Living our dreams has never been a problem for my family.
My sister Penny went from a high school dropout to regional manager of a children’s clothing firm, before starting a second career as an administrator of her son’s school. My brother Jim took up the mandolin several years ago, and now plays bluegrass throughout Northern Colorado.
And my oldest brother Eric earned a Ph.D in particle physics before moving on to a career in geophysics and environmental reclamation work. Then walked away to fulfill a life-long dream to run an Alaskan dog sled team.
Not bad for a kid who grew up watching Sgt. Preston in the Valley.
He’s competed in the famed Iditarod four times, finishing three — 1200 miles through the Alaskan wilderness in the dead of winter. The last time he ran, he had his fastest team. But held them back in the face of a severe storm, choosing to protect his dogs over finishing well.
There’s one story, though, that will tell you everything you need to know about my brother Eric.
The one year he didn’t finish, a series of mishaps left him with a broken leg, wrenched shoulder and a frostbite on his foot, forcing him to drop out of the race and seek shelter in a drafty shed, in the face of gale force winds and temperatures well south of 30 below.
But before he settled in to wait for rescue, he made sure his dogs were watered, fed and safe from the storm. Then refused to be evacuated until his team could be rescued, as well.
Now he’s taken up bicycling.
But I’ll let him tell you that story.
You would think that a grandfather with a Ph. D. in Physics would know better. It started innocent enough. We are involuntary retired living on fixed income. With gas over $4 / galleon and my vehicle being a Silverado 2500 HD 4×4 dog truck (ok just read 8 mpg in town), I was feeling more than a little trapped. I’ve been listening to Ted’s bike stories for some time, but I hadn’t ridden since I got my driver’s license at 16 (no I won’t tell you how long ago that was), but just maybe I could ride some of my short errands and save some money.
Rather than buy a bike I might not ride (and really could not afford), I could borrow one and try it. A good friend had a Wal-Mart mountain bike from Key West just sitting around and loaned it to me. Ah, the slippery slope. My first ride was 0.1 miles – from my house everything is downhill – that part went fine. Riding back my legs almost fell off. But it was enjoyable in a masochistic kind of way.
A week later I was riding a whole ¼ mile, all the way to the bottom of the hill and back up. Man how I wished that bike had a grandpa gear! Two weeks later I rode the 13 miles from my house to my VA appointment (Anchorage has great bike paths). The feeling of freedom was every bit as good as getting my license at 16. I was independent and could go wherever and whenever I wanted. A month later I rode 24 miles to a meeting and rode back again.
I was hooked and went straight to the hard stuff. Reading stories like “Miles from Nowhere”, discovering the Adventure Cycling and Crazy Guy on a Bike websites – Furnace Creek 508 and RAAM only fueled the fire. I’ve got a daughter in Goldsboro, NC and visions of riding from Anchorage to see her are dancing in my head. Time to buy my own bike.
With dreams of long distance touring, but reality of short commutes to meetings and errands, this has got to be a versatile “one size fits all” kind of bike. I dreamt about riding the Novara Safari or Surly Long Haul Trucker, but choked on the price tag. I’m haunting Craigslist, ebay, LBS, and REI. Three weeks ago I found a GT Transeo 3.0 at REI that had been ridden and returned. A “comfort bike” – I liked the sound of that. Aluminum frame, front suspension, disc brakes, braze-ons, and best of all, this one had a 22t chain ring – Grandpa gear!
Of course you can’t let a good thing go – I’ve added fenders to ride in the rain (typical August through October weather in Anchorage), a Topeak rack and milk crate, water bottles, lights and lock. I found studded tires for winter ridding on Craigslist. I’ve ordered a trekker handlebar from Nashbar that is due next week.
Pray for me!