Tuesday, July 28, 2015
It Is Never Too Late
Bill Marcum introduced me to The Hold Steady on a spring trip to Moab back in 2003. Just the two of us. It was a big group trip that didn't quite pan out for everyone else involved, and the day before we were to leave it was just the two of us left with the ability to unplug all our stuff, drive 6 hours from Boulder to Moab, and ride our faces off for the entire weekend. We were an unlikely pair - Bill was 44 I think at the time, and I was 25, so generationally we were in different worlds, but we both said, screw it, if you're still in, I'm still in, and so we went to Moab together, just the two of us. I think I drove.
We stopped and rode The Ribbon outside of Grand Junction, a huge slickrock expanse about 3,000 feet above Junction that turns into some hairy single track, maybe the last time I rode the Ribbon actually, and when we got back to the car Bill put The Hold Steady's "Almost Killed Me" CD into my stereo and we drove the final hour out to Moab to camp.
He explained The Hold Steady to me succinctly "It's like half beat poetry and half rock n roll. He's not quite singing, but he's not exactly just screaming at you either."
Bill and I went on some pretty wild night rides together back then. Nederland. Moab. The first time I raced the 24 hours of Winter Park, it was with Bill. At 3 AM, he didn't arrive back from his lap on time, and I remember being sort of worried about him, but not really. He was a tough old bastard, the kind that Colorado makes. And when he finally rolled back into camp around dawn, his lights were completely shot, and he had all kinds of leaves and debris sticking out of his helmet, wild eyed, clearly having just undergone some kind of adventure in the dark that he couldn't quite articulate. "I don't think they counted that lap," he surmised.
It's no coincidence, I don't suppose, that I still crank up The Hold Steady as loud as I can when I drive somewhere to night ride. The wild eyed adventure in the dark that Bill was capable of at 44 years-old is something I still aspire to, now more than ever.
Interestingly, around this same time, Bill confided in me that he didn't think he had too many years of mountain biking left in him. It was all beginning to take a toll on his body. Again, this was 2003 or so, and Bill rode a steel Rocky Mountain blizzard hardtail with disc brakes. The beating that a bike like that delivered to a man's 44 year old skeleton while riding the ranches of the front range - White, Hall, Heil, Walker, etc - was adding up. We'd just finished riding White Ranch, coming down the old version of Mustang with all the drops, and he was patching up his knee in the parking lot. Indeed, at current course and speed, there was no way he would be riding singletrack in Colorado much past 50.
Flash forward a dozen years to today. Bill is, by my estimation, 56 years old. And he's still riding singletrack in Colorado. Conveniently, the bike industry made some pretty enormous strides in those 12 years, and replacing that 26 inch steel hardtail with a full suspension 29er that pretty much runs over anything without too much fuss has delivered Bill an extra two decades of riding, probably more. I talked to him just the other day, and he said he's actually riding better now than he has in a long time, maybe ever. If you could summarize all of the engineering, technology, materials, vision, time, money, effort, and everything else that the Bike industry has undergone in the past decade - the good stuff, anyway - and define it all in one user experience, it would be Bill dropping down Mustang a couple times/week all summer long and having more fun than ever.
That's the very nature of this grand night ride that we're all on together, this riding bikes and living life thing, and maybe more that: It Is Never Too Late.
On that note: The Blue Moon night ride is this Friday, 7/31. Departing from Flo Lakes at 630 PM, heading South by SouthEast for a loop of Rocky Hollow and then back. As lollipops go, I think this one is a solid five hours on mountain bikes, 100% delicious.
Get in touch with me if you're into it, need directions, need a ride, etc. I'll be leaving my house at 6, by car, with The Hold Steady cranked all the way up, up, up.