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Sunday, January 04, 2015

It Was a Helluva Funeral

We lost a great one when Joel Dyke died in a freak accident last weekend. It seems impossible, I still can't comprehend an accident he wouldn't be able to laugh off. The slide show at his memorial included plenty of road rash shots that testify to his record of invincibility.

That cliché, to know him is to love him? Yeah, he was that guy.

Chasm, the guy who organizes Street Cred, one of KC's premier alleycat events, nailed it when he said Joel was a total dick for dying.

No formal church service for this one, though. Not Joel's style, not Michelle's either. Michelle wanted a group ride to kick off the memorial.

It was around 35ºF and raining when I left the house to ride out to the start. I'm a pretty hard core, all-weather cyclist, and I gotta say I don't automatically think bicycle when it's 35ºF and raining. But Joel would have approved. He would have liked it even better if we'd gotten six or ten inches of snow, he loved riding in the elements.

I thought, given the weather, there might be a couple dozen riders for this, but when I got to the Trek Store where it started, the parking lot was overflowing with riders. I'm not great at estimating crowds, but the herd riding down Merriam Lane must have covered a mile or better.

200 riders? 300 riders? Something like that, yeah, it was a thing. Cars that had to stop to make way for us, they weren't even pissed off, they were just astonished to see so many bikes riding in such shitty weather. They'd call out, 'What is this?' And we'd call back, 'A funeral procession,' and I don't think it made more sense after they heard that answer.

Corinna said she'd been on a memorial ride that had maybe twice as many riders but when I asked if it was freezing rain, she was like, well, now, it was summertime.

This couple-three-hundred folks, these were I think almost all riders who actually knew Joel. I fell completely the fuck apart riding down Merriam Lane realizing that. When I married Corinna, planning the wedding, the ethic I tried to follow as Andy Warhol's funeral, which I'd once heard described by a society page writer as the best party he'd ever been to. I was riding along thinking, I don't know if Andy Warhol had this many friends coming in, and I'm not sure his mourners were as eclectic.

The ride passed 34th Street, which was where I thought we'd go over the hill to get to downtown KCK where the official destination was.

I thought, are we going downtown? Well, sort of. We went through the West Bottoms, riding gravel, mud, train tracks, and whatnot. My friend Jill was on her carbon fiber Madone, not the only roadie in attendance either. I don't think she'd ever ridden on gravel, but like I say, Joel loved to ride on gravel, mud, snow, anything. And no whining allowed.

I congratulated Jill on being an official cyclocross rider now.

When we got to the Jack Reardon convention center, there was a memorial service in a big ballroom. It was standing room only, with a slideshow of Joel's life, hot chocolate and coffee, and a chance for us all to get up and eulogize Joel. I couldn't do it. I wanted to, but I couldn't.

I had thought of Joel stories the whole week. The time I stopped by his house hoping to borrow a wheel after breaking a spoke and he just repaired my wheel instead, refused payment, just fixed it on the spot. Or all the times I saw him at Friz on the way home from work, or the dinner party he and Michelle threw last November and how I wished we'd had them over in return by now. Or the time he talked about being vegetarian for seven years and then grabbing a hot dog, marveling that it was meat in the form of a stick and scarfing it down.

Or the time I referred to the Iditarod as the 'Idiot Ride,' and he took offense, saying, 'They're not idiots!' He didn't mush sled dogs, but he did co-found the Dirty Kanza 200, he did sign up for TransIowa (a gravel grinder spanning 340 miles with a 34 hour time limit), so signing up for the Iditarod made fundamental sense to him, he liked to test himself in extreme ways.

But my brain kind of blanked out all those stories when we were in the service and were asked to come up and tell Joel stories. I remembered the spoke repair, but that seemed too small to sum up what it was to know the man.

And as F.C. and others got up and shared theirs, I was absolutely in shambles, bawling. If I can't make it through their Joel stories, how the hell can I share mine up there? I wish I'd been able to but it just didn't seem possible in the moment.

A time like that, you want to share because you want to tell people, 'Listen, this guy was fucking fantastic and you need to know just how fantastic,' but of course the rest of the people in the room are feeling the same thing, wanting you to know how fantastic he was.

After the convention center, there was a potluck alcoholocaust in Joel's memory at the house. It was bittersweet in every way, great to get the whole sick crew together, sucks what it took for it to happen.

And I should explain about the birdfinger.

So many pictures of Joel he has his big, beautiful middle finger up. And a big grin on his face. A kid who was going around trying to take pictures for posterity almost didn't want to take our picture when we gave the salute until I told him, relax, this is Joel for 'I love you.'

All in all, as the song goes, it was a helluva funeral.

Mass quantities of food were brought for the grief buffet and similar quantities of liquor, beer and wine were on hand. I contributed some wine that had been sitting around the house waiting for an occasion, a bottle of sparkling wine and a gargantuan double-magnum of Old Vine Zin I won at Bike MS last year.

That Zinfandel was particularly challenging because it was a 3 liter bottle and I looked it up and I can tell you that beer snob I might be, I've never bought a wine that expensive. And that bottle was like four bottles of wine, so even a guy who drinks to much (me) is probably not getting through it before it oxidizes.

Anyway, the only thing I can think of that would make his sendoff more complete is a trashboat set afire and launched from Kaw Point viking-funeral-style. I'm sure there's a law or two against setting a pile of garbage aflame and launching it on the river, but given his dominance in the Trashboat Regatta, it would be fitting.

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