Cycling has been a lifelong obsession for me, but it may not have become so if it weren't for David and Lorrie Owens, two teachers in my high school. I'm not sure why they decided to "adopt" me, but fortunately they did, and they bought me my first ten-speed. It wasn't just any old bike-it was a bright orange Eddy Merckx, outfitted in Campy parts, with a sticker of Eddy and World Champion stripes decorating the seat tube. God, a bike just didn't get any cooler than that. On weekends, David and Lorrie would take me on rides around the bucolic Connecticut countryside, rolling past horse farms and through colonial towns. They bribed me into longer rides by planning routes that stopped at Carvel soft-serve ice cream shops, where I always got a vanilla cone dipped in fast-freezing chocolate. I still remember my sense of accomplishment when I survived my very first century with them and my sense of excitement when they took me on my very first bicycle camping trip in Maine.
I commuted to class all through college and grad school on that orange Eddy Merckx, and won my first bike race too. Eventually, I upgraded to a custom bike with more gears, but I held onto Eddy as a spare. One day, I realized that I hadn't ridden the bike in a long time and I decided then to donate it to the Team Oregon junior cycling program in Portland. A few years ago, I bumped into one of the coaches at the MBSEF ski swap down here. He remembered Eddy and told me that many of the kids had started their racing careers on the bike. Eddy's probably retired now, but it's nice to know how that old orange bike passed on the passion.
In 1991, I was living in a small one-bedroom in a rather seedy apartment building in downtown Colorado Springs. The rent was $235/month, and at one point one of the tenants was arrested for murder, but it did have a view of Pikes Peak. Colorado is where I fell in love with the mountains, watching the sunrise illuminate the majestic peak every morning. A young musician named Laura lived in the neighboring unit and we became friends amidst our humble surroundings. When I moved back to California a year later, we lost touch.
Recently, however, I received this note out of the blue:
"I just thought about you today for some reason and thought I would check Facebook. You definitely got me started hiking and I've climbed 36 Fourteeners so far, as well as Mt. Rainer. I remember that you talked me into hiking Pikes Peak and loaned me your pack. I know your influence probably doesn't seem like much to you, but your encouragement to start hiking Fourteeners and also to go and adopt Heidi had a huge effect on me personally and professionally. I've been doing pet therapy with my seniors for the last 17 years and am now on my fourth dog. Heidi became a registered therapy dog and went to work with me every day for almost 9 years. The residents loved her. She also was an amazing mountain climber and I'll bet she summited at least 20 peaks with me."
Wow, how can that not make your day? Can you remember someone who inspired your love for the outdoors? Maybe you should Facebook them and let them know.
GIRLS GO OUTSIDE
Here is a great opportunity to keep the karma flowing. Girls Go Outside is a local non-profit that creates outdoor adventures for middle school girls, with the goal of instilling confidence and empowering them to make a difference in their world. Summer programs include activities such as rock climbing, river rafting, backpacking, horseback riding, beach exploration and community service projects. During the school year, GGO is running "Girls Go Climbing", a one-on-one mentoring program using rock climbing as a tool to connect middle school girls and women climbers in the Bend community.
"The mentors commit 50-plus hours of volunteer time over the 12-week session and have the opportunity to not only share their passion for climbing but also make a huge impact on the life of a middle school girl in our community," says Jeanna Ozyck, GGO Director. If you are interested in getting involved, visit www.girlsgooutside.org.