Every now and then we all need a reminder about something good. A reminder that we belong to an amazing community simply because we’ve all stumbled to the intersection of bicycles and beer. Despite all the bullshit happening in the world around us, we can always count on our bike friends to raise a pint and come through in the clutch. And this reminder comes to us courtesy of our good friends in the Midwest. The same folks who are currently shunning their trainers in favor of snowy trails on fatbikes and frozen bottles of Pabst.
Each year in the late summer/early fall, Wisconsin is home to an event called Gnome Fest. Gnome Fest is what you’d call a bike party. Much like your typical SingleSpeed event, it bounces around the state each year and has its fair share of shenanigans. Host and SS regular Spinner the Viking describes it like this:
“There is no race. Gnome Fest is a series of events including a night ride, a poker run, spontaneous derbies (or “footdown” if you grew up somewhere without woods), fire jumping and a figure 8 death race on children’s bikes, among other things. There are kegs, camping, kiddie pools full of beer, giant burning bikes and nudity. There’s usually a couple of dudes who drive up from Florida, and a guy who flies in from… Wisconsin. It’s pretty cool to see a guy hop out of a bush plane with a Krampus.”
Ya know, a party.
Just good old fashioned fun right there. Like the family barbecues you used to have as a kid, except with all the people your mother warned you about.
However this year’s event took a troublesome turn. Last August Gnome Fest suffered its first human casualty in 12 years. A lady by the name of Teresa suffered a very serious crash. During the poker ride Teresa went over the handlebars and hit the ground poorly. She had to be rescued by local EMT’s and transported to the local hospital. There she was diagnosed with a complete fracture to her T7 vertebrae, and multiple compound fractures to her T5 vertebrae before being rushed to a major trauma center.
I’m sure most of you have suffered, witnessed, or otherwise felt the effects of such an occurrence on a group. It sort of radiates through the community and forces everyone to take stock of their own mortality. To make matters worse, Teresa is a bartender. One of our favorite professions to be sure. However this meant she didn’t have any form of health insurance. Teresa was to be in a brace during her 3-4 month recovery and this left her little means for paying the bills. It’s a terrifying realization. To be out riding your bike, having fun, playing with friends; and in a matter of seconds you’re reeling through a list of scenarios that involve surgery and thousands of dollars in bills.
And it is here I bring us back to the idea of being a part of community. A couple months after her accident, the badass people of Dubuque, IA hosted an event called TeresaPalooza. They gathered local bands, artists, and others at a local venue and came together to support a friend. A local design company made t-shirts, artists donated items for a silent auction, and bands donated the cover. They threw a party. No better way to gather the troops in support of a friend. All proceeds went to Teresa’s recovery expenses. Not only did this help with all the hidden financial costs of an injury, but imagine the morale boost. It’s one thing to hear the supportive words online, but to see it in action makes a world of difference.
Check out this killer fender. Shaped like Teresa’s spine, complete with cracks in the correct vertebrae even!
Spinner made the trip down to Dubuque for the party and reported back on all the fun. He even found a DC tech-tee in the wild.
I’m willing to bet that most of us have a story like this. Just this last year a close friend of DC and his wife had a bout with cancer. And we threw a benefit party to punch that fucker in the face. While we never want to hear stories like this, or see a friend take a crash; we want to see this kind of response 1000x over. Knowing that even when shit hits the fan your friends are going to come through. It’s being a part of communities like these that make me feel a little better about those ‘what ifs’.
During times when the world is dumping bad news by the hour, it’s good to remember who we have behind us. And how powerful our local responses can be.
p.s. ~ Teresa still has a GoFundMe account that’s within $900 of their goal. So please feel free to donate if you’re so inclined.by