My Father’s asleep in the bed across the room. The lights flick on and off with his rhythmic breathing; his hand resting on his chest as it rises and falls. 7 o’clock on a cold day in February and it’s about day five of his stay at Region’s in downtown St. Paul. It’s a short bike ride from my school up in Cathedral Hill, so as soon as I’m finished with my drawing studies for the day I head down on my blue Schwinn Le Tour. In the slush and the mess the wheels keep me upright and deliver me down the hill and through the Capitol. Like all of my bikes that have come after, I beat it to hell.
I unpack my green and red Chrome and in it find the first VeloNews I’ve ever purchased. I’m still way before spandex or clipless or any of that really, but it intrigues me. Words like ‘attack’ and ‘bridge’ and ‘chamois’ are used so often I begin to get lost. The images take over as my patience for this new vernacular wanes and I flip through until I come across an image of Stijn Devolder, complete with Belgian national champion jersey and a whole country of adoring fans screaming at him as he races up the Muur. I see suffering and I see glory – two pretty alien concepts to a 20 year old art student.
He leaves the hospital and I’m already riding more. We buy bikes at a used shop and I wear mine out until the down tube fails. I carry it down Cathedral Hill instead of riding it. A new bike is purchased and that one too is worn out. Winter comes and I get a job at a shop. I start to train – I don’t know what that means but I try. Race after race and Dad’s right by my side, picking me up, dropping me off, taking me home. Sometimes he doesn’t make it back to Hutchinson until 2 AM. He takes me anyways. He listens as I carry on and on about a missed move, a elbow to the side, a lost sprint. The results are mediocre, but Dad’s still there. I get a little faster, a little smarter, a little better. He’s there for every race, and if not he’s calling me while I’m still in it asking how it went. It’s amazing how much an hour long conversation with your Father can make 24th place seem like you just missed the podium. He tells me I don’t get a ride home if I don’t podium – I get a ride home every time.
No matter what, he helps me move towards what I want.
Happy Birthday, Dad.