A summer between two middle school years, my dad took me on my first bike tour, Bike Virginia. At an average of forty miles a day, me and my dad, my best friend Nat and his dad Tim, enjoyed an week of spandex and saddle sores. Nat and I sported mountain bikes for the tour and it was slow going. Not wanting to creep at the pace of prepubescent boys on mountain bikes, our dads took turns riding with us while the other enjoyed riding at a faster speed.
The next year, I begged my dad to do the tour again with me and so we did. Other than getting sick from e. coli in my water, the trip was awesome. I loved it. I loved the thrill of seeing the countryside at the perfect pace. Not so fast you miss the views and not so slow you never get to any views: the perfect compromise between running and driving. I love the thrill of hearing wheels whirr when I felt strong. I loved the dehydration and fatigue and the end of a long day in the saddle. And I especially loved lying down in a bed after a good hard ride. The pain from cycling brought a unique sense of pleasure I had never felt before.
I was a chunky kid when I was little. To give you a sense of measure, I weighed 140 at 5’1”. I am the same weight now, just five inches taller. My goal for 10k’s was to not walk. I enjoyed my food but I was not yet exposed to exercise. After the right combination of exposure to exercise from my dad and drive for healthy eating habits from my mom, I was on my way to being one of the fittest adolescents there was.
Multiple years later, the summer before my sophomore year in high school, Nat, my dad and I returned to complete the ride again. This time however, Nat and I came with road bikes, some strong legs, and full intentions of completing our first ever century, one hundred miles of biking in one day. This year the burden was on me and Nat to wait for my dad. No worries, the old man did the same for us.
After years of trying to whoop my dad’s butt at anything and everything, I finally knew I was better than him at something, even as superficial as it was. I was happy even though I still knew I could never match him at brains, basketball, golf, soccer, maturity, and basically everything else.
And for the century, my dad waved the white flag and chose to sleep in. Nat and I pushed each other the whole day. One of us would get down and feel tired, but the other one would feel great; it was a perfect combination to get us through the day. The ride was in essence a figure eight with another loop on top. We had the option of cutting miles off twice, but we kept going. We ended up riding 104 miles that day due to a small detour. We didn’t care. It just made us feel tougher.
As for my dad, I was finally better than him at something. He is always the standard to me. And although he was not in the NBA, or a professional at anything I wanted to beat him in, he was always my toughest competitor. I had to work for it if I wanted to beat him.
My eighth grade year I picked up basketball and every night my dad would challenge me to be better and better. We would play one on one in our driveway. Every night after dinner I would say “Come on old man.” Typically I would hear a refusal and the old fart would use the excuse of gout. Crystals in his joints, psh what a pansy. After calling him Sally or Betty or Elizabeth enough he would give in. Sometimes his ankle would be the size of his head so we would just play horse.
After battling him all year, I finally won. I won once more, accepted my goal had been achieved, and stopped playing. He will always be my standard. Someday I will try to match him at being a dad. I hope I will be able to make my kids laugh as much as he did us. I hope I can provide for them like he did for us. Maybe I’ll even try to match his business management skills. None of those goals will ever be fully achieved but if I can be half as successful as he was then I’ll be happy.
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