Pleasure Away from the Bike
Written by Patrick Stelte - October 2018
Almost five years ago, I spent a long New Year’s Day traveling from a family visit in California to Fort Wayne. My day began on a quiet, crisp, sunny drive past frosty barren fields outside Sacramento. The holiday personnel at the airport was short-staffed and de-icing planes for take-off had pushed my departure back an hour. My late arrival in Minneapolis and subsequent race to the next gate to make my connecting flight ended in complete frustration as my airline chose not to wait a few extra minutes. The gate attendant offered two options: wait a day for the next flight or take the next flight to Kalamazoo and rent a car to get home. Mulling the dreary choices, another traveler in the same situation approached me and offered a third option: travel with her to Kalamazoo and her family would meet us there and take us to Fort Wayne. At times, comradeship appears when I least expect it and I agreed to tag along.
On the way home and several hours into making new friends, the brother in-law of my rescuer asked what I did for a living as I rode shotgun to his stewardship. I talked about my history of working in a hospital and the library. His matter-of-fact response, “You’re a servant.” His tone wasn’t condescending, but the judgement was undeniable. He stated that we were opposites. He put himself first in his business dealings and social structure. Although I spent two hours talking to him, this snippet has stuck with me. I was raised by my nurse mother to believe that doing for others has great rewards and long lasting satisfaction. Now into middle-age, I have no regrets following this path. I am an only child and it is almost inherent to emphasize my needs and put myself first. I can still do that readily. However, my upbringing has helped me achieve yin yang to the point that balance is the most important aspect in my life.
Every year as club president, I have hosted the 3RVS Jersey Appreciation Ride for club members and every year a handful of people ask me why I would rather cook than ride. I have a quick response explaining how much I enjoy doing for others. The look I usually get is quizzical. I think by now, most everyone in the club knows how much I love group riding and reaching for the edge of the envelope. When I began riding with 3RVS in 2007, all I wanted to do was improve my fitness and meet a few people that enjoyed cycling the way I do. A decade later, the club has evolved into my main social community. It wasn’t planned, but here I am. I need to cook for my cycle mates to balance my duality and maintain my social fabric. I need to be a ride leader to counter my instincts of competition. I have found satisfaction guiding the club, welcoming new riders and continually pushing 3RVS forward. Without doing for others, I cannot find the deep satisfaction of a well-spent ride, grinding a pace that propels the senses to remember and reflect afterward. Simply put, to maintain my community, I cannot have one without the other.
At this year’s Jersey Ride, sixty-three club members showed up to enjoy their bikes and my cooking. Add in a few who came later to socialize and eat and the count was seventy. I couldn’t have pulled off such a task without the help of Christine Lines, Jade Armstrong and Roiann Smolinski. They are treasures to the club who have helped on numerous 3RVS rides this year. That day, we were comrades away from the bike, sharing a different perspective with the same end result: enjoying a cycling fraternity.
Occasionally, I think about that ride home from Kalamazoo. I did not, for a second, feel ashamed for being called a servant. To the contrary, I felt a sadness for my companion. He is missing out on one of the deepest connections to being human.