Last weekend, my wife, son and I participated in the Scenic Shore 150. We rode in honor of Gayle, my mother-in-law, who died in 2011 from complications associated to leukemia. It was good to meet other people who were riding in honor of their loved ones and friends who have dealt with, or are dealing with, cancer. It’s even better to meet people like Bill (who is pictured above), someone who has survived cancer 3 times.
And, it’s good to do something about it. In this case, riding our bikes to raise resources and awareness.
There’s nothing fun about installing a new roof. It’s expensive, it’s loud, you have strangers walking on the house, there’s unforeseen added expenses–no fun. But every 25 years or so, it’s necessary.
I would much rather spend money on bike riding adventures. For the cost of a roof, I could spend an entire summer cycling through Europe. But I can’t look at it that way. I need to remember that it’s good to have a home to go to when you’re done with a long ride.
Yesterday, friends and family of Matt Stachelski shared a bike ride to honor his memory. We rode up to the Estabrook Beer Garden, shared some beverages and snacks, and then held a remembrance, gathering in the shade of a tall oak tree to share stories of our time with him. I only knew a few people at the remembrance, because most of the folks represented different facets of his life that I was not part of. There were his friends from grade-school who were still his friends up until the end. His co-workers and professors. People who didn’t spend much time with him, but people who were nonetheless impacted by his generous spirit. And then there were members of his family. Sarah, his sister, who read the beautiful eulogy at Matt’s memorial service stood with her brother, Andy, and listened to everyone’s collected memory of Matt. At the end, Matt’s mom shared her gratitude for having Matt in her life, how it’s still difficult, every day, to not have him be physically present.
I doubt Matt knew how much of an impact he had on the people he spent time with. He wasn’t the kind of person who would track impact; he just lived his life and was the person he was supposed to be. That’s why we all enjoyed him so much.
Please join us next year, when we’ll once again take an afternoon to remember Matt.
A year ago, I decided to establish a living will. I didn’t want to create an estate plan or specify what people should do if I were diagnosed with a terminal condition. I just wanted to make sure my ashes are scattered in Kissing Meadow, located along the John Muir Mountain Bike Trail in the Southern Kettle Moraine Forest, about an hour’s drive from my home in Milwaukee. It’s my favorite trail to ride, and when I ride it, I always stop to sit on the bench on the edge of the meadow. Hawks and turkey vultures are always circling. In the summer months, purple and yellow wildflowers fill the rolling field with color and scent. I like the idea of my body being part of this place. I like the idea of Sue, or Kait or Evan visiting the meadow, to sit on the bench that is inscribed: In memory of all the trails we walk together. It also makes sense that my ashes are scattered near this trail since most of my bike-related near-death experiences have happened there. I’m a better rider now and don’t go over the bars nearly as often as I used to. Still, it makes sense to scatter ashes at that place where you recognize the frailty of life. It also makes sense to scatter ashes at that place where one feels most alive.
My friend Jackie asked me to do a ride with her last weekend in Colorado, The Triple Bypass. I thought it would be a hoot; it ended up being much more than I bargained for. We climbed 3 Rocky Mountain passes: Vail Pass (10,560 ft.), Swan Mountain, Loveland Pass (11,990 ft.) and Juniper Pass (11,140 ft.). And, we had to descend those passes too. One descent was 50 minutes–50 minutes of just going downhill.
What was the moral of our story? That it’s good to ride your bike, and the more you ride, the more “good” it is.
Here’s a photo of my beautiful wife enjoying her hammock. It’s where she reads books, takes naps, plays with the dog–all the important things. It’s easy to love my wife when she’s in the hammock because it enables her to be herself. No worries about work, because she does not bring the laptop to the hammock. No worries about the kids, because they can’t fit in the hammock. And no worries about me, because I leave her alone when she’s in her hammock. It’s her portable sanctuary, and extension of her best self.
When Kait and Evan graduated from high school, we gifted them each with hammocks. It’s a metaphor for “just hangin’ around,” a way of saying “Don’t work too hard in college.”
If you don’t have a hammock, you should think about it. REI has good deals. All you need to do is find a couple of trees to hang it from.
This morning, I’m on Whidbey Island, just northwest of Seattle, spending some time with my good friends Denny and Suzanne. Denny and I are going to go on a bike ride in a bit, so we fueled up with some amazing pancakes, sausages, and fresh fruit. The pancakes tasted healthy, which doesn’t seem quite right when it comes to pancakes.