Back in 2010, when I originally typed this up, I was the new kid around here. Having been a fan of DC for many years, I was honored when Big Jonny asked me to be a part of this dysfunctional little pill party. It was a strange series of events that has brought me here but it has definitely changed my life in more ways than one. Below is the story of a tipping point in my life. How the life and death of our friend Kyle helped me reassess my values and opened my mind to a whole new world. It has been a decade now and it is still just as heavy.
Drunkcyclist has grown bigger than anything we have ever imagined. But no matter how much we grow, we will not forget our roots and the ones who were there at the beginning. For all of our new friends reading the site now, this is a little bit of DC history. For all of you that have been with us along the way, it’s a reminder. Spanky was a major influence in the beginning of DC and in some ways, still is.
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I wrote these words in an internet cafe in Mexico on a bike tour. I promised myself then, that I would re-post it every year on this day as long as I was able. Whether you decide to read it or not, just do me a favor. Try to find some time to ride today.
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 around this time every year, 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 ten 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.
Ten 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. People were coming from all different directions as if they are 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 who 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 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 jersey you will notice a name and some dates on the back. This has been the story of that man. If you are in ever in Phoenix 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.
Your reflection was a fine and gentle reminder to me, and I needed it. Two ideas stood out and though they may sound trite to folks who haven’t had your experience, they rang very true for me.
When my wife died suddenly several years ago, it brought into focus the fact that I hadn’t been a very nice person, and that the thing that matters most while we’re breathing is our relationships with other people. Critical to those relationships are empathy, effort, and concern. “NIceness”, if you will. I’d begun to lose sight of that and needed your reminder. Thanks.
Speaking of reminders, the second thing I found valuable was the ritual of watering the cactus. It is not only a tribute to your friend , but a reminder to stay nice. We need those reminders, especially as time passes. Thanks for your thoughts here. I will ride more and remember more.
Keep “Watering the Cactus”
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Is there a worse fact of life than death? The part you wrote part the bell curve and the talking shit is a reality for me right now. I’m that guy. Thanks for the wake up call. Sorry about your bro. Here’s to those that are left over! Cheers bitches.
Thanks for posting this again. It’s always good to read words about Kyle. He was a good friend and roommate who I spent countless hours with in the late 90’s, both on and off the bike. He was the kind of person who went out of his way for you. He was always up for whatever was going on. I wish I could remember all the countless rides and races I did with him. His antics on his snowboard. His speed and technical ability on his bikes. When I rode with Kyle, the ride was always exciting.
Some of the memories that stick out are flatting our tubes riding the old McDowell loop, running out of spares, and having to strip down to almost nothing to fill our tires with clothes so we could get back to the trailhead. He snored. And I mean snored. I don’t know how many times I had to kick his sleeping back on camping trips to get him to be quiet. Kyle and I built our first singlespeed bike in about 1997 from an old Parkpre frame I had acquired through a warranty mishap. I can still remember his attempts to get the chain to stay on by putting old CDs on either side of the cogs (They lasted about 30 feet before shattering). He would show up for road rides on his old Klein mtb with slicks, receive glares from the hard-core road crowd, and then pull off the front of the pack part way through the ride. He was so fast. But he was humble. He didn’t let it go to his head. I don’t ever remember him dropping me during a ride (and we both knew he could). He was genuine, liked by all, and a fun person to be around. The world is not as nice a place with Kyle not in it.
I still think of Kyle often. Most of the time when I’m out on my bike. I picture him looking down on me, maybe somehow giving me a little more oomph to get up that next climb. Sometimes he eggs me on to ride off the drop I’m just a little shaky on. I always wish he was riding with me. He was a great friend.
While I don’t live in AZ anymore (Seattle now), someday I want to get back to South Mountain and spend some time with Kyle up above National trail. RIP, bro.
Damn 10 years.
You guys were such a great family to Kyle. He had respect for anyone in the biking world and loved to share his knowledge and the same interests. It brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes that you still remember how wonderful he was. So proud to be his sister.
Abby asked I post these few pics of KB. I can’t believe it’s been ten years… Miss you, bro. Damn.
Just knowing that our son Kyle made a difference in ONE persons life makes us just the more proud of who he had become at the age of 27. Thank you for your continued sharing of his story in the biking community, because of your postings and comments, you will also continue to impact others lives.
Even as an outsider reading this annually is meaningful. Stop and think. Then ride.
I read this, again, then rode to work and got the swift kick to the nuts that my close friend, co worker, boss, neighbor, friend passed away over night. Go ride your fucking bike.