What I remember most, though, is the music. My dad uprooted our lives, leaving his childhood home, his parents, all of his and my mom’s siblings - everything they knew - to travel to a flat, cold, barren, cornfield-surrounded exurb of Chicago on the eve of the worst blizzard in recent memory. He found solace in the folk country of John Denver, and between repeated listening to his mellow crooning and frequent camping trips to State and National Parks in nearly every state in the Lower 48, my dad instilled in my brother and I a love for the natural beauty that surrounds us and a desire to explore and experience it for ourselves.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was also, at its core, a coping mechanism. Making that choice to leave everything behind, taking his two young children away from family, tore him apart, more deeply than I ever knew. Hearing John Denver sing about the Rocky Mountains, country roads in the Blue Ridge and being lost and alone on some forgotten highway was comforting to him, and experiencing those things for himself with his boys helped him through what I’m sure were some of the most difficult years of his life.
So perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised lately that nearly every morning, when I flip on my iPod, I click over to A Song’s Best Friend, the greatest hits of John Denver. From “Leaving on a Jet Plane” though “Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High” and “Sweet Surrender,” I turn introspective, digging deep to look for, as the song goes, “Something I can believe in/Something that I’d like to do/With my life.”
There’s nothing behind me and/Nothing that ties me
To something that might have been true yesterday
Tomorrow is open and/Right now it seems to be more than enough
To just be here today
And I don’t know what the/Future is holdin’ in store
I don’t know where I’m going/I’m not sure where I’ve been
There’s a spirit that guides me/A light that shines for me
My life is worth the living/I don’t need to see the end
See, over the course of the past few months – years, really – Kim and I have come to the conclusion that our future is not meant to take place in Chicago. We’ve known it for some time really, and it has become crystal clear over the past year: For all that Chicago has to offer, our destiny, and the destiny of our daughter, lies elsewhere.
Where that elsewhere might be has been unclear, and it was with very heavy hearts that we shared these thoughts with our families a few weeks back. But it has become time for us to leave, although deciding to remove Kate from the incredible loving environment of aunts, uncles, cousins and especially grandparents has given us pause and more than a few tears, more than once.
I also shared the news with the folks at World Bicycle Relief, and although they were surprised, they have been very generous and supportive, and have helped me create a transition plan that allows me one last go-round with our annual fundraising campaign – our strongest yet, in my opinion. Perhaps the toughest thing so far has been hearing the stories coming back from the Million Dollar Ride, seeing the videos and pictures, and knowing that I will be passing the torch to someone new to take the lead in helping people in need receive simple, life-empowering transportation in the coming years. I’d like to think I’m leaving the organization in a good place for my having been there, and I am excited to see what amazing future marketing, fundraising and programming initiatives they have in store.
I’m excited for what Kim, Kate and I have in store as well - A move to the garden spot of U.S. mountain biking, and the historical cradle of the Forestry movement: Asheville, North Carolina. Surrounded by the Great Smokies, edged by the Pisgah National Forest and transected by the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville is home to some of the most accessible, most amazing outdoor opportunities anywhere in the world, from the easy access of Bent Creek or Brevard or DuPont, to the incredible views from Chimney Rock or Mt. Mitchell, to the Class II and III rapids on the French Broad, and on and on for miles in every direction. It’s a sportsman’s dream, and I am looking forward to helping Kate come to love and appreciate the beauty that will surround us.
Ashville – or, more properly, the “suburb” of Fletcher – is also headquarters for one of the bicycle industry’s most iconic brands, Cane Creek Cycling Components. You may know them from their past work in wheels, you may know them from their suspension, you may (hopefully!) know them from their core headset products; no matter which way you slice it, you know Cane Creek, and you know that Cane Creek products help make your bike roll, turn, stop and go better and faster. What you may not know is that Cane Creek is based here in the U.S., in the mountains of good ol’ North Carolina no less, and is the home to a small group of people who are passionate about making sure your ride is as great as it possibly can be.
I’ve gotten to know those folks over the past few weeks, and they’ve gotten to know me, and I have been fortunate to receive an offer to join them. So, starting three weeks from now, on Dec. 14, I will become the Director of Domestic Sales for Cane Creek, working to nurture our relationships with distributors and dealers throughout the country. It’s an exciting opportunity for me to re-engage my passions for presentation and relationship building, borrowing from skills I began to develop way back during high school mock-Congress and debate sessions (thank you Mr. Paldauf!). It’s also an opportunity to learn the nitty-gritty of the sales side of the bike business, working alongside some folks who have been in this game for a very long time … and who are also the ringleaders on the daily lunch rides! It’s a good team, focused on one very important goal: Making Cane Creek products and the brand all that they can be.
Yes, it’s bittersweet. It is very difficult to walk away from an organization like World Bicycle Relief, that does so much for so many people, in such a meaningful way. But I plan to stay involved, and I join Stephen Janes, Nolan LaVoie and other World Bicycle Relief supporters in Asheville – heck, even the local IMBA chapter, Pisgah Area SORBA, is holding a silent auction at their holiday party to benefit World Bicycle Relief! Ultimately I need to do what’s best for Kate, Kim and I, and relocating to a place where our lifestyle will be a better match is a critical piece of the puzzle.
Oh! And one more thing: Asheville, being a city in the South, is also home to my version of comfort: Waffle House. I fell in love with the Waffle House experience a few years ago on a World Bicycle Relief trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, and I blame Nolan, Karen, James and the rest of the Blue Ridge School and CRC supporters for getting me hooked. If I hadn’t come to visit them, I would never have become a Waffle House “Regular” …
Before I go, I’d like to leave you with one more thing I take from my father. The story of Winkin’, Blinkin’ and Nod, and their voyage upon the sea, was often one of the last things I heard before falling asleep each night. Perhaps, after all, it was the image of the three of them, sailing off in their wooden shoe, that set the stage for me to one day embark on a journey of my own, with Blinkin’ and Nod in tow.
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, one night sailed off in a wooden shoe;
Sailed off on a river of crystal light
into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going and what do you wish?"
the old moon asked the three.
"We've come to fish for the herring fish
that live in this beautiful sea.
Nets of silver and gold have we,"
said Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
The old moon laughed and sang a song
as they rocked in the wooden shoe.
And the wind that sped them all night long
ruffled the waves of dew.
Now the little stars are the herring fish
that live in that beautiful sea;
"Cast your nets wherever you wish
never afraid are we!"
So cried the stars to the fishermen three -
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
So all night long their nets they threw
to the stars in the twinkling foam.
'Til down from the skies came the wooden shoe
bringing the fisherman home.
'Twas all so pretty a sail it seemed
as if it could not be.
Some folks say 'twas a dream they dreamed
of sailing that misty sea.
But I shall name you the fisherman three -
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
Now Wynken, Blynken are two little eyes
and Nod is a little head.
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
is a wee one's trundle bed.
So close your eyes while mother sings
of the wonderful sights that be.
And you shall see those beautiful things
as you sail on the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three -
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.