Yesterday was the final day for the 2015 Tour de France, the remaining riders crossed the finish line in Paris and enjoyed well deserved champagne and respect from cyclists and cycling fans throughout the world. I too finished my tour de france yesterday, no not the professional race but a satisfying day on my bike that left me with a wide smile.
I have been enjoying those satisfying days on the bike for more than 40 years, and riding in July always allows my mind to wander to the greatest race as I glide across the road with only my spinning gears and wind in my face. It has been that way since I had my 5th birthday party and removing my training wheels was the present that I remember vividly. Freedom and flow wrapped in a fantastic machine, just waiting to be unleashed. Many birthdays passed and bikes came and went, but it wasn't until I was about 13, that a real change happened.
My classmate, Carrie Andrew and her mom Sharon who had cousins/ suffering through Cystic Fibrosis, held a charity cycling event, The CF Bike-A-Thon. It was held on the Parker High School dirt cinder track and we would raise $$ for CF research and treatment on a per lap basis. This was my first tour de france, I had read magazines and newspapers and books. This time would be riding, not reading. I had pretty good bike building skills by then, and assembled garage sale purchases and thrown away road frame into a pretty ratty, but quite functional bike. I canvased my neighborhood for sponsors, if you weren't home when I went by the first time, I would be back knocking and looking for pledges, until I had asked everyone I ran into for help.
Then came ride day. I was determined and excited and ready to turn in my pledge form and ride. I was thrilled at the quick start and the laps quickly added up on the 1/4 mile track. 10, 20, 40, 60. I had "it". My tour de france moment, racing around lap after lap with the wind in my face. The kids on BMX bikes slowly tired, took breaks, and fell into the infield. I couldn't get enough, everything seemed right in the world. After an hour the track was emptying out and the riders laying in the grass increased. I was determined. They kept track of my lap count and I was nearing 100. It seemed like perfection, a full satisfying effort and the longest ride I had ever completed, 100 laps - 25 miles. I hadn't completed the most laps, there was an adult cyclist with a real touring bike that did more, but it didn't dampen what I felt.
There was the fullness of effort, and satisfaction of lending a hand to those in need. I was hooked. I paraded around my pledge sheet to my sponsors with pride, they were often quite shocked about the the tenacity of a 13 year old, but the lap tally sheet was the proof and they gladly paid. That was a PERFECT MOMENT, and likely why I remember it clearly even after other memories have faded. A special thanks to Carrie, Charity and Sharon who organized my first tour de france on that dusty dirt track.
Now at 45 years old, I am still find joy in cycling and have done a large variety of events over the years. But very few bring me back to that warm and dusty day on the track, except one. That is the Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Fat Tire Ride. It is largely an old stagecoach route of about 65 miles on dirt paths and dirt roads. It isn't the most difficult ride I have done, but it isn't a walk in the park either, it takes most of the day and finishes close to Tusayan in tall pines where cold beer flows freely. This ride yields PERFECT MOMENTS every time I do it. It is the people who ride, the people who volunteer, the sponsors that foot the expenses, and benefiting organization that is the thoughtful steward of the funds raised. The fatigue fades as the body recovers, but the goodness stays and lingers and is shared to many who need it.
You can read about the ride history here. But it was started by accident by well meaning cyclists, who became event organizers by default when they saw all the good they could do with the help of the local organization, Marine League Charities.
This year the event has grown to 200 cyclists with a goal to raise $60,000. Marine League Charities fund many northern Arizona efforts to support Veteran Families with injured Veterans, Toys for Tots for kids in Havasupai. They are the compassionate Americans that reach out and deliver Hope to those in their community and I am proud to support them. I know this is a long post, but I wanted to include why this matters to me, and include a request to Share and Support my efforts.
I am riding on August 1st, and trying to collect any cash/check donations by Friday. You can also contribute online here, and add a message "I'm supporting Eric Brandt". Even sharing my story on social media platforms is a helpful as more virtual "door knocking" the better. We live in a very compassionate and giving country, I embrace all the kindness that Americans show to each other in many forms of charitable acts. Thanks for your support in prayers, spreading the word, and your giving.