I carry a messenger bag, sort of a canvas material catchall, and over the last five years it has seen more than most people, picking up its own mementos along the way … its own sort of memories, if you will.
This past weekend this bag, as always slung across my chest, made its way from Simpsonville to Charleston trailing 220 cyclists on the ride of a lifetime, some 252 miles in three days. Notice I was trailing them, not part of the masochists taking on the massive undertaking of hauling themselves over varying terrain with most of it seemingly uphill all the way, even to me.
I don’t want you to get the wrong impression here, I wasn’t on vacation and after three days had my own stories to tell.
Back to my bag. The point I am eventually going to get around to making as I write this riding back to the upstate is the bag is symbolic of this little snippet of my life. On the strap there are — I should say were — three buttons. One is a Grateful Dead button I picked up recently, giving three others to very good friends to me.
The second is a quote by Frank Zappa which reads: “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” The final one WAS a Rolling Stones button given to me by my oldest son Nathan, which had practically seen the world and had it been able to talk could have told some tales.
Somewhere in Charleston, lying on my back on Ravenel Bridge, the pavement like a furnace and people on bikes or jogging blowing by with odd looks for me and where they assumed I had finally decided to just lie down and quit. More than once I had to explain and as the heat grew and the day began to wane in the early afternoon I was up and down the bridge … walking and moving to find the perfect spot to get the art I was shooting.
These folks I gladly call my friends (another column coming on this) had poured their hearts and souls into this ride, not only to raise money for Alzheimer’s research which is reason enough, but because this was an accomplishment they all aspired to complete … it was important to me they be able to remember that descent the last mile, 251 already behind them.
Somewhere on that bridge, that button went over the side … which to most of you may not seem like much and may even make you shake your head and wonder why I’m even writing about it. Fair enough. I’ll explain. It had sentimental value and I had more than once retraced my steps for miles and held people up for hours refusing to do whatever we had planned until I found it. That stupid button meant, and still means, that much to me.
Here’s the lesson I learned: I spent three days walking back roads for miles, riding on luggage racks, hanging off buses, lying on the shoulder of the road, and obsessively worked to get as much of this grueling charity ride out to you. I broke a toe, tore my knee up pretty good, and was almost killed by a group of women in pink leading literally a hundred others within an hour of the beginning.
I didn’t pedal a single mile but when it was over I had given them everything I had and had taken something away.
Losing the button hurt, but I discovered I had been giving myself away all weekend as I watched 220 riders and countless volunteers doing the same. The universe can only exist in balance and in order for me to earn 250 new friends, have an experience most would never have, and drive back to Easley downtrodden because it’s all over I had to give something away.
Nothing is free in this world.