I was coerced recently into a conversation spun by a magician of mankind. Before I had realized what had happened I was pried open as he was licking his fingers searching for the cliff notes to some of the worst and greatest chapters to date. His monologue was remarkable clear, honest and truthful. And for some goddamn reason I can’t let it out of my thoughts.
An educated man I proudly suffer for, and still can’t believe our paths had crossed to the depths they have, it’s a relationship I would’ve thought impossible years ago. Back then we’d be two curious anomalies sniffing each other out all the while thinking that’s how the other half lives, they’re more fucked up than me.
Wealth, was an unknown to me until I had finished high school. Although my experiences and pride in what and where I’ve been had usually left me with enough brass to allow me to hang in any situation. It took me over thirty years to realize more importantly wealth isn’t just a comma in bank accounts but structure of family, relationships and bonds. Those had always alluded me, the only true bond I knew was a love of bikes, being outside and seeing remarkable things and the kind that kept my ass out of jail. We all see in perfect view our past, and most feel the need to insulate themselves in moving forward. I’ve always prefered to feel the burn or chill , feel the effort exerted from my body and watch veins of effort rise and collapse.
What he’d seen in a couple years and hours spent stuck to my wheel was the most concise advice I had heard. “Let all that go” he said a few times, and while he doesn’t know everything he knows enough and mixed with a gifted brain and time to think, I already knew he was right. “You have to allow yourself to be proud of who you’ve become, what you’ve done and allow yourself that confidence”
Hearing a man that I hold in such high regard say that to me brought a wave of emotion that crested behind my eyes. He isn’t perfect, nor his family or some beliefs, but he’s human. His body has been riddled with ailments that would kill 99% of cockroaches but he’s still here, busy as ever, pouring miles into his legs and riding with his boys, I feel the same crescendo of emotion knowing that I’ve become one of “his” boys as I did when he actually spent earnest time thinking of me.
I’m lucky to have had three remarkable men of all different walks of life lend me parts of them. Oceans, fathers, patriarchs and of course bikes, but more importantly personalities. I had countlessly given myself to people not deserving of my loyalty, compensation and time. I allowed all the things that don’t matter come before those that do, and sometimes it takes the smartest guy you know to remember to smell the flowers and allow gratitude and time to look around.
I was fractured when I came here. I had a half broken cross bike, a couple dollars in my hand and an idea that I knew that I was more than my years, that the internal drive was grinding on plates and a new range was going to be formed out of sheer effort and time like those backbones of mountains I love so much.
A 16 penny galvanized nail held a shimano ultegra shifter together, bent down towards the bottom of the hood causing a caules to form and blood to drip while sprinting or climbing, or just riding the shitty asphalt and gravel I began the reclamation on. I was really never even that good back then, I was a creature of places and experience, my friends put in honest hours and time and where a ways a head of me, but I was free, I was alive and I saw tons more than they did in their suffocating state of anarobia. I rode myself from 210 to 200, 200 to 190 and hovered there for a year. Then morphed another 5 pounds and now average around 178-185 depending on habits and miles. My shoulders no longer look like a man who uses his body as a fulcrum, but I’m also not a T-Rex cyclist build either. We are defined by our lifestyles, our individual human condition and some combustible drive we can both describe but cannot define, however through our efforts and the collection of people we attempt to put words and images to it.
We all need structure, we are creatures of habit, integrity and influences. A collidiscope of images, experiences and people. I have learned to be loved, to allow a few good quality people into my life, to be soft and rounded. We all have acts in life and if we’re lucky the number climbs with age and we become muses and thespians, characters and friends. A bike and a drive brought me these people, a four hundred dollar two wheeled machine allowed me to stretch my legs and shed a skin I hated and never felt like myself in, that two wheeled machine allowed me to tramp down the divide, a couple podiums, pondered life in the aspens and thin air, but more importantly brought a wave of souls to me that I’m inspired by, encouraged, defeated by and laugh with, and days and nights are not lonely or misplaced now.
Some of the biggest pillars of my life have died, I feel a solace that I helped in some way, and that I was helped by a worn out bike that allowed me to leave death beds for mountains, unattended funerals to rivers and given the time to realize in effort of pedals turning over days to months. As a kid anxiously waking his tired father before day break on the only day he didn’t work, I’d make coffee, have the truck loaded and warmed up to becoming a balding, grey spattered bearded man reaching towards forty the thing my latest mentor and I agree on is the start line. There is no substitute for miles, for effort, for saddle time, for heart, lungs and soul. That the economics end to some degree on that damned line, you can look like a million bucks, but effort brings out the nature of who and what we are, I was surprised that him and I where dead on in that regard. He sat at the end of the table and waved a finger at me and said, “That’s exactly right JP” We both know you can’t fake it forever. That those with minimal hallways lead to the shortest corridors of perspective and places, those who seek gratification over gratitude.
In the morning we woke up around five, loaded up bikes and hit the shootout in Tucson, and he did what he does best. Boast of the hogs in front, playing on the feelings and emotions of those in the group and saying “I don’t know who those boys are” to saying yea, “That one is my turbo diesel, and that one’s my boy” I could hear pride and happiness in his voice, he too was alive, healthy and surrounded by people he’s always wanted, again, a person I would’ve thought I would never have anything in common with, the doctor and a mason, a masters and a laborer, but we’re the same on two wheels, pride went through my body and I cranked on the pedals with a smile, knowing I’ve reached a spot in life I’ve always wanted, and these situations and people where brought on by effort, bikes and honesty. A chain, some gears, a couple tires and something to slow you down, we can be as big or as little as we want to be in life. Even my relationship with my parents has greatly improved by realizing who we all are, that nothing will change that last name, but we can change the history and live out loud