In the past, I've written about pedaling one's way into lasting friendships. For me, because of riding a bicycle, I've had the opportunity to meet and become pals with several people. Those who come readily to mind include Jon, Scott, Vern, and Alan, just to name a few.
And there's one other friendship worth mentioning that wouldn't even have occurred if it hadn't been for my wife's persistence.
It all started when she came home from grocery shopping one day and detailed her conversation with some dude manning the meat counter. Along with getting his life's history — because that's what Vicky does — she also learned this guy was an avid cyclist. Her initial "You should talk to him about riding together" turned into frequent "Have you chatted to him yet?" as the weeks went by and I still hadn't approached this person named Ralph.
Well, eventually, I did strike up a conversation and yes, finally, we did find ourselves cruising together along the secondary roads of Hallowell and the surrounding area. As the miles piled up over time, our friendship grew and it was literally a GOOD one, because that happened to be his last name.
Like me, Ralph loved riding bikes, and he was excellent at it and he was fast. One of the things I enjoy doing when riding with a group is accelerating into a sprint, to get the heart rate up. It never failed whenever I blasted off that Ralph would be right behind me; quiet as a church mouse as his two-wheeled machine emitted no sounds. And sure enough, I'd look back and there he was, a big grin decorating his face.
Ralph also rode with a bunch of local cyclists who screamed along Route 27 a couple of nights each week. They were the "cream of the crop" and he always tried to get me to tag along, but I said they were too fast for my puny legs. But he wasn't always hammering on the pedals. He enjoyed taking in his surroundings and would often say, "Don't forget to smell the roses."
I rode my first century with Ralph back in 2002, the same year I cycled from North Carolina to Texas. It was the Fall Frolic in western Maine, and as today's blog photo might suggest ... we had a pretty amusing time, despite toiling 103 miles in nearly six hours.
I'll never forget the time Ralph phoned me just after one of our rides. Amazingly, he didn't seem too upset over the fact that when he got home, he drove into his garage. The only problem was he had forgotten that his bike was still on the roof rack and, yes, he ripped it clean off the car. Just like a fishing story, much embellishment as the years went by.
Sadly, I am no longer able to go cycling with the GOOD old boy, as he passed away a few years ago. I miss everything about Ralph. From how he'd lean across the meat case at Hannaford and we'd talk about our next bike outing to, more importantly, his gentle and kind presence toward everyone. Ride in peace, my friend.