Written by Patrick Stelte - December 2018

el presidente

This past Thanksgiving, mom and I made our annual holiday pilgrimage to South Bend to celebrate with the Kramer family, friends that we have known since my childhood. On the way up, we reminisced over past events and people that connect our lives to a timeline of personal history that anchors our sense of being. I spent my youth having adventures with the Kramers and followed them from Fort Wayne to Huntington and eventually South Bend. There were the backyard wiffle ball games that had a garage roof as a home run fence. I took my first airplane ride in their living room, blindfolded while standing on a 2 x 4 rocking up and down with sound effects and flight commands. The year I turned ten, Uncle Bob dressed up as a werewolf in theatrical make up for Halloween and chased us around a dark countryside. Many of my best childhood memories came from my association with the Kramers.

As mom and I traversed the past, I noticed the roads dissecting US 30 and began to think of all the memories I had cycling each and every cross road up to Columbia City and beyond. I thought, “We used this road and that road for a Saturn course.” “There is the short-cut to Yellow River Road.” I thought about a very hot holiday club ride where we diverted to the gas station at West Countyline Road to rest and fill up empty water bottles for the last few miles back to Sweetwater Sound. I remember Amy Woods trying to stay composed while Steve Voderman looked every bit of the weather. Further up the road, Wilby’s Gas and Goodies in Pierceton is where Ryan, an out-of-towner, exclaimed to the group that it was the hardest ride he had so far that year and we were only half way.

After a bit, I began to think about my first serious attempt at cycling and my mentor Mike Beck. Mike was an urban explorer par excellence. He put me through more heart-pounding experiences than I thought I could tolerate. Ever try riding the large stones between two railroad tracks? Trying doing it between Sherman and Columbia Street not knowing when a train was coming. We rode the Franke horse trails when cyclists were not allowed and dodge our share of urine puddles. Mike took me to Gnaw Bone Boys and Girls Camp and we got lost on Brown County trails near sunset. When he moved to Los Angles, I visited and rubbed his back tire while screaming down a gavel path in El Moro Canyon. Mike loved his mountain bike. I remember selling my ’65 Chevy Impala and buying a Centurion Le Mans which I used to win my first race - a biathlon with a woman I had a crush. That was also the bike I was on for my first serious crash, the day my grandmother died. My first aluminum bike was purchased to celebrate college graduation. My Cannondale Super-Six was purchased with insurance money from my second serious crash and my Giant was purchased after I saw it at a close out sale while looking for a new helmet after my third serious crash. The memories flood when the gates are open.

Earlier this year, mom was diagnosed with dementia. She is happiest in the memories of the bygone. The last few years, our conversations on the way to the Kramers also include remembering names to familiar faces. My years on the bike have given me more memories than I can remember, but mom’s illness gives me pause to cherish what I can remember. Coming up in January, the club will officially celebrate fifty years. This is a time to join others and converse in all things cycle-y and acknowledge the past, honor the present and talk about the future. Join me on Friday, January 18th for a night to remember. RSVP