I'm always making reference to the fact that bicycling brings people together. There are the countless events that are an obvious avenue for getting acquainted with other cyclists. And for those who are a bit on the shy side of life — myself included — any anxiety seems to naturally disappear whenever one encounters fellow pedalers. On the whole, I believe most folks aboard two-wheeled machines are a friendly lot.
I experienced such a moment on a recent day while finishing up a 30-mile bike ride on the Kennebec River Rail Trail.
Zipping along at the trail's southern entrance in Gardiner, I caught sight of a fully kitted-out cyclist. My normal instinct on such occasions would be to step up my pedaling pace, turning it into a sort of racing competition. But I had a heck of a time catching up to this stranger. He was motoring ahead — not on an e-bike, mind you — on a beautiful Pinarello. A serious bicycle for serious riders.
Calling out "on your left" and "good morning," I finally passed him a short distance later. We stuck together for awhile, but I eventually created more space between us and continued cruising down the trail. However, I had a good feeling about this gentleman and I wanted to hear his story.
Stopping near the approach to Hallowell, in the shade because of the day's heat and humidity, I waited several minutes for my cycling comrade to come into view. As he got closer, I signaled with my hand and asked if he wouldn't mind having a chat.
At first, I think he was wondering what this guy — meaning me — was up to. But then our conversation started to flow. His name was Luc Pepin and he was from Augusta, the community next to my hometown. It turned out he was 70 years old, the same age as myself.
Once we began talking about bikes, Luc said, "I don't cycle as much as I did in the past." But you could tell by the smile on his face that he still enjoyed it. He reminisced about riding with the Route 27 group years ago. Although I was often invited, I never dared to go with those local legends. They had the reputation for being "really fast riders."
Upon hearing that, I said he must have been familiar with my friend Ralph Good, as he was one of those Route 27 speedsters. Luc did indeed know Ralph, having been friends for a number of years and riding together in several charity events. "I remember I would go pick him up for the Bike MS ride, and all of his stuff was lined up in a neat, orderly fashion. Nothing out of place," Luc commented.
We both recalled what a strong rider Ralph was and how quiet his bike was as he would scream down the road.
After shaking hands, expressing hopes for possibly cycling together in the future, and saying our goodbyes, Luc headed off to Augusta and I scooted home. I'm really glad I took the opportunity to meet Luc. Not only did we both know Ralph, who was such a good-hearted person, but I believe I found in Luc a kindred spirit when it comes to having such a passion for riding a bicycle. Stay safe, my new friend.
(Editor's note: Please click here to read my blog posting on Ralph Good from June 2020. Thanks.)