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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Big Grin IV

It's been four years since my friend Joel, aka The Big Grin, died of that all too common, you'd never expect it but probably should, accident in the home. I believe he was trying to fetch something from the loft above his workshop when he fell. He had a young son, and his wife had just gotten pregnant with a daughter he never even got to meet. Incredibly sad.

But the memorial ride we've had for Joel each year since the tragedy is not sad. It is a celebration of a goofy guy who touched a lot of people. An avid cyclist, he would post things to Facebook like, 'Just so you know, riding to work in the snow is super awesome fun!' (on a day when he knew damn well the bike shop would be closed, but he rode to work anyway because it gave him a chance to ride his Pugsley in the snow). He loved to explore the city, he loved to push his own boundaries and see other people do the same.

A couple years ago, it was five degrees Fahrenheit and we rode anyway. Joel would have been delighted to see us all out there despite it being stupid cold. This year, it was warmer but snowy.

And for me, snow is a challenge. A little bit of snow, no big deal. But refrozen snowpack can be like a freaking skating rink and I don't have a sense of humor about falling down. I fall with the grace and dignity of a sack of dishes.

Gravel is hard for me too, and while it's pretty tame gravel, the Big Grin ride always includes a bit of it along the levy. Fitting, since Joel was one of the founders of the Dirty Kanza, one of the premier gravel grinder rides in the world. I remember one year he got hurt right before Trans Iowa, which is another of those. So someone who thought it was good fun to attempt 200 or 340 miles of gravel roads in a race, you gotta do some gravel on his memorial ride.

Gravel with snow on it, yeah. That's even trickier I learned. Fortunately someone hung to warn me of a frozen puddle that had put a half dozen riders down by some railroad tracks, and I managed to stay upright but there were a few patches where I was pretty terrified. I kept telling myself, these other fuckers have stayed up, you can too.

Riding in the wet snow on pavement was tiring, too. It was in the upper 20s, so the snow kind of clumped up on the tires and made them heavy and sluggish. I didn't make the start of the ride, that seems to be a tradition. I got to the Trek Store for the first one right as they were leaving, and every year since I've met them somewhere on Merriam Lane. I guess I've heard that I will be late for my own funeral, so I guess it's fitting that I'd also be late for my friend's funeral.

I was proud of my beard-cicles. I don't think I've ever grown a good set of ice on my facial hair before, even though I've ridden in much colder temperatures. My friend Jones who has a gnarly, grizzly bear type beard is always a great one for icing up. I've always been jealous, but mine this time was pretty decent.

I was also really touched that Jofess, Joel's son, asked me to pick him up at this party. He's not shy, and he's never been standoffish with me or anything, but I think this is the first time he's really engaged with me on this level. I picked him up, and he asked where my hair had gone. Hilarious.

So I told him straight, my hair went to the Eyebrow Farm where people get eyebrows and ear hair and big long nose hairs. I mean, you're not gullible enough to think eyebrows just grow on faces, right kid?

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