Dear cherished reader,
I realize that it’s been a while since my last post and for that I apologize. It’s proven much more difficult than I originally anticipated to bring a blog from conception to your screens. Posting requires a delicate coordination of weather, willpower, paper-to-binary money transfers, patience, concentration, timing, and after all that it’s in the hands of another to be posted in a timely fashion. Despite all of the shenanigans I am making a renewed effort to post more frequently over the next few months.
As I began writing this post I wanted it to be a bit of a colloquial catchup. Something to bring you all up to speed on my recent comings and goings, which have been very exciting indeed. But, as things often don’t work out the way they are planned to, I’ve started a story about one of the most important things in my life, consider it unfinished, but really do want to post something so I will sacrifice perfection and here it is:
At four I was teetering down the road, training wheels clicking from side to side.
At five I have a remarkably crisp memory of riding as hard as I could next to my father, who was driving his truck. “How fast am I going?”
“Fifteen miles per hour.”
Pedal pedal pedal. “What about now?”
“Seventeen,” he shouted.
My record for a time was nineteen
Six was a bit of a rough year. That was the first year I sent myself flying over the handlebars, the year I learned that gravel can take your front wheel away from you, and the first year I experienced road rash.
The 2002 Cascade Cycling Classic hosted a kids race in downtown Bend. I entered with my little seven year old legs and and the same amount of spirit as Lance or Landis. I ended up winning the thing.
At eight I remember first truly admiring someone for their skill. Someone who wasn’t on the TV. I was trying to ride up a technical section of single-track but couldn’t make it and had to stop to walk. My coach, being behind me, had to stop as well but he managed to stop without putting his foot down. Thus I fixated on mastering the track-stand.
Nine is a bit blurry. My only memory is looking down at my bike to discover, surprisingly, that I was looking at the sky and then quickly slamming onto a slab of limestone.
At ten the same person I’d been admiring since the track-stand gave me an old, gold GT road bike some had given him. It was three sized too big for me. Man was that cool.
Age eleven and my dad invited me to ride the Firecracker 100. A 100 kilometer casual ride to celebrate the fourth of July. We eventually caught onto a group, I was encouraged to take a pull, and I ended up meeting the man who had donated the bike I was riding (that gold GT) to my coach.
Twelve and I found myself winning the state criterium championship.
I raced my first big-boy stage race at 14.
15 I began coaching.
At 16 my racing took a backseat to exploring the world. I was privileged enough to spend part of the summer traveling in Mongolia.
At 17, the same. Racing was replaced with travel. But I still managed to coach part-time.
And now we’re in the present. My eighteenth summer is approaching with my 14th year of bicycle riding in tow. Until around the 20th of December I didn’t have a bike here and had been walking from village to village. Walking to explore. But for Christmas, with the nudge of a good friend, I took a sept-place to Kedougou City and bought myself a bike. I splurged. Bought myself the nicest bike money can buy in the area. One afternoon, a kilo of cola nuts, and 47,000 CFA later I was cruising back home on my newest baby. A 30+ pound, matte black commuter labeled “Heavy Load Transporter.”
Then the holidays came and I found myself busily traveling from village to village to visit fellow Fellows for Christmas and New Years. Training Seminar 2 (a gathering of all the Fellows in Senegal for sessions and a bit of relaxation) came and went at the blink of an eye and so did my dad. We had a nice visit, although quick. In addition, since buying my bike, I’ve managed to visit three waterfalls, splash in the Gambia, transplant over 5,000 living organisms, watch five paralyzing sunrises, travel over 1,500 kilometers, make new friends (at least three of which are in the “keep in touch with for life” category), slaughter and cook two chickens, bake special chocolatey baguettes, make pizza from scratch, patch three flats and cut one broken chain, and accumulate so many precious little stories that a list like this is just impractical. And, before I knew, I found myself back in Segou a month later having barely had time to pause and breathe.
Now, as I sit in Segou and reflect on this crazy month, it’s easy to see that some of the best adventuring I’ve ever done has been unlocked and that my Heavy Load Transporter was the key. Bicycling rode its way back into my life after a small hiatus and has offered itself to me as the most beautiful of vessels. Delivering to me hope, friendship, clarity in my decision about college, and reminding me that it will always be a loyal friend.
So there you have it. A new lover, who’s really an old one, has returned to my life. And I’m happy. Thanks for reading.
Until next time,