Friday, September 16, 2011

Greatest Grimpeur Inspires Greatest Grimp

On September 15th 2011, twenty friends gathered in the Laurel Mountains of Pennsylvania, just across the West Virginia border, to honor the memory of Kean bird.
The sky at the bottom of Mud Pike, a traditional climb for the Grimpeurs, was low. The rain was steady and the temperature struggled into the fifties. Our destination, the top of the mountain was shrouded in dark clouds. One might think that such conditions on a Thursday morning at 9:30 would wash out a group of roadies in spandex but, not so. As we waited in the lot at the bottom of the mountain, cars saddled with bikes and bikes saddled with riders steadily streamed in. When all had finally arrived, it was the greatest number of cyclists to ever ride a grimp. Such is the draw of our friend Kean. How apropos that we all had to suffer to honor him. I think he would have liked that.

Despite the sadness that had brought us to the mountain, the mood was upbeat. We had had enough of mourning. Some laughed at the conditions, shared memories and caught up with old friends all the way up The Pike. Some choose to push themselves for a quick ascent or to wrestle a single speed up category one grades. Some found a quiet gap and let the effort wash away any residual sadness. At times it was eerie, riding up and up in an envelope of white. Even experienced Grimpeurs lost track of where they were on the mountain. It felt like riding the hill for the first time. Indeed it was the first time without the threat of Kean slashing past.

When all the Grimpeurs, old hands and first timers alike, had arrived at the top, a small ceremony was held. Gunnar read a poem entitled, “The Men Who Ride Bikes.” A chainring encircling a picture of Kean, arms raised in triumph, was tacked to a tree, not on the very top of the mountain, but just on the other side- no need to explain the symbolism. Flowers from yesterday’s funeral service were laid below the plaque, as his family had wished. Wine and whiskey found its way into the cups of all and the Grimpeurs raised a toast to the champion of the Grimpeurs, Kean bird. A bottle of wine was laid into a hole beneath the memorial tree and covered over with earth so that the Grimpeurs would return and raise their cups again in a year’s time to each other and the memory of their friend. I for one was left with a good feeling.

With that, the Grimpeurs said goodbye and descended the mountain, their eyes stinging from the rain but not in sorrow, for they saw that Kean was a man who had not lived his life in vain. He had the respect and love of his friends and family. He inspired people to be better. He brought us all together. Kean Bird made a mark in this world on the positive side of the ledger. What more could any man ask for?

Now, those Grimpeurs who travel on, keep racing for the top of the mountain together and don’t let up until the finish. It’s just on the other side of the mountain and Kean marks the winner.

Those in attendance:
Hannah Schrum, Steve Harouff, Jay Downs, Timothy Nelms, Linda Litman, Abraham Schauer Shogren, Andrew Walker, Don Dickerson, Gunnar Shogren, Betsy Schauer Shogren, Kean Bird, Frank Gmeindl, Frances Cole Toro, Mark Rosso, Matt Kettering, Dave Light, Craig Weimer, Evan Williams, Mike VanderRyanBerg, Tricia Lewis, Robin West Barnett

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Best Among Us

I'm glad to see you all here tonight. The drinks are all on me, though I don't think they could brew enough to make us forget. But, to forget is not why we Grimpeurs and all the rest have gathered here today. We have come here to remember our friend, Kean Bird.

As the universe is prone to do, either according to some unfathomable plan or through the cold dictates of randomness, it has taken a man before his time. On this day, it was someone it had no business with. Kean was the pinnacle of health, someone you'd refer to when you wanted to emphasize what a strong bicyclist looks like, as in: Damn, you flew up that hill, I thought I was chasing Kean. He was the record holder for the fastest climb up Mud Pike, the true measure of a Grimpeur. Before Kean's pancreas turned on him, he was having his best year as a cyclist. Anytime you checked the standings of a local race, there he was at the top. Sad to say, I really didn't know Kean outside of cycling, I'll leave talk of him outside cycling to those of you who want to say you piece later. I can tell you that there was both joy and fear when he rode up to the courthouse before a group ride. In the meat of a ride, I often found myself squeezing into Kean's slipstream as he mercilessly pounded the pedals. He could hear me wheezing and grunting and he loved the sound of it. He'd take me to the limit and I'd see him glance back now and then to make sure he still had me. Sometimes he'd yell something back like, "Stay in your big ring!" Then he'd give a wry smile as he tweaked up the pace. Kean would put you through hell but he'd always be there at the top waiting. He'd never leave you behind now matter how bad you were. Honestly, I was sure that was what he was going to do this time, put himself, ans us, through hell. I can't believe he won't be waiting at the top of the hill.

Anyway, that's enough out of me. Raise your glass, all, to Kean Bird, the best of the Grimpeurs. Now, let's here some of your stories and celebrate the life of our friend we called Aerobinator.