As I hear the whine of an old pickup truck with oversized tires gaining speed behind me on the two-lane country road, I move as close to the shoulder as possible. It’s Bubba, another “good ole boy” about to see how close his side view mirror can come to my helmeted skull. It’s close, but I’m still pedaling. Not worth giving Bubba a one-finger salute or yelling an obscenity since I know he’s packing a loaded 9mm Glock under the springs of his front seat. Most of the folks here are friendly and respect cyclists, but I haven’t found too many SHARE THE ROAD signs without shotgun holes. Welcome to mountain cycling! Y’all gotta love it!!!
My wife and I left California 15 years ago and retired on six acres in the North Carolina mountains not far from the Tennessee border. Training here is beautiful, but it has its ups and downs, literally… hills!!! Training here doesn’t compare to the cycling I did in San Diego years ago where the infamous “Torrey Pines Hill” was the nemesis of any amateur cyclist. Here there are no bike paths and no ocean views but there are plenty of hills…in every direction. Makes one stronger (I think).
My last adventure on a bicycle was a century ride on a tandem with my wife 18 years ago. Since I am a cancer survivor, we joined Team in Training and raised thousands of dollars to support the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society. The culmination was a group century ride with hundreds of cyclists in Tucson, AZ. After that, I sold the tandem and rode a mountain bike to work 4 miles round-trip on a bike path in Coronado, CA.
So here I am, 65 years old, Medicare card in hand, training for something I’m determined to complete. It’s a minor struggle since my bike is old like me, no new stuff…but it’s my friend. We have a lot of things in common. Creaks, noises, problems here and there. I’ve named my back Rice Krispies since getting out of bed in the morning all I hear is snap, crackle, pop! Like me, my bike needs encouragement to get on the road…tires pumped, chain lubed, safety light batteries checked, but once we’re out there, we’re in tune with the road and nature (until Bubba comes back).
When some of the hills seem insurmountable, all I have to do is keep pedaling as I think of those brave souls that drag themselves out of bed every day to head to VIP. This ride is not about me or any of the other guys riding…it’s about David Charbonnet and all those who have made VIP their life ambition. We riders may hurt and have to deal with pain, but it is an honor for us to be a part of VIP support and we’re determined to keep giving the gift of hope and recovery.