Monday, April 16, 2012
I spotted the yellow and black jacket as I rounded the curve heading to the intersection of the Bill Riley Trail and the bypass to Gray's Lake. Almost always some form of yellow these bicycle jackets are. Better for visibility. Mine has faded to almost white, a homeless yellow and mercifully the zipper is dieing so I will need to replace it before next autumn. But there ahead of me was another biker enjoying the tailwind. I caught up with him at the intersection on Flagg.
It was an elderly gentleman on a Trek OCLV, 5200 or 5500. A quick glance at the fork and shifter/brake combo, a early to mid 90s vintage. Provision for a handlebar bag and requisite flashers adorn the carbon road bike. Probably bought it as his last new bike.
I asked him how the trail was. Mary's report from this morning was grim as were others. Trees and mud. Mary planned to take the streets home. He gave me the run down, the trail took a beating during Saturday's storm.
Then looking at him I popped the question. "Are you Leon?" He affirmed my query.
Leon Sanderson was among the first people Mary and rode with when we settled in Des Moines. We joined the Des Moines Cycle Club back in 1991 or 92. Since let our membership lapse for a variety of reasons but I never regretted belonging to DMCC. Leon was old back then and even older now but he is still rolling.
Back in those days we would join certain ride groups with DMCC and explore the area. This was a great way to learn how to get around the metro. Most of the trails were not connected back then. The Great Western Trail was not paved. The Raccoon River Valley Trail began outside of Waukee. Warren County was the place to ride for miles.
And Leon was at nearly every ride we attended. Mary and I would show up on a tandem pulling a Burley thinking that because it was a tandem we'd keep up because it was a tandem and tandem are faster. Wrong!!! But we learned the ropes soon enough.
The best ride we ever did with DMCC and Leon was the tailwind Century. they dropped us off in Missouri and we rode back to Des Moines. Reached the support truck about every hour so we could chow down on sandwiches and fruit and chips and chug a Mnt Dew.
Soon our hippie friends moved to Capital City and we rode with them instead of DMCC. Our membership expired. And on occasion we'd see Leon throughout the years.
Leon asked me if I was going to do the Mayor's Ride. I said no. Too many people. I dislike crowded roads with people who have not been on their bikes since Ragbrai although this year I think everyone has some riding under their Lycra belts. He said he planned to do 25 miles of the ride as part of the 80 miles he is doing. 80 miles on his 80th birthday. Damn. I hope I can do the same.
Godspeed, Leon. I hope and pray that the weather on Saturday is perfect for you. You will be one of the few who ever ride 80 miles on their 80th birthday. Mary and I may have to join you, tandem and all.