As I ran my morning run last Friday, I passed a neighbor who appeared to be packing for an outing. I slowed, stepped off the sidewalk and whispered, “Are you packing to go somewhere exciting?” I didn’t see the bike rack on the hitch of the car … or I would have KNOWN they were going someplace fun! As it turned out, Cathy and her husband were heading to North Georgia for a road bike event. We chatted a bit and realized we could be in the same vicinity. I knew what weather was expected for the weekend, so I knew they would have a grand weekend. I wished them well and let them finish packing while I headed up the hill to my house.
Once we arrived in the mountains, I realized that Cathy’s husband would be riding in a bike race that Stone has actually ridden in the past. There is more than one choice in how to participate. There is a competitive race and a non-competitive event with a shorter route and a longer route. The longest route, Six Gap, is 104 miles long with a total climb in elevation of 11,200 feet. Honestly, I can’t even comprehend this information. The Three Gap ride is half the distance, but still grueling. Stone wants to do the race next year and even mentioned riding a tandem bike. I’m thinking I couldn’t even WALK that far, much less RIDE a bicycle that far … though, an tandem would certainly ease the burden.
Since Stone, Jet, Joy and I hiked so very far on Saturday afternoon, we gave second thoughts to heading to another trail. When Stone and I tossed our ideas back and forth about how we should spend our last morning of the trip, Stone shared that he r.e.a.l.l.y wanted to go watch some of the ride. Since the race traveled upon the road that the campground was located upon, we made less than a half mile trek to the entrance of the park and set up right beside the road to be a cheerteam.
I’ve run road races, ridden road bike events and participated in a few triathlons.
I’ve practiced for concerts and performed.
Because this event winds around the ledges of steep mountains, there isn’t much space for spectators. Since the area is sparsely populated, there aren’t droves of people lining the streets to cheer on participants. For me, this meant our involvement was all the more special and encouraging for riders.
The campground was around a half-way point between two official rest areas where riders can stop, stretch their legs, use the bathroom and grab a drink/ bite to eat. I certainly can’t be sure, but I expect that our little crowd was one of the few cheering along this particular stretch of road. The photo below is one of the rest stop that is next on the route after our campground.
We spent a good two to three hours clapping, cheering and encouraging. “Way to go!” “Keep it up!” “Looking good!” “Super job!” Jet stood and offered “high-fives” for much of the time. We saw almost as many female riders as we did male, but the exciting participants in our view were those few teens who were pedaling along with a parent or friend.
As we got ready to make our way to lunch, a rider stopped to ask us if we were a SAG wagon. SAG wagons are vehicles that travel along the route and offer assistance to people who may have run into problems with their bikes … or their bodies. While we weren’t part of the SAG wagon team, Stone queried and found that this lady had to leave her boyfriend a mile back. He was cramping excessively and needed to get to the next rest stop. Stone quickly jumped into his vehicle prepared to offer a Gatorade and a granola bar and a ride for bike and bicyclist to help. The kids and I walked back to the camp to gather our picnic supplies and prepare for lunch while Stone offered assistance.
For me to watch a man eagerly step forward and ask, “What can I do to help?” is almost out of my realm of experience and understanding. I am thankful to have a friend who is eager to be an encourager, who wants to help others and who is energetic to go out of his way to do for others. I am also perplexed … after years of spending my life stifling the offer to help … feeling guilty for wanting to reach out … feeling like there “must be something wrong with me” because I always want to help ….. it’s an odd thing to find there is someone in my life who shares that affinity for generosity and who not only likes me for who I am
but is actually built very much like me.
feel unworthy ….
of his friendship.
And I have wondered, “Does everybody go through this? … Do others push away from the good and gravitate towards the difficult … because they feel they aren’t ‘worthy’ of being blessed with something easy, comfortable, lovely?”
Upon Stone’s return, we headed for lunch. We decided to sit on a dock near the lake for our picnic. Riding across the dam is probably one of the few flat stretches of road that the bikers experienced for many miles. There was a group of six or eight kayakers who hung out inside the water beside the bridge and cheered for riders as they crossed. It was so neat to watch and be a part of people encouraging others. And it was wonderful to have such a grand view while we dined on homemade pimento cheese and crackers, fresh grapes and a single, cold Fat Tire beer…. an appropriate beverage for an afternoon flooded with bikes.
Even as we left town around 4:00 in the afternoon, there were still a few lone riders that were making their way to the end. They began before 8:00 am and had been riding all day.
So, we waved, gave a thumbs up and encouraged them
as we left town.
I haven’t had a chance to ask my neighbor how the cycling event went for him. I’m sure Cathy and her husband both had a wonderful weekend.
I wonder … if I might actually be riding in that event next year?
Only God knows and time will tell.