On My Father's Birthday
[blog post, 743 words]
Anyone who knows me is aware of my obsession with bikes. I couldn't tell you when that passion began, but from a very young age, I loved the idea of traveling on two wheels—just riding that blacktop wherever it might take me. The destination never mattered. It was always about the journey. Perhaps my obsession began with my father's Kawasaki, just sitting on the narrow tank and feeling the wind rush through my helmet. Or, maybe that passion started the Christmas of my eighth year when I woke up to find a new bicycle underneath the tree. I remember it snowed that year, and my brother and I raced boldly over the icy sidewalks. Again, I don't know when that interest began, but when I realized that a bicycle could potentially take me wherever I wanted to go, across any distance, I knew my life would never be the same. 
As a teenager, my father hung my racing bicycle over my bedroom window. It was the first thing that I saw when I woke up in the morning and the last thing I thought about when I went to sleep at night. I dreamed of Olympic gold and a titanium frame. In the end, I wasn't good enough to make cycling my career, but it doesn't matter–the bike is still a part of my life. Perhaps, the simplest part. No matter how hard life's journey got for me, I could always take my worries to the road, and all I had to do was turn that crank just one more time. Then another. And another.
I am writing this because today is my father's birthday and I would like to share something that he once taught me. It was such a small thing, an almost insignificant lesson, but it has followed me all these years.  
My first El Tour De Tucson was a real struggle for me as I was young for the challenge. A hundred-mile race would be difficult for anybody, much less a thirteen-year-old boy on a steel bicycle. I remember crawling through the last twenty miles. At the last rest stop, I just wanted to crash down on the dirt and die. But my father wouldn't let me. He told me something I never forgot. He told me that it was okay to stop, I shouldn't stay for too long, because the longer I rested, the harder it would be to start again. I refilled my water bottle and got back on the bike, pedaling one slow mile after another, until I finally reached the finish line. My time wasn't impressive, but that didn't matter to me. I finished. And, I did better on my second attempt. Better still on my third.
A few years later, when I was expelled from high school for the second time, I knew I could never go back. High school wasn't for me. I saw my future crumbling around me, so I did what I always do in hardships; I went for a long bike ride. On the road, my mind wandered, and my father's words drifted out from memory. "You can rest, son, but not for too long. It will be harder to start up again." The following semester, I enrolled at Pima College. It was a world I was not ready for, so I had to mature fast. And I did. What I should have learned in High School, I learned at Pima College. 
Years after that, when I was married and had a mortgage, I was forced to quit from a very promising job. I was scared. On my way home, I heard those long-ago words from my father, and—although it was hard—I picked up the phone, swallowed my pride, and called in some favors. How easy it would have been for me to give up at that moment—to just lay down in the dirt and die—but, I couldn't. There was still a finish line I needed to reach. I found work. Two different part-time jobs until I found something full-time. That year was rough, but we made it through. 
As a child, I was obsessed with bicycles. My father took that raw desire and coached me until I could reach the finish line on my own, and perhaps without even realizing it, he taught me how to live. Today, on his birthday, I just wanted to say thank you to him for all those miles. And for all those memories. 

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