When I meet people from the DC family out on the trail, the one question I get the most is “How do you know Big Jonny and how did you end up writing for the site?”. I am reminded of this story every year around this time, and today seems like the best day to share it.
I always try to adhere to two rules when writing a post. No politics and nothing too heavy. I am going to have to make an exception here and get a little serious.
I have known Jonny for about six years now. Before that I was just a fan of the site and only knew of BJ through our fantastic bike community here in Arizona. But I never really hung out with the man. It isn’t hard to keep tract of the years we have known each other.
Six years ago our friend died.
His name was Kyle, and if you have been reading this site for a while you may have stumbled across his name. We were close acquaintances and riding buddies at best. I had never met his family, knew his birthday or any of the things close friends know. But the conversations we had and the rides we shared make me proud to call him a friend. He was an original member of the Drunkcyclist crew, and he was a hell of a guy.
When he passed, you could feel the sadness move through our cycling community like a tidal wave. We were grieving and we were going to handle it the only way we knew how. Ride and drink. The call went out over this web site and via word of mouth that there was going to be a memorial gathering. Leave whenever you want, ride whatever you want. Just get to the top of South Mountain. I met up with Jonny and a small group of like minded vagrants at the trailhead and we rode the National trail up the hill. We told stories of our friend and we talked about his favorite trail that we just happen to be riding on. It was never discussed but it seemed like we were all riding at a parade pace, a slow march in memorial to our fallen friend. It was one of the most memorable rides of my life.
When we reached Dobbin’s Lookout it was an amazing sight to be seen. There were people convening from everywhere. Mountain bikers coming up trails, roadies coming up the road, and non riders in their cars. I liken it to when you see one ant on the sidewalk then your eyes focus and you notice that there are now 50 ants. They were coming from all different directions as if they were materializing out of the desert.
Waiting for us at the top was Kyle’s family, a minister, and a keg of beer. The Family said some words and the minister facilitated some amazing story telling. We shared stories for who knows how long. We laughed about our friend’s shenanigans and grown men cried. As I looked around at all these people that came here to pay homage to their friend, there was one common theme. He was just a really nice guy that would do anything for his friends. My thoughts turned to my own impact in this world. How many people would show up if I died tomorrow? Would anybody say these amazing things about me?
At that time, I was a broke, angry, and out of shape loser settling into my position under the bell curve of society. I was living beyond my means and talking shit like it was my job. In short, I wasn’t a very nice person.
This moment was a tipping point point in my life. That evening, as I sat on a rock overlooking the city, everything changed. It may sound over simplified and cliche, but that day I vowed two things. To live my dreams every day and to just be a nice person.
Fortunately, I have kept in touch with Jonny over the years and it has eventually brought me here to you guys. If you have a DC 10th anniversary jersey you will notice a name and some dates on the back. This has been the story of that man. If you are in AZ and find yourself riding up South Mountain road, look for the little memorial across from the ranger station. Stop and pour a little water out for the cactus that’s there. I do it every time.
Our friend was only around for a short while but his impact will be felt for a lifetime. Make time today to go ride, to think about your friends, and to appreciate life.
-Thanks for the life lessons brother. See you at the end of my ride.by