Before I had ever crossed beyond either the Mason Dixon line or the Mississippi river John Harvey, a stranger to me then, gave me my first pair of rock climbing shoes and a carabiner.
I was going to Wyoming, a place I had to look up on the map despite my 3.334 GPA from Sebring High School. English degree in hand I was off to claim what was rightfully mine- a job cooking at a dude ranch 95 hours a week and a room in the kitchen to rest my head.
John was an old pro at the ranch circuit. He had been over the mountain and across the river many times. I remember being excited, bewildered, and most of all challenged as I held this strange gear in hand. This was to be a part of my story- the West, rock climbing, and baking muffins at 4:00 A:M every morning.
I thought John was a straight up stud back then.
Since then I have ridden 1,000 miles on trails he first envisioned, blazed, and cut with is own hands around Tallahassee. I rarely see him. A fleeting glimpse as he ducks down the aisles of Publix, an occasional sighting on one of his trails at the most. The man has a life going on, and me, I got this and that. My point is, I still think he is a stud- a stone cold, straight up man among men.
He isn’t dead, although you might make that assumption as I predict he will be widely eulogized across the Internet since he is leaving Tallahassee.
The recession has finally impacted me. John is taking a job in D.C. I can only hope it is National Trail Czar. I doubt this is the end of the story between he and Tallahassee, but it is clearly a chapter in which conflict is introduced, and our hero must check his powder, saddle his horse, and ride to meet an uncertain day.
What do you say to the man who has done everything?
Ride safe. We will keep the lamps trimmed and burning.
There is more to this melancholy, this rawness of regret and gratitude.
One year ago this past Tuesday Joe’s Bike Shop was underwater. I happened to be there on Tuesday, having stopped by on the way past the shop during a hectic day of work and errands. One thing led to another and I end up changing a flat on the biggest, dirtiest piece of crap ever owned by the grumpiest, cheapest, orneriest old man in town. I was loving it. He was hilarious. The angry mumbler.
Pete was repairing two bikes at once, selling a third to a woman with a hundred questions, and building up Singapore Mel’s old Cannondale which was bequeathed to Madison Sherry. The shop was hot, loud, and irritating as a Burger King booth full of moody teenagers. Lost in the action I had quitted myself of my guayabera and changed into a Joe’s t-shirt.
By 5:00 O’Clock the rush had died down. Joe was back on the scene, having picked up his kids from school or gotten a sandwich or perused the old records at Vinyl Fever- who knows where Joe goes?
That shop is Tallhassee to me. I would be lost without it. So would many of you.
We are losing John for a while. We have our shop back.
Curses and Blessings, who can ever tell the difference.