Thank you for your trust. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your vulnerability and it was honor to ride with you last Friday. You thanked me so kindly and closed your text later that day by saying “God bless you and your family.” I do feel blessed.
But what you don’t know, what most don’t know is the whole story, and I want to share with you my thoughts and feelings and how much the community made this possible.
Two weeks ago, when I ran over your bike, I will never forget the look of sadness, almost fear that came over you. I could tell you lost something special—or at least I thought you did. I sensed you lost a choice you had made to ride; to drive to Lookout and climb to the top. Maybe Lookout reminds you of your native country of Colombia. Maybe, working as a DJ and crafting a life in America, I stole some of those dreams. I felt that frustration, that loss and that lack of trust that I would make things right.
When I arrived before you last Friday to give you your new bike, Wade, the Scott rep and Karen Balika (his girlfriend) had it so neatly parked, sitting on a stand all alone. It was majestic. I couldn’t wait for you to see it. I wanted to erase the last image of your pain in my head. I just knew you would love it. Later after our ride, I climbed in my truck and saw the bracelet Karen had made after her husband Andy had died. He died riding his bike almost exactly three years ago. She had given it to me and everyone who attended his service. It all became so heavy and clear that Andy had a lot to do with your joy.
I never met Andy and met Karen when she shared her feelings for a story I did on his death. I only heard stories of him. Stories of giving, stories of crazy and amazing feats. But all the stories, every single one them had a common theme. Andy loved life and he didn’t waste a minute not enjoying it. When he died the cycling community rallied to aid Karen and their family. You probably aren’t surprised after seeing the generosity last Friday from so many. But it inspired me and probably others.
Upon Andy’s death and subsequent times when the community has grieved over losses, the bike and the joy of riding brings us all together and seems to ease the pains and offers hope of continued happiness.
With Andy I felt a bond with someone I never met but felt like I knew. With you I felt a bond with someone I met but someone I didn’t know or even felt like I understood.
When we first met with your bike forever broken, the hardest part was not being able to communicate. The hardest part was looking into your eyes and not understanding who you are. It was hard not knowing where you were from and recognizing you came from a place I have never been. I wanted to find common ground. I wanted you to trust me, and trust that I would make this right. But why should you?
It became bigger than you and me, for me at least. This is hard to write, but the cycling community I know most intimately are people like me. White with means to generally own more than one bike. There I said it. For many, bikes are pieces of equipment, interchangeable with terrain and conditions. We are often spoiled.
You have torn down walls for me. Seeing you pop a wheelie on your new bike wearing your high top basketball shoes and sharing Lookout Mountain with me was inspiring to say the least. Humbling really. I grew up at the base of that mountain but most always look at it like like a training ride.
The reason we even met was I was part of a group of people gathered that morning to tell a reporter of why we love Lookout Mountain, I wish we could’ve included your reasons. I feel you would’ve shared a completely different perspective. We shared how many times we have ridden it and ideas on how to make it safer but maybe not what it really meant to us. As I was leaving, after talking about so much joy, I took yours away. At least for a couple of weeks.
I owe you so much. I owe you gratitude on shaping my why. Lookout or any other mountain isn’t only meant to be climbed. It isn’t there only to see how fast we can go. It is its own community and a great equalizer. It offers a chance to be vulnerable if we let it. The minute we start that climb, nothing else matters. It matters not where we are from, what bike we are on, what clothes we wear. It only matters that we all share the journey the road gives us. We may not even make it to the top and on that day we all turned halfway up—except for you.
You accepted the fear of the weather we all felt but forged ahead anyways.
I pictured you summiting and throwing your arms up in triumph in the wind and rain. We took the safe route down and you chose the adventure to the top in the growing dark clouds.
I get the feeling the your entire life is an adventure. Moving here from Columbia to pursue your love of music is braver than anything I have done.
I owe you for sharing your bravery and for trusting me to get you a new bike. But it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of so many who donated money, time and effort to making it all possible. And to Andy, the friend I never knew who through Karen made it possible to get THAT bike. She reached out immediately to say she could help and she certainly did thanks to her connection with Wade who chased that bike down, built it and brought it to you.
All I did was show up. Maybe thats all we can all do….show up.
I loved that I connected with your girlfriend via Facebook afterwards and I mean it that we all need to go ride and cook some food and listen to some music you make and make new friends.
The bike, oh the bike, it not only bridges communities, or makes them possible, it truly is it’s own language that is rooted in simple joy. A language that has brought us together without speaking. Thank you for reminding me of its power…