I didn’t write a column for my paper this week. We ran out of time. I was looking for something to write, just to make sure I had a post this week when I got a little bad news.
A young woman I met when I first moved to Estes Park seemed to have lost all hope and ended her own life. She was only 28.
I met Meghan when she was still in high school. I had worked for my paper for about a year and a half when I photographed her and her teammates setting their school’s record in the 400 yard freestyle relay at the Colorado State Girls swim meet. She even earned a swimming scholarship, but had to give it up after opting not to have surgery on her shoulders. I was not too close with the girl, but things seemed to go a bit south from that point.
She and her mother lived down the street from my family. When she started studying massage, I was happy to offer my beat-up muscles for the betterment of her education.
She married pretty young, after a bit of a scandal, but remained married and had several beautiful children. Though she always had a bit of melancholy about her. I don’t know if this eventually led to her ending her own life, but it certainly makes me think.
First thing I did when I found out was hug my own daughter, make sure she knew she can talk to her parents at any time, no matter what. Then, like anyone, I tried to make sense of it. I suppose it’s nothing I am supposed to figure out.
I can make sure I look for my joy. I have to make sure my daughter and wife do the same. What makes us most happy? My bike, my family and photography do this for me. I have to make sure I talk to the people I love. Never loose hope.
That’s huge for me. I don’t know what led Meghan. I don’t know why she lost hope. I just have to make sure that I and those I love don’t head that way. Life is not always easy, doesn’t always turn out the way we planned or hoped, but what can we make of it? That is what will keep me going.
I may not have hoped and planned to be a small-town photographer, but there is joy in this. My child’s classmates light up when I walk into her school. People occasionally come out of shops to compliment my work. People ask about my family. There is a great deal of happiness in it.
Never give up. Never loose hope. Talk to someone. Find something that brings you joy.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
I got my occasional screed out last week. I want to be much more positive this week. I love riding. I love getting out. I enjoy watching this month’s Grande Boucle. It’s fun to watch the superheroes push the limits of human performance, but it is much better, for me, to do it myself.
Bicycling has given my freedom to ponder, think and reflect. Many spiritual traditions include a sort of moving or walking meditation. I find I can meditate on my bike. I can sort out whatever has been gnawing at me throughout the day. When I’m alone on a long stretch of road, or grinding up an endless climb, my mind is able to clear a bit. I first discovered this years ago. It took a while to sink in, but it has been a valuable tool.
When I lived in Denver, I found that riding gave me freedom from anger. When I commuted by car, I spent a lot of time yelling at fellow drivers. I found myself angry at stoplights, heavy traffic and time in general. On my bike, I was much more relaxed. I didn’t get angry at traffic lights. I enjoyed the view and took the time to look around. I arrived at school or work with a smile.
When I first got a bike, I would race the school bus home. Most of the time, I won. I had a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was beginning to reshape myself. I was gaining freedom from the fat kid that I was. At the time, all I knew was it was fun to go fast.
I developed some bad habits as a teen. I got a big car and sold the bike. This was by no means the worst of it. In fact, the bad habits of early adulthood led me back to a bike.
In my early 20s, I could not afford either a car or insurance. I could put a mountain bike on layaway. It was a big, heavy, rigid, steel Schwinn. I didn’t have to depend on bus schedules. I would get rained on occasionally, but it was worth the trade. It was the beginning of where I am today.
When I moved to Colorado, the first thing I did was break out my bike and rode Lookout Mountain outside of Golden. I found maps of all of the paved trails all over Denver. I could explore my new city relatively inexpensively. I also discovered real trail riding. I found the Chimney Gulch, Mount Falcon, the Apex Trail, and many more. I raced cross country and downhill for a couple of seasons. As a result, I discovered more towns.
I found Moab, Utah. Anyone with a bike had heard of Moab at that point, but I was finally able to visit. I also found, quite by accident, Fruita, Colo., now considered a mountain biking Mecca, itself. Eventually, I rediscovered Estes Park.
There are so many different ways to ride. I found a couple more after moving here. I competed in a cyclocross race. I had been using the ‘cross bike as a commuter, but felt I should race it at least once.
I started participating in triathlons. It was very fast and I seemed to have at least a little aptitude. It was fast and fun. I also began riding organized road rides. I found riding long distances with friends added another aspect of pleasure to riding. Sharing stories, goofing off, admiring the scenery, testing each other is all fun. During Ride the Rockies, I met a whole bunch of brand new friends. What better reason to get out?
Now I have seen the bike turn into a political symbol, both positive and negative, sometimes ridiculously so, and possibly for the same reasons. I don’t ride as a political statement. I ride because it’s fun. I ride because I found freedom on my bike. I can see that being political. I don’t burn $3.30 per gallon gas. I take no oil, other than that of the olive, or for my chain. I don’t put out too much pollution in the air, depending on what I ate before heading out. I could see that as a sort of political stand. If it were all about the politics, however, I wouldn’t do it. It has to be enjoyable.
This is why I will be out again this week. If you saw me Wednesday, I was probably in my Stars and Stripes jersey, smiling big as our great country. I was enjoying the freedom of my bike, freedom on two wheels.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.