This past weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer for the Great Ohio Bike Adventure. I’m not much of a bicyclist myself, but I fantasize I could be; if I wasn’t so lazy. Oh, the places I would go and the people I would meet! I was struck by the instant camaraderie within the group itself. It was infectious, and I found myself, wanting to get to know them, all. They were smiling, laid-back; a friendly bunch, even to those of us (me) who got winded walking over to help them. I’m convinced their pleasant dispositions must come from pedaling through the natural world, endorphins flooding their brain, fresh air and God all around them. How could they not be peaceful and centered? When they began to file up to the information booth, after long stretches perched on a teensy-weensy seat, still smiling, I sensed they were something special, and, I knew they just had to be overflowing with great stories.
I just knew these people would be curiosity seekers and gentle adventurers. Not just anyone would pedal 50 miles a day, rain or shine to spend a week in the exploration of quaint Ohio towns, checking out unique local restaurants, shops and sights. I think I was expecting them to be from all over the state of Ohio. That was not the case. These were committed bicycle people, most traveling from various states across the USA. I even thought I heard a thick accent somewhere in the crowd. I may have been a little overly anxious to greet them, because I was excited and I’m sure the admiration reflected in my eyes bordered on hero worship. I joked with one gentleman and told him I hoped his enthusiasm for his week of riding was contagious. I wanted to catch the cycling bug too. He looked at me with kind eyes, and said, “That’s exactly what happened to me. I used to weigh about 100 pounds more than I do now. I volunteered to help in my first GOBA ten years ago. I was so impressed with this community of people, I bought a bike and started by just riding to the end of my street. A year later, I was riding with a couple thousand other people.” I shook his hand. He thought it was a congratulatory gesture. I was really hoping some of his tenacity would rub off on me.
The stories didn’t stop there. I was privileged to meet an elderly man whose physique put mine to shame, back in the day, when I was eighteen. I noticed his logo stretched across a torso with zero body fat. It read, Retired Air Force. Being the daughter and sister of two of those boys who fly off into the wild blue yonder, I felt an instant connection. This Kirk Douglas look-alike, went on to relay, after his retirement from the military, he worked as a private contractor for twenty more years. In that time, he has cycled cross-country twenty times and recently biked across Europe. He needs to be on the cover of an AARP’s issue with the headline, Age is Just a Number. I wanted to take him to dinner and write his biography.
Then, there was the lady with two bicycle pins on her shirt. Both were tiny metal replicas of fully operational bicycles. One of them was half the size of my pinky finger. She told me the man that made them, was an engineer as well as an avid cyclist. He rode everywhere and bikes were his passion. He even created a lawnmower bike; killing two birds with one stone sounded to me like the operating system from the mind of an engineer. His name was known throughout the GOBA circles and everyone who met him felt blessed to have known this inventor/genius. He recently passed away. I felt a sense of sadness at never having the privilege of meeting him.
I learned a few things about vegan cooking and past lives from a couple from California, who, as it turns out, live near my brother in Carmel, a place I call heaven on earth. Synchronicity! I met a young family who ride tandem, every year, with their two daughters. What lucky young ladies to be raised by parents that want them to know the importance of family, and that the world’s doors are flung open to everyone, waiting to be explored.
I’ve decided, if I win the lottery, I’m taking my time, and making my way across the planet. Probably not on a bike, but who knows. I might get over my lazy streak. Maybe a moped. I want to sit at the feet of the world’s residents and hear their stories. Maybe its a good practice for all of us, just spend some time and listen to other people. We are all the best books another might get to read. Everyone has an adventure or two inside them. I may not be able to ride my bike 50 miles a day, or fashion a perfect, working bike pin from scrap metal: and I do enjoy a good prime rib from time to time, but we are all still more alike than we are different. We bring into this world our unique gifts. It’s our job, to discover and share them. When we take the time to stop and look into the eyes of others, we still see ourselves. There we are, the human race, just dressed in different clothes. Last weekend, there were a lot of “us”, dressed in bicycling attire. I still knew them. They were me. Just much fitter.
Becky Mahoney would enjoy hearing from you. She can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org