I commuted home last night and back in this morning, something I’ve done a number of times. Today was unique though. A few miles south of Longmont I was passed by a rider (that is NOT unique!) as I spun up the hill towards the intersection of 95th Street and Hwy 52. It took me a little by surprise as my mind had drifted off and I was a bit on auto-pilot and hadn’t looked in my rear view mirror for a minute or two. The rider was by me in a flash and continued on up the hill – and he was 1) on a mountain bike and 2) was wearing a rather large, red backpack.
As is usually the case, a rider passing me lights a fire deep in my belly. It brought my mind back on task and without direction, my legs started turning the pedals quicker and with a tad more force. The light at the intersection went red as the rider who passed me came upon it. That gave me a chance to catch up. When I rolled up kinda next to him, I couldn’t resist asking him if he planned to camp out when he got to his destination. He turned to me and gave me a big, warm smile and said, “No, but I suppose I could.” Shortly after that, the light turned green and off we went.
I stayed a respectful distance back — didn’t want him to think I was sucking his wheel. But, as we spun up to our top speed (it was slightly downhill and easy going) he glanced back and with his right hand signaled for me to take his wheel if I wanted. I shrugged, said “Sure!” and inched up to a good drafting spot. He was tall and very fit — as a friend of mine would say, he was “Easy on my eyes” — even from behind! He was riding that mountain bike as fast as I was riding Pogo — which was probably 18-20 mph. A very strong rider!
As luck would have it, the next light turned red as we approached it. We easily fell into conversation again and I learned quite a bit about him, his work and his family before the green light put an end to our chat. We didn’t talk much for the next few miles into Lafayette. There was a nice descent and then we climbed up a long hill where I fell off his wheel because he put an extra push in — thinking that he wasn’t going fast enough for ME! Huh!
That third light couldn’t have come soon enough – I was ready for a short breather! We picked up our conversation as if it had never stopped at the last light. Again, our exchange was very comfortable and we seemed to have lots in common. My new friend, Billy, was heading home to Louisville and would be leaving me there. I thanked him for the ‘pull’ and wished him well and encouraged him to “Be safe out there!”
As we started up again – I reflected on the last ten miles and how much I had learned about this individual over the course of waiting out stop lights. His name is Billy. Billy is a firefighter in Longmont (Station #6, the one near the Safeway on Pratt), he’s married with 3 young kids (he was taking them to music lessons when he got home). His wife doesn’t ride. Billy was brought up in the suburbs of Chicago but now he and his two sisters live out here. His parents, still live in Chicago, but they also have a place in Erie and split time between the two cities. His mom is 62 years old and both his parents are active. Oh, and Billy has done the Leadville 100 before and plans to do it again this year. He commutes to/from work on his mountain bike as much as he can.
Sheesh — that seems like an awful lot to learn about a complete stranger at three short lights. Of course, there’s something about cycling that just seems to open people up. This was certainly one of those cases. I’ll be on the lookout for a lean & mean cyclist with a red back pack on a mountain bike from now on!