Hey, Just Ride 39

It appeared that one final, last gasp bundle of opportunities rose out of the ashes as if to signal this is it, now or never, the end of the road — game over.

Three tantalizing, tempting possibilities to once again pilot a publication and write my course toward, well, in all likelihood, my final chapters riding into the sunet.

Those job interviews felt so promising, which they always do for an obsessive optimist such as myself. Then, one by one, they slipped through my fingers of future like sand at the beach.

I’m a writer.

This is not just what I’ve done most of my adult life to pay the bills.

It’s who I am.

It’s my essence.

I need to write to live.

To truly be alive.

To feel, well, everything.

Over the course of my lifetime, I really haven’t felt the need to have an audience. I’ve always written for an audience of one. Me.

Fortunately, most of the time, others have enjoyed reading what I like to write. When they didn’t, so be it.

Ever since I first wrote for my local community newspaper, I couldn’t believe I could get paid for doing what I loved so deeply. I’ve made a career of covering games and people who play games.

Once I got a real taste of covering elite egos atop the mountain — pros in baseball, football and basketball — I realized I had no desire to play their games.

I opted for the niche sports, where true love of sport triumphs. I longed to watch the journey of athletes as they ascended to see their dreams come true. I covered surfing, beach volleyball, triathlons, 10Ks and marathons, and, of course, cycling.

When I dove head-first into bike racing I understood my previous experiences still applied. I had no desire to head to Europe and chase around the pros. They were no different than the pros in any other sport.

What I fell in love with was the North American racing scene. I say North American because so many Canadians helped make racing in the US such a wonderful arena.

I spent endless nights in my Explorer, or camping, or in motels where I slept in my sleeping bag rather than dare to get under the sheets. I lived on cold pizza, warm water, along with salads and baked potatoes at Wendy’s.

That is to say, I pretty much echoed the lifestyles of the racers I covered since I was pretty much making about the same amount of money, which, of course, was not much.

One of my favorite memories came in West Virginia, out in the woods to cover the stage race back in the ‘90s. I came into town to interview Lance Armstrong on the eve of the event, since I freelanced for his hometown Austin American-Statesman newspaper whenever he was in the states.

Lance complained about the cuisine at the local kickoff dinner. I bragged about the savory cherry-beef stew I enjoyed that night with red potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, onions and plenty of cherries.

Lance asked where I found such a wonderful dish. I replied at my campsite.

He looked at me with wonder in his eyes — a look I only prompted from him a couple times in our oftentimes tumultuous relationship that elicited more Armstrong glares than anything.

“Campsite?” he squeaked, completely blown away.

“Yeah, campsite,” I said. “You don’t think I’m getting rich chasing you around the country, do you?”

He just stared at me for a long while with that look of respect, and then blasted out a laugh. “We shouldn’t be doing a story on me,” he said, “we should be doing a story on you.”

When my cycling time had run its course, I transitioned into writing about outdoor experiences.

Yeah, getting paid to ride my bike, hike in the woods, climb trees and mountains, forge rivers — you name it, I’ve probably tried it and wrote about it.

Each job has been bliss. Utter ecstasy.

My last job, as editor of an outdoors magazine, felt like nirvana. Then Covid hit.

Nearly every economic hiccup of the past 30 years has spit me out of the workforce like a watermelon seed at a summer picnic.

Dotcom crash.

9/11 swoon.

Great Recession.

This time I went back to substitute teaching to fill the income gap. Way back in college, I planned to get my teaching credentials. Then I started writing part-time for a daily newspaper and I couldn’t get out of school soon enough to start my career. A year of student teaching? Wasn’t gonna happen.

I enjoy subbing. I like teaching. I like being around kids.

I can see how it can be a lot like writing for regular teachers. As writers, the stories we tell of others become part of our own story, part of us.

When I spend a few days subbing for the same class, I can see how quickly and deeply those connections grow — their stories morphing into mine.

For a few months, I didn’t realize it. I didn’t understand it. Despite that reward of touching kids’ lives, something huge felt missing from my life.

I figured it was simply the disappointment of not getting that one last shot at being an editor. Then it hit. I’m a writer. A writer who wasn’t writing.

I started writing again, to myself. Then realized how much I love to share, again, reborn thanks to students.

Just like connecting with one kid in a class, I’ve always written in hopes that someone, somewhere, somehow, might find a nugget to help them through the day or overcome some hurdle. That’s what reading did for me growing up.

So, I hooked up with Padrig and Robot. They gave me a canvas to continue writing my story, not just for me, but for all of us.

I guess for years I took an audience for granted, knowing one was there because if there wasn’t, whatever publication I was working for wouldn’t be paying me.

Now? I’m just thankful you are out there, taking the time to read what I have to write about. It means a lot to me.

Thanks for being here.

All of you.

Time to ride

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