Never Enough Gratitude
Written by Patrick Stelte - August 2017
Can you remember your first bike? I was six years old, mom and I lived on Thompson Avenue and I had a red and white bike that looked like a motorcycle. It had yellow flames on the fake fuel tank to make it look fast. I was not fast. I couldn’t ride without training wheels, but I could navigate a side street and pretend. A few kids in the neighborhood who could ride had banana seat bikes and they ventured beyond the immediate neighborhood and brought back tales of what other kids were doing beyond my boundaries. I also remember my first ride without training wheels. It was on the back of a banana seat while a friend pedaled me home from a distant park. The rush of the wind coupled with the worry of falling squeezed my muscles to the point I had to pee. None the less, I made it home dry, not sure I wanted to do it again so soon.
I cannot remember my first Festival Tour. By the time the Tour began in the early 70s, I had mastered two wheels without additional help. My adventures were limited to short travels within a few miles radius of home. Touring was for adults or big kids. Besides, my interests were baseball or anything with a ball I could hit, throw, kick or chase. I didn’t start to take cycling seriously until the late 1980s and a good portion of my experiences was trail-riding. I suppose the early 90s was my first Tour. I had bought a road bike in 1988 to go faster and longer. I remember looking at the 3RF guide and seeing the Tour listed, making a mental note to do it someday. Being shy from an early age, I always started new things later than most.
Event riding is a natural path to improvement. We set goals when mastering a new thing. We also want to measure ourselves whether to numbers, people or both. As a very competitive person, I wanted to experience this popular community event and benchmark myself to others I’d encounter. Eventually I made it a calendar thing to do and remember riding the Tour several times in the 90s. A vivid recollection of those rides was the friendly and professional nature of the volunteers. Their passion and dedication to cycling was apparent from the beginning, starting with registration. The SAG stops were full of smiles, chat and calories of guilty pleasure. The numerous sightings of SAG vehicles made me feel safe on the road. The Festival Tour had a “try hard to look easy” ambience.
Now, I am president of the club and responsible for the standard set through tradition. The credit for this year’s Tour begins with the club officers. We started in January with Hugh Smith making the location reservations and following up with the 3RF event fee. All the other officers pitched in with responsibilities related to their office. Steve Pequignot organized the route with Phil Snider, mapped the course and rounded up the SAG drivers and ride leaders. Amy Copeland handled registration aplomb for the first time. She was helped by Jane Lewandowski, Cheryl Matthews, Christy Grabowski and a face I regret not recognizing. Mona Will and Mike Heyes promoted the event through social media, bike shops and word of mouth. Club member and past touring director, Susan Hunt stepped forward to run the SAG in ‘Busco with Otto Boschet, Jennifer Altherr and new club member Stephen Knight. McGyver Steve Souers led the contingent of SAG drivers that included Carl Ring, Luis DeVeyra, Scott Tomsits and the Intrepid Duo – Pam and Tim Fennell. I cannot say enough about our ride leaders. They take responsibility throughout the season for their pace groups/ride nights and led a mass start at the Tour: Thank you John Grabowski, Mona Will, Deb Watts, Rick Pegg and C.J. Stolte.
Every year, new bike riders try the Festival Tour for the first time. Our volunteers are the front line of Three Rivers Velo Sport. The old saying that first impressions are lasting impressions is very true. I can never convey enough gratitude to match the dedication and passion of these special people. My words of recognition are simple and heart-felt: Thank you.