Monday, September 30, 2013

Enjoying the Harvest

Celebrating 25 yrs of riding together!
In 1986 I landed my first real job and happily learned the trade of chocolate confectionery.  By happenstance, a handsome young man worked at the office next door, and immediately caught my eye.  Doing everything I could to casually capture his attention, one day I brought my bike to work.  I thought perhaps if he saw me going out to ride during my lunch hour, it would be the perfect segue for our next conversation.  Seeing that I rode bikes, he would suggest we go on a bike ride together, then we would fall in love and ride off into the sunset.   The only problem was that he never saw me ride by his window that day.  My elaborate plan had failed. 

I resorted to bribing him with chocolate.  The chocolate worked and we eventually went on that bike ride together.  We fell in love, rode off into the sunset, and have been cycling ever since. 

A married couple that rides bikes together is a rarity in most circles.  It is not that it is an impossible feat, but rather, the demands of life and family and differences in personalities often create the dividing barrier.  People are always shocked to learn that we both were cyclists before we met, and assume that Roger was the one that got me into cycling.  He did, however, introduce me to mountain biking, and it became our passion.

Fast forward 25 years, we are still married and we are still riding bikes together.  It is just what we do.  We did not set out with a goal, “we’re going to always ride together.”  At first it was merely something to do together.   As we got more involved, it was something to learn, a process of growing and developing as individuals and as a couple.  However, we never realized at the time that we were going through such a process.  We thought we were simply having fun and getting exercise.  Little did we know we planted a seed and were cultivating a harvest that would yield more fruit than we could have ever imagined. 

9,125 days is a long time to wait for a harvest.  In the beginning, we had no idea what we were planting, other than intentions that it would produce the fruit of happiness and love.   Now we find ourselves at the milestone of celebrating our 25th anniversary.  Milestones are a time to pause and reflect.   When we’re young we have no appreciation or tolerance for the ‘old’ people that can only seem to say, “I remember when…”  The problem with sayings is that generally they are true, otherwise they would not become sayings!   When we are young, we are still experiencing and in the process of creating the memories that later we will so greatly come to appreciate, cherish and on which we will cling to so tightly.

I honestly do not think this time of reflection would have as great an impact on us if it were not for our precious cycling family.   We have traveled the world on our bikes and battled it out for the win on many a race course, but these things mean nothing without our friends alongside.  Do we reflect back on our cycling victories?  Not really.   I can barely remember most of them. The medals and trophies have been discarded or are collecting dust in a closet and long forgotten.  We do, however, often talk about and laugh over the many cycling gatherings and crazy rides we have had – from Canada to Switzerland to here in our backyard of Georgia.   It does not matter where, but it matters with who.  That is what makes it worth remembering, worth celebrating.

I did learn a valuable lesson from racing that we have often used when faced with important decisions of what to do in life.   There were not a whole lot of female racers in the early 90’s so I spent most my time at the start line lumped in with the guys.  When the Norba Nationals came to Helen one year, though, it was a big deal.  Everybody that was anybody showed up along with the Pros that we had only read about in magazines.  Not only did I have my own racing Class, but there were age categories within the Class.  We had never seen anything like it and our nerves were on edge. 

The amateur races were on a weekday because the Pros got the weekend since they drew the crowds.  Roger dropped me off Thursday in Helen and wished me well.  I was absolutely crushed that he would not be there on Friday to cheer me on in my race, but he could not get off work.  29 yrs old at the time and I felt like a scared 7 yr old at her first day of school.  I needed someone to hold my hand.  Too bad.  I had to suck it up and face this monster by myself.   Needless to say, I can still vividly remember the anxiety I felt.   The night before the race was the longest of my life.  

The next morning I went down to the start area and saw my friend Dan.  He said, “Hey Laurie, have you seen Roger?”    “Ha, ha, Dan, that’s not funny,”  I said despondently.   “No, seriously, I just saw him,” Dan replied.  Stunned in disbelief, I said, “You better not be kidding me, because if you are, I’m not laughing.”   Sure enough, Roger was there!   His boss felt sorry for him and told him he could take off, so he had high tailed it to Helen in time for my race.

To say I was elated is an understatement.  So overjoyed and comforted just to know he was there, my outlook changed completely.  I did not have my sights set on winning the race.   I simply wanted to survive and make Roger proud.   If I could finish in the top ten, I would be thrilled.  He was there to share it with me.  That was all I needed.

To make a long story short, I surprised myself and everyone by winning the race.  I will never forget the elation of seeing Roger at the finish line and knowing he was there supporting me.  So, what was the lesson learned?  No one knows, remembers or even cares that I won a National race.  When I look back to that weekend, all I remember is how happy I was having Roger there to share it with me.   Don’t set your sights on your own accomplishments, but rather the relationships you cultivate in those pursuits.

When it is all said and done, all you have are memories.  When making a decision of whether or not to do a certain thing, we always ask;  is this a memory I need to make?  The memories we hold on to and talk about over again are not the ones of “I did this great thing” or “I won this.”  No, those sit on the back burner.  Sorry to disappoint you, but no one has ever asked us to recount to them our victories.   What counts is what you invest in the lives of others, and the times and laughter you share with them.   I am not against racing.  By all means, have goals and pursue your dreams, but make sure that what you cultivate in that pursuit will be a harvest you can enjoy outside the boundaries of your own little world.  When we get together with our friends and we start talking about one of our Moab trips or one of our birthday rides, that’s when the laughter and good times begin.

Thinking about our upcoming anniversary, we casually discussed one evening about having a group mountain bike ride to celebrate.   We like to mark occasions by doing something fun we will remember instead of just going out to a fancy restaurant.   I cannot remember what I had for lunch today, let alone will I remember eating an overpriced dinner at some restaurant which name I won’t be able to recall in 5 yrs.  Having a group ride sounded like fun to us, so we set the date and invited all our dirt riding friends.   I was not prepared for the effect it would have on me.

Thirty of our friends showed up early Saturday morning at Bull Mountain.   We chose the location because we have been riding those trails the longest and they are chocked full of memorable rides.   We both remember our first ride there decades ago, and I can honestly say there is not a time I ride on the Bull Mtn trail that I don’t go over that first ride in my mind.
Look at all our incredible friends!  Wow, we love you all!
I was thrilled to have riders that represented the entire span of our 25 yr riding career.  Pam, my best friend from UGA days, was there on her 1999 Specialized – the bike she bought from me in 2001.  Steve was there, with whom we started riding in the early 90's and led us on many a gnarly adventure.   Tamara arrived (along with her daughter, Becca) – we have been seeing her on the trails for almost 20 years.  Rod – we go back well over 17 yrs riding with him.   There was even a friend there, Jason, with whom we had never actually ridden.  How appropriate that the day would mark a first ride all the way to over 25 yrs riding.
Friends for 30 yrs and still riding!

The largest contingent represented were the friends with which we have been riding for the past 10 years and with which we share a mammoth amount of memories and laughs.  They are the meat of our cycling family today without which we would not have been able to survive.

It started when we hooked up with a group that call themselves the BOD (Band of Dorks) and it grew from there.  We consider them our family and would not consider a celebration without them.  The group spans the gamut of age, race, ability, and occupation, but all of that is a non factor.  We jell together.  They lift our spirits, and we find a way to laugh even in the face of adversity.  They really are a special group of friends that we are blessed to have.

As I looked around at everyone in the parking lot, chatting, hugging, greeting each other, I was overcome with a sense of gratitude and humility.  These were OUR friends.  They chose to be with us that day.  An 18 year old, who could have selected a million other things to do than come ride with a bunch of middle aged folks, decided to spend his day with us.  Some 60+ year olds that could just as easily chosen to take it easy and ride tamer trails close to home were there to celebrate with us.  Brandon came even though he was still healing from a torn muscle and told by his PT not to mtn bike.  Needless to say, we were touched by the outpouring of love and show of support.  This did not represent all our friends either.  Many wanted to come, but the demands of parenthood called them.   (They were making their own special important memories that day too.)
How do you get 30 riders across a river?  One at a time!
Getting thirty people through a ride is a challenge in itself, but we managed to get it done.  With no crashes, no mechanicals, and no lost riders, we eventually all wound up back at the parking lot for everyone’s favorite part of a “ride”-  the après hanging out chillin’ time.  We ate and talked and laughed – good old fashioned fun.  We received more love, hugs, congratulations, cards, and thanks than we deserve.  The harvest has been plentiful.

Looking back through our pictures from over the years, we became curious as to how many cycling trips we have taken.   We never set a goal of accomplishing a certain number of trips or going specific places.  We simply always took advantage of the least little opportunity we could.  If there was a cheap enough airfare, we were on that plane ready to explore new trails and make new friends.

As I added up the adventures, I was stunned at the total.  It was almost poetic.  In 25 years we have made 50 trips!  Wow, I had no idea.  The places we have seen are fantastic, but the most memorable are the people we met and the friends we made.  Even if we never go another place, we could entertain ourselves with the memories of these adventures.

I once heard someone say athletics are important, but you can’t define your life by it because it does not last.   That is very true, but it should be expounded.  The fitness, the racing, the competitiveness will not last.  However, the bond you share with those with which you ride and race and playfully compete will last forever.  The type of bond you build is important and will define your life.  

We are fortunate.  The seed fell on good soil and now we are reaping the harvest.  As we pause to reflect on these past 25 years and get ready for what the next 25 will bring, we want to thank everyone that has been a part of this incredible journey.   Roadies and mountain bikers alike, we all share the same passion.   It defines us and brings us together in a special way.  It has yielded a harvest of love and happiness.  More than we could have ever imagined. 

1 comment:

Kyle Glave said...

Wow, very well said. I feel honored to have been able to get to know you and Roger. I always appreciate the invites and to be part of the group.
You are so right in that it's the memories. I've always said the only things you have in life are your experiences, memories and the people you surround yourself with, the rest is just stuff.
Happy 25th to you and Roger and thank you for allowing me to be a part of your memories.