|Ragbrai 2011, Lake Anita Park. Joe Bridgeman is in the background repairing a flat tire and Eric is posed to pop Joe's inner tube with a cigarette.|
I always thought he would be the first of my friends to pass away but it was an extreme shock when I received the news that he was hospitalized. I did not expect this. I thought heart attack would be the cause. He had lost a lot of weight, over 100 lb in the past few years. Eric was back to cycling weight. He gave up junk food. As usual, the optimism I possess led me to grief. I've seen it before. Hospital scare. Things improving. Date to go home. And then the setbacks sandbag that hope. Damn, I, we thought you would pull through.
I met Eric through the bicycle community of Des Moines, Iowa. I believe it was through the early version of BikeIowa.com called CIBROC before Facebook killed online forums. His handle was Pharoutman. Probably met him in the flesh on some bicycle ride/event about that time. Those memories which should have been preserved are lost to me. It seems like we were friends forever. If you think he was an obnoxious crude rude beast of a man in recent years you should seen him back then. He settled down.
Settled down indeed. Tonia, his life partner, came with two children for Eric to practice his fathering skills on. Not very often an easy feat to care for other's children yet he did. Even assembled a Barbie Dream house for Ryleigh, and helped Dylan cope with his father's untimely death among other things. And like most father daughter relationship, Ryleigh would call him Erica just to get on his nerves.
Eric was part of my 40th birthday celebration/ride. At The High Life he bought me 40 tator tots wrapped with bacon. The server questioned thus and he repeated himself. No half measures in celebration. I of coursed shared with everyone. That was 14 years ago this month.
Eric was one of millions that had issues with alcohol. He spent time at The Fort for his third OWI. That's when he started bicycling. He never had a driver's license since. He tried once but the State could not find the record of him completely alcohol treatment/education. He did not pursue it. He had a bicycle. We was a hardcore bicycle commuter first from the south side of Des Moines and later Altoona. His ride of choice was the venerable Trek 520.
Eric was a strong rider. I recall riding with him from Richard's in Altoona to Elkhart. He smoked my ass.
We rode a lot together. Our most epic ride was from Newton to Grinnell at night for The Fall Equinox ride. Highway 6 had just been repaved and freshly striped. A huge harvest moon hung in the sky. We stopped at a house with a large bonfire and talked to people we did not know and exchanged beer for jerky. Later in Kellogg we stopped at a tavern and upon leaving a woman from the bar pulled her shirt up and exposed her breasts at us. Eric said it best, "it was two slices of pepperoni above a slab of bacon." Then back on the road he engaged the turbo and left us in the dust. Show off. Loaded touring bikes we rode. The Human Bike In was his favorite.
|The Back 40, Ragbrai 2011. Our tandem and Eric's beloved Trek 520|
And so his bicycling end. Not sure when. His job in Altoona ended and found a new job in Ames that he held until this spring. No more bicycle commuting. Several years of getting a ride to and fro Ames. He hated this and was contemplating finding a job closer to home.
Yet the real killer of his cycling was the replacement of his 520. A braze-on rack eyelet broke in Grinnell if my memory serves. Could have just moved the rack to the fender braze on and lived happily ever after. Crabb never cared for fenders, much like me, "just get in the damn way." But it bothered him. He took the bike in and warrantied the frame because they could not fix the braze on. He got a new frame. He was given the root beer colored 520. He added a generator hub and light to it, a great upgrade. But it was never completely dialed in properly for him. I don't think he really took the time to do this. Crabby would confide in me that he wish he would have kept the green 520. Now with his favorite steed gone his desire to ride lowered.
The video below is from our SAG out of Atlantic. Eric was explaining "off route.'
Honestly, I do not recall if we ever rode together after 2011. I kept a fairly detailed bicycle ride log stretching back to 1994. No mention of riding with Eric after 2011. But I tried. My requests to ride with him are as numerous as the sand in the seas. Turned down every time. Year after year falling on deaf ears. Excuse after excuse. Shame, really, as he lived near the Gay Lea Wilson/Four Mile Creek Trails. Then the weight gain. He got big. And the weight loss, he was at riding weight. If it was not his condition or time commitment it was his bike. Tires need air. Need new tires, cannot find my biking stuff ect ect. No was always the answer. I was not alone in attempting to get him to ride again. Steve tried. He even brought over a truck full of bikes and said pick one and we'll hit the trail. No dice. Always some excuse. He never wanted to ride.
I would ride to his place. It was not very far away from mine. Before he stopped riding he'd ride to mine, usually a stop from his way back from Cumming, Iowa. I found an entry on my bike log that noted that we rode to Cumming together and sat at the Lean To on the last Saturday of Ragbrai 2010. Bob Moural was with us. I remember the blue sky and noted that no matter where you were when Ragbrai was on if you were riding with friends you too were on the Brai. Another time I forget the circumstances but he could not make it home so he slept on out back deck. "Too filthy to sleep inside" he said. Our last great adventure was the Tool concert at Wells Fargo. I picked him up and we started at the downtown Hy Vee Market Grill for the great Happy Hour specials and I needed food. He never had been there. Then The Royal Mile for Handle Bar Happy Hour. His first appearance to cycling community in years.. The Lift was next, my haunt and much better service than the Mile. Finally the venue. He had never been to The Well before! I felt like King Farouk as HST once said.
A Cry For Help, A Hint of Anesthesia
Should have seen this coming. His face was red and veiny last year. Signs of high drinking. I'd like to think that the loss of his job was the final proverbial nail but it should have gone the other way. Must have been in April of this year. He immediately had interviews, some places were extremely close to his home, within biking range. But no joy, nothing worked out. I told him he had an excellent chance to start riding again, lose more weight, clean the body and mind up. Buy that Salsa he wanted since he hated the 520 now. When I left my job in 2007 I took the summer off and rode like no other. Lost weight and righted myself. But this was a lost opportunity for Crabb. Depression hit hard and he hit the bottle hard at night electing to sit in his garage with the door open at night drinking vodka and Fireball until he passed out. He'd go to bed when Tonia left for work. Like a meteor crashing into the earth he went down in flames. By the time he sought medical help it was to late. Irreversible damage. 6 weeks in Lutheran, Mercy and Mercy Physical rehab. The rehab center gave him a release date. Just had to be strong enough to walk up the steps to his home. He never regained that strength and the liver never came back online. In the end his blood pressure dropped dangerously low and he passed away on a Sunday.
|Eric's new 520 on the High Trestle. He used this photo to sell the bike. I'm glad he got to visit that bridge.|
Even though he most likely never rode past 2013 he considered himself a cyclist. He was on the numerous Face Book cycling forums offering advice or raising hell. At one point he posted a photo of his new 520 at the High Trestle for a sale advert. At least he made it there and got to see it. Tonia asked me how we could bring up his bicycling for the funeral service. Place his bike next to the coffin just like Logan's service. So Mark and I set about cleaning his bike for the service. The first thing I did was air up the tires. rear first. Then the tube exploded. Eric was right, his tires were shit! Fortunately there were tubes available although I had to call Mark for levers. When I resumed pumping I only put enough air in them to make the bike look proper for display. Just here to make it pretty for static display. It was Crabb's desire that I get the bike and in the advent of his death. When Eric's parents brought the 520 over on the rainy Friday that he was buried, the front front tire was flat! That's Kenda Qwests for you, good for the cheap short term but not the long haul especially when sitting in a garage for almost a decade. I put an old rugged set of Marathons retired from my single speed (10,000 miles on them no flats but one is basically bald) on it (sing this line to the tune of Ol' Rugged Cross, Old rugger Marathons"...). That night Mary and I rode to El Fogon in West Des Moines. Just lowered the saddle and rode off. How long did this bike sit?
For all his faults, for his rude and boorish behavior in life and online, Eric was among the most cherished friends I had in my adult years. Others would attest to this as well. He call or text every Friday night to see how I was doing, just to check up on me. He would do this with others as well. In a world of vapid people and false friends it hurts to lose a true friend. Fare thee well, Commander Crabb.
After Thought: The Crabb Ride
I am planning a bike ride in his memory. The destination will be the Haverhill Social Club. I would like it to be from Collins to Haverhill and back. 40 miler. Visit his grave and pay our respects and then to the social Club. Stops along the way. Flat ride. Maybe the Heart of Iowa trail could be used. Haverhill Social Club has been in our discussions for years. He wanted to make that a riding destination or part of a ride. Even on his death bed he mentioned it. Mary and I scouted a potential route. It would most likely be in September.
|BRR 2011. Photo credit Catt Carr|