This is the second part of the Series Sometimes It’s About the Bike.
Dad and Dan Skiing at Homewood, Lake Tahoe 2006
The final straw with the KHS cruiser as a credible training bike came in March, near the end of a weekly Team ride in the Town of Alpharetta, just north of Atlanta. The Team-In-Training program assigns a volunteer mentor to help guide each participant through the challenges of fund raising and the rigors of preparing for the specific event. My mentor was a British expatriate named Andrew Hirst- an all around great bloke who had completed the Tahoe Century two years earlier. I had grown significantly stronger in the saddle since the first winter training rides and managed to stay with Andrew on his faster bike that day…until we reached the final climb of the ride leading back to the Kroger parking lot where we had begun.
Ahead of me, Andrew rose to lean into the steepening climb. Meanwhile, gravity exercised itself upon every ounce of the nearly thirty-pound cruiser which I rode; compelling it back toward the bottom of the hill as every muscle and tendon I was capable of summoning cajoled it upward. I had read a Scientific American article indicating cursing actually produces a physiological soothing effect on pain. Judging from the sting of superlatives I was in absolute agony as I cranked up that hill in pursuit of the Brit. As we rolled toward the cars Andrew jokingly questioned my intention to ride the cruiser in Tahoe. I questioned my intention as well.
Until recently, I was a person that found it convenient to dismiss the possibility of a “grand design” for the universe and the fact that I had a place in it. I was baptized Catholic as an infant, but had always jokingly exclaimed as an adult that it was not my fault. I can count on both hands the number of times in my life I had voluntarily crossed the threshold of a Church. Considering myself a spiritual person non-the-less, I maintained an undeveloped dogma which was primarily of my own divination and which omitted almost completely the possibility of a personal and loving creator who’s power guided my way- independent of my acknowledgment or comprehension of that creator and his power.
My small ideology did allow for the possibility that strings of cause-and-effect circumstances, like long sequences of computer programming code, may on seemingly random occasions generate unanticipated results which appear to be correlative- coincidence. A ghost in the machine. It had entered into my consciousness that perhaps such a coincidence was at play in the fact it was in Lake Tahoe, during a 2006 family Christmas ski vacation that I witnessed the first signs of my fathers illness, and that I was now training to return there in order to ride in honor of his life- and the lives of others effected by cancer. That the hand of god was plainly at work in this “coincidence” eluded me completely.
On a blustery day at the Homewood Ski Resort in Tahoe, the wind was screaming in sixty-to-seventy mile an hour blasts over the peak above us, exploding into white mist on the water’s surface below- like an invisible freight train falling from the sky. Looking down the lake from the chairlift we counted waterspouts as they rose in angry dervishes driven by the wind’s fury. The ladies had called it quits on the slopes, retreating to the lodge with Liam and Ethan. My Dad, Dan and I were the strongest skiers of our family group and having surveiled a challenging glades run through the woods, we took the opportunity to hit a couple of runs together.
The heavy snow and technical difficulty, combined with the thin air at an altitude of nearly 7800 feet, found me catching my breath at the end of the run as I joined Dan emerging from the tree line. Dad joined us moments later and he was doubled-over, gasping for air. Dan and I took the opportunity to lovingly taunt him about getting old and being out of shape- he shook his head breathlessly holding his gloved hand up to us indicating that he was okay, but that we needed to wait a minute for him to recover.
Read the rest of the Sometimes it’s About the Bike Series.
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