Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Friend

The night air was becoming chilly and we slowly made our way along the narrow winding road. It was dark and the only light was the moon and stars that appeared as the sky would open occasional between the trees overhead and the bright red tail and head light of the bicycle shining on the black \top road ahead. There was a silence that was next to total deafness as we were biking some where in the mountains in western North Carolina around Cashiers/Highlands area . The only sound was the slow hum of the chains as it slipped through the derailleur of our bicycles. We had left Spartanburg earlier in the day and were on two night and two day counterclockwise trip into the mountains and back into western South Carolina around Oconee and then by the back roads though Greenville and home to Spartanburg. It was a very challenging adventure for me but not for my riding companion. He was a burly man about six foot two inches tall with legs like pistons on a steam engine. He was a very experienced cyclist having rode the Paris / Brest / Paris, The ride across Missouri and The ride across Ohio. Once he rode from Chicago to Denver for his vacation. He was the best long distance bike rider that I have ever known. Put another way I guess what I am saying is he was the best that I have ever had the pleasure of riding with. On one of his long daily ride I was forced to quit the ride. Once we had left early in morning and were to ride to Union and down old 176 though Whitmire and to a small town of Pomaria and across to Prosperity to Saluda to Clinton and back to Spartanburg. All was going good until somewhere around Saluda I bonk out big time. After a call to my son in Spartanburg, my companion and I decided he should go on ahead and finish the ride so he left and later my son got there and we headed back to Spartanburg we saw him sitting on the curb at Hardees in Clinton having a tea. After a short chat we headed home with the promise that I would, after a shower, backtrack and make sure he was doing ok, which I did. He was just about 17 miles from home and greeted me with “Boy sure wished you had brought me a Coke“I went to the nearest store which was about ten miles away. Back with coke in hand he was now about ten miles from home. After making sure he was ok and that he was riding on in I left. The next day he informed me that he got back to the departure point just as it was getting dark. Total mileage 160+he rode that day.
Through the years I rode many miles with my friend with out ever having a disagreement with him. I recall sitting out side of many country stores on all the back roads that we have cycled, the churches that we walked around looking for a faucet to resupply our water bottles,the road side picnic tables that we sat at and laid on just for a moment of rest in the shade and feel the breeze blowing,if we were lucky. Time that is forever gone, never to be reclaimed, vanished as the morning dew.
All these times and more I thought about as I looked at my friend that is now just a shell of the man that I knew. Sickness and the treatment of cancer have taken its toll on this man among men he is no longer that man. I don’t know what will happen in the days ahead for my friend of all the years, I hope they will be easy and good, without pain and suffering. I know one thing talking to him I still see that ever so dim glint in his eye and I know that he also thinks about that night long ago as we traveled up that road with the stars shinning, the humming of the bicycles chains and water running down the side of the mountain and I hope these thoughts brings him some comfort and pain free moments in the days ahead.

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