Bridge bike

I once had a friend when I lived in Colorado named Calamity Jones. That wasn’t his name. His name was Sam. But we all called him Calamity because no matter what he did, he did it wrong. He couldn’t piss his name in the snow without getting his feet wet.

Calamity was the nicest guy. He was a great skier, too, one of the best on the mountain I worked at, Keystone. But even skiing he was always getting hurt. One time he fell off the chairlift and broke both legs.

Another time, in the summer, he went mushroom hunting and came back with a harvest. “Psilocybin,” he said, and tried to give them away. But no one would take one because it was Calamity. “You first,” we said.

They were poisonous, of course, and he wound up at the ER in Dillon getting his stomach pumped. He almost died.

Calamity caused a bad traffic accident coming down Loveland Pass once. He got a DUI. He forged a check. He and a buddy tried to rob the safe at Keystone by crawling through a duct late at night, but they were too heavy and fell through the ceiling and both got arrested and both did prison time. I have no idea what happened to him, but he was a good person, the kindest guy, and things never worked out for him. At the pivotal moment he always chose wrong.

This guy had a lot of friends but he didn’t have any way to get through his troubles. He had no way across from his good intentions to good actions. He had no bridge.

I have another friend who is nothing at all like Calamity Jones, but he is a guy who, like everyone else I suppose, has had his share of hard times. He’s a good guy who took a couple of left turns when maybe he should have gone right, but unlike Calamity he got things straightened out, and a lot of the straightening he did with a bike.

He got himself sober and the bike kept him there. He lost a bunch of weight and made a bunch of friends. The bike gave him something to do with his free time after work that didn’t involve hanging out at the bar or hanging out around drunks. He bought a bunch of bikes and rode pretty good. But more important than his cycling prowess, he was friendly and fun to be around. If you flatted he always stopped and if you got dropped he usually hung back and waited for you. He always had an extra tube, too, and an extra CO2 canister.

Then he quit riding his bike. You see, he has a young son and he figured that as much as he liked riding his bike, he liked hanging out with his son and being a dad a whole lot more. Way, way more.

The last time I saw him was at a party. A bunch of people were standing around talking with him, and they were all cyclists, and they were peppering him with unasked for advice about how to get back on the bike.

“You need to do easier rides,” they said.

“Get a ‘cross bike,” they said, because the solution to any problem is n+1.

“Have you tried MTB? No cars!” they said, even though he’d never mentioned being bothered by traffic.

Finally, a couple of people started listing all the great things about cycling and about what a strong rider he was and what a shame it was to give all that up. He smiled politely and listened but he didn’t appear swayed.

I said a few words to him before he left. “You’re over it, huh?”

“Yeah, I’m over it.”

“Everything okay?” I asked.

“Everything’s great. My boy’s only going to be young once. I’ve got my priorities straightened out and he’s it.”

I knew what he meant. For some people the bike is an obsession. For some it’s a status symbol. For some it’s a holy health grail. For some it’s a vocation. For some it’s a pressure release valve. For some it’s a lifestyle. For some it’s a political/environmental/social statement. For some it’s transportation and for some it’s an escape.

But for some people it’s a bridge that gets you across troubled waters. And when you’re on the other side you realize you don’t need it anymore, and you keep on pedaling through life, better off without it.



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40 thoughts on “Bridge bike”

  1. Nice story to start the new month.

    I only just noticed the Strava fraud link, when did you sneak that in?

  2. Great post, Seth. One of my favorites. And so true. Calamity needed to escape his demons. The bike provided the push he needed. It sounds like he’s now got the wind at his back. Good for him. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Sounds very much like what I would have read from a dearly missed cyclist-philosopher. He’d be proud of you.

  4. If it was me, I’d put my son in a child seat on the back of my bike, or I’d put him on the back of our tandem or even on a trailer bike. But it’s not me, and so I can only say that I’m glad he has put his hard times behind him, and I wish him well.

  5. Some days you write posts for which you deserve huge kudos, but for which I don’t have a pithy comment. And I’m just too damn lazy for an attaboy comment. Just know that if I didn’t comment, I still liked the post.

    I suspect many other readers feel the same way.

  6. That was a great read, Seth. You remind me of a friend, Dave, I had when I was 15 or 16. He was 10 years older than I and became something of a cycling mentor. Before I met him, he had lost his drivers license due to, “choosing wrong.” A bicycle became his path to work and the cycling community. I have fond memories of our intersection in life. Thanks.

  7. Some replace alcohol with cycling. Definitely not the worst choice, but same problem hiding under sore legs and a fuzzy mind.

    The great thing about cycling is it’s very easy to pick up again.

  8. And when his son is grown and moves on, as sons do, the bike will still be there for him, waiting. Bikes are non-judgmental like that.

  9. Damn Wanker. Another one I’d pay $299/month for. Goosebumps. Still miss my Tilford read every day, but glad his reference to you got me on to your blog.

  10. I understand this. My wife and I worked out a system where I would ride extra early, do a little of the club ride then cut off a chunk to be home in time to walk our son to elementary school. Never missed a day.

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