I head north today, for a number of reasons.
1. Because it's hard to go south from here ... unless you've got a boat.
2. I'm going to drop a chair off at Panama City Beach.
3. Saturday, I get to ride with one of my personal heroes.
The first two need no elaboration -- or at least deserve none. The last one, though, is the biggie.
You see, last year about this time in Franklin, TN (a suburb of Nashville, in case y'all didn't know), the Harpeth Bicycle Club hosted its annual Harpeth River Ride. It was a big deal. RandoGirl and I got to ride bike escort for the Governor of Tennessee and the Mayors of Nashville, Brentwood, and Franklin. Since one of the sponsors of our ride was Nissan, who also sponsors a professional bicycle racing team, they had three of their guys come out and ride with us. One of them is a seven-time winner of the Tour de France.
Lance was a lot of fun, and a huge draw for the ride. We capped our riders at 1,500, and filled up days before. People were coming up to me and asking if I could get them in, almost like it was a Billy Ray Cyrus concert or something.
This year, Nissan's sending these three guys:
Ben King came last year, and Lance gave him a sports car. I think he had an Oprah moment or something. Anyhow, since Ben knows where all of the tricky parts are on the descent down Pulltight Hill, Chris Horner and Matthew Busche made him come along this time. They may only give him a Nissan Leaf. Think green, lad. Green.
(By the way, there are no tricky parts to the descent from Pulltight Hill. The laugh's on you, guys!)
So, now you're thinking that Chris is the personal hero that I was talking about. Well, you're kind of right, in that I've always loved Chris Horner. He seems like a straight-up guy and friendly, but a fierce competitor. At 40, he's also one of the oldest guys in the pro peloton, which is always a kick. I respect the heck out of Chris Horner, and I'm looking forward to meeting him.
But this guy is the hero I really want to see:
Yep, it's the man. The legend. The one and only ... Dan Dillon!
This is my third River Ride with Dan. The first time, we did 43 miles. In 2010, we did the metric. It was Dan's longest ride ever. He was in serious pain -- cramping, suffering in the 100+ degree heat, totally exhausted -- and I offered a number of times to flag down a truck to take us home, or at least take a short-cut and shave some miles.
No. Freaking. Way.
Of course, Dan would never say, "No freaking way." He is a true southern gentleman, always gracious and thoughtful, and would not resort to foul language. He has a wonderful wife, and a full rich life. He just celebrated his 70th birthday. He's been blind for over 50 of those years.
And he would probably tell you -- very honestly -- that he is the luckiest guy on earth.
That's just one of the reasons that I am so looking forward to riding another metric with Dan this Saturday. He's the honorary ride leader this year, and he deserves it.
I don't know a lot of people that would want to trade places with him -- probably because of the whole "blind" thing -- but you can put me down as one of the people that wishes that I could approach every hardship the way that Dan does. For him, it's just another challenge that it might be fun to overcome.
And I think that's pretty heroic.