If you don’t know Bob Spalding, you haven’t been around long.
He heads up a long list of hitters who have put themselves out to pasture, by which I mean he no longer shows up on the Donut and other South Bay beatdowns. He used to.
I wish I had a quarter for every time he has dropped me into the wood chipper. Along with Craig Leeuwenburgh, Canyon Bob was one of the guys you always depended on to slap you up one side of the head, then the other, then punt you out the back.
Except not always.
A lot of the time he’d refuse to drop me and just let me sit, towing me to the top. And he was a monster of a time trialist. Basically, Bob did really well at anything that required huge quantities of really stupid pain. BWR, you name it, if it was unbearable he was all in.
And what was different about Bob was that he always did it with good cheer. Never a nasty word for anyone. Rather, he always carried a pump. Not for himself, because he never flatted, but for you. And you. And you.
Yeah, he’s the guy who would stop his own precious ride to pump you up because you were out of C02, or hadn’t brought any in the first place, or didn’t know how to change a tar, whatevs. On the original RIDES TO THE ROCK, Bob would slink off the back to push some lubbering slob over the rollers, or would slink off the back to fix someone’s tar, or, when things were running well, would go to the front to pull for a hundred miles or so.
Then he stopped coming. No Flog. No BWR. No Donut. Nuthin’.
Oh, he still rode. And he rode a fair bit. Just not with us. And I get it. There comes a time when you have to lay down arms. It’s not fun anymore. Too much ball-busting. And way too sketchy. “Do I want to die at age 57 on the Donut? Nah.”
But for all that, once a year or so Bob makes it out to the Flog, whether to test his legs or to remind himself that he’s still old, I dunno.
Last year it took him a couple of laps to warm up, and then he was kicking my ass again, hauling me up the hill. “Come on, Seth.” Always with a smile.
Today Canyon Bob showed up again on the Flog. He suffered like a dog that had two legs run over by a truck and was being chased by a pack of hungry wolves. I don’t know how many of the other people knew him. Certainly none knew him like I did.
How well do I know Canyon Bob?
One time on the Man Tour, about Day 4, I woke up and did my morning business and out came a bucket of blood. The red kind. That had never happened before.
I saddled up and we rode lickety split for a few hours until it was time for a pee break. I wandered over to a bush and checked my shorts. Sure enough, someone had been murdered in them. “Hey Bob,” I said, worried, “could you come check this out?”
Bob is a health care professional. “Sure. Whatcha got?”
I showed him the business, all of it. “You’ll be fine. Just got a loose valve. Should tighten up here directly.”
And it did.
Not a lot of friends will eyeball the broke plumbing in the middle of a hard ride and give you an on-the-spot diagnosis.
But Bob did.
Towards the end of the Flog today, he was looking real wore out. But you know what? He wasn’t complaining. He never does. Instead, when I passed him he just grunted, “Good job, Seth.” He meant it. He always means it.
For himself, he just throws a leg over and gets the job done, no drama, no excuses. There’s a lesson there.
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