Dave and I met two years earlier on the same ride from DC to Pittsburgh. This was his ninth time on the annual ride. My memory of him as a cyclist was that he was not the strongest, but had the stamina and drive to ride the entire route. Both of us were the last riders to reach Pittsburgh that year.
This year was different and Dave was sometimes among the first riders to reach camp each day. I’m 71 years old and Dave is about the same age. I didn’t think that it was possible to build endurance and strength at our age, so it was surprising to observe Dave’s performance given my past experience.
On the last day of our latest ride, Dave and I were among the top group to arrive in Pittsburgh. As we approached the city I was cranking along at 16 to 17 miles per hour and when I looked behind me Dave was right there. At one point he shouted something like, “You can’t get away from me!” It reminded my of the 1950s song “Beep Beep”:
While riding in my Cadillac, what, to my surprise,
A little Nash Rambler was following me, about one-third my size.
The guy must have wanted it to pass me up
As he kept on tooting his horn. Beep! Beep!
I’ll show him that a Cadillac is not a car to scorn.
I was motivated to keep up the pace and after some time I left him behind.
I reached Pittsburgh and the rendezvous point for the end of the ride ahead of him by a few minutes. When he arrived we began to talk and I realized by something that he said that he was riding an electric bike! It is a very stealthy electric by Trek with a relatively small battery and the motor in the bottom bracket. He had bought it several months before this ride. Dave said that it weighs about 45 pounds and offered to let me try it, which I was eager to do.
After a quick introduction to the controls, I pedaled down the trail. I must have laughed all the way because the sensation was fantastic. Up I slight incline, the motor kicked in to keep my effort and speed constant as I pedaled. It is an electric assist design rather than full-time electric. On the return ride, I began up a rather steep incline and pushed the button one or two times to increase the assist. I zoomed right up, applying the same effort that I used on the flat, giggling all the way.
When I returned to the parking lot, Dave and I talked a bit more and I learned things about him that I didn’t know or at least didn’t remember from our previous meeting. In the past nine years he has had a heart bypass, four stents, and a mechanical heart valve implanted. This remarkable person wants to stay active and the electric assist bicycle gives him that opportunity because he has much more control over exertion and heart rate. Everybody on the ride has internal drive that makes them strive for life. For me, Dave epitomizes that striving.
As I departed, I shook Dave’s hand and said, “See you next year.” Dave replied, “We’ll see.” At first I though that was a very fatalistic response. I came to realize that this is a man living every day as though it was going to be his last. I hope I have the pleasure of being with him again next year.