My two best friends are also my two bike-riding buddies, and each will be first time Ride The Rockies riders this year. I did RTR first in 2009, and since I’ve ridden other week-long rides in Colorado and Alaska. But Johnny and Paul are doing a big long traveling/camping ride for the first time, and are very excited.
We went to my houseboat yesterday afternoon and over strong mixed beverages, had a lot of laughs and talked excitedly about RTR. They had a hundred questions – many I realized that I’d had my first time. But with the Rider Manual, plus my own experience, I was able to answer them all.
We’re all older: me age 55, Paul 56 and Johnny 60, and we train together maybe three times weekly. But every time we ride, we remind ourselves we could be couch potatoes like some folks our age, but we’re not that smart!
Paul “Reverend” Roberts is a hard-working sales manager in the building supplies industry. He’s a great husband, father, son, friend and a very spiritual man. But he got the nickname “Reverend” back in high school long before he found a better path in life. I’ve known him since then and I can personally confirm that!
These days, he routinely leads a pre-ride prayer to remind us of how God is guiding our lives and to ask His protection while we ride. But he is not an evangelist, choosing rather to lead by example. My second nickname for Paul is “Rabbit” – because when I lay back on a ride, lull him to sleep, then blow past him on an attack, he is as quick as one in catching me. Yep, Paul can hammer and sprint when he wants to.
Johnny “Country Boy” Turner sounds like his nickname — and he has more side-splitting country jokes and stories than you can imagine, and some of them actually true. He was raised in the hills and hollows northeast of Tuscaloosa where we do our training rides, and will often remind us of stories of getting in trouble with his Daddy at this swimming hole or that bridge crossing. He’s more easy-riding like me, and often we’ll say “There goes Paul” as he pulls away from us, knowing we’ll catch him at the next checkpoint.
Johnny came to cycling later in life — after surviving cancer in his 40’s and being told he did not have long to live. Now he’s grateful for every ride, and often says “Shoot! A few years ago I’d be the country boy throwing beer cans at us cyclists! Look at me now!”
There is one measure of how much you trust someone, and I’ll put it this way: If I were ever in a foxhole or a bar fight I’d want both of these men with me. We call ourselves brothers, and in many ways are closer to one another than our real siblings. So when you hear three loud guys laughing with Southern accents in the evening at Camp, stop by and visit. We’ll show you some Southern Hospitality.