-tire cruisers to those 1980-era ten speeds. And every type of clothing. And every type of body size, too, including a man who must have weighed 250 pounds and was not shy about telling you that he had a custom bike frame built for him because he’d broken a few frames in his day. In fact, a story in yesterday’s New York Times called it the bicycling paradox:

“Cycling is a lot more forgiving of body type and age than running. The best cyclists going up hills are those with the best weight-to-strength ratio, which generally means being thin and strong. But heavier cyclists go faster downhill. And being light does not help much on flat roads.”

What to-do next?

In the story I wrote for Saturday’s paper, I said the STP has always been on my “to-do” list, which made my neighbors wonder what else is on that list. Well, truthfully, it’s a vague and ever-changing mental list. Right now I want to get back to practicing the piano more frequently, and fixing up my sadly neglected vegetable garden; also, inspired by the many, many children and teens on the STP, I’d like to at least do some fun rides with my family.

However, I’ve also gotten a lot of ideas from friends:

* My neighbor Amy thinks I should climb Mount Rainier.

* Miyoko suggests hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

* Roy recommends the RAGBRAI = Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. “It's a lot of people, a lot of fun and it's unlike any bike ride you will ever do because the towns are genuinely stoked to see you coming. Towns bid to be overnight host towns (one this year mailed hundreds of postcards to RAGBRAI headquarters begging to be picked) and the pass- through towns throw full-blast welcomes as the riders pass through.”

* John W. wants me to do the RSVP next year – the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party.

* Elizabeth suggests I do the STP again, in one day this time. And it’s a great family event if everyone participates, she adds. “I highly recommend, if you have children, to keep this in mind as a bonding exercise for the teen years.”

* Darrell suggests I join a rock band.

* Julie thinks I should go to Venice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While visiting Seattle, I saw the article about you in the Times on 7/14 and wanted to follow up on your blog and see how you did. Congratulations!

DS, Boulder, Colo.