I snuck away last weekend for a ride in Texas. DanD, a friend I've known for years as a RUSA volunteer, hooked me up with a bike -- a 16 pounder named Marilyn Monroe -- and a place to stay. Both of those things, and a cheap plane ticket, made life easy.
I got down there Saturday afternoon, grabbed a quick Mexican lunch, then found Dan's house and let myself in. No surprise, he was out on a bike ride. I thumbed through an issue of the UMCA magazine as I waited, noting lots of familiar names in the Year Rounder list, including Dan and his friend Pam.
Dan arrived, all enthusiasm and smiles. And why not? He's got the best hair and moustache on the planet. A RUSA RBA, he is the motor and the motivator behind the Lone Star Randonneurs, a club that has earned a nationwide reputation for high mileage achievements. The celebrated K-Hounds manage 10,000 K of sanctioned events or more in a year. The math on that? About a 200K every week. Dan is the guy stoking that fire.
But back to the living room. The swap of a few pleasantries, lots of bike talk, and a bit of work on Marilyn, then Dan and I were off to the Dallas Fort Worth Stock Show, where Pam works. The guy at the parking lot gate knew Dan and chatted him up, proudly showed off a picture he'd taken -- the Space Shuttle riding piggyback on a jumbo jet. He gave Dan a copy.
We found Pam in the office, dressed in a stunning outfit, Texas all the way down to the cowboy boots. We walked through a sea of cowboy hats and cowboy shirts, through two long pavilions and emerged at the rodeo rink just in time to see the miniature horse and costume competition. This stagecoach won.
Walking back through the exhibits, here's a chair I would have purchased had I not been happily married.
And a tractor.
Off to another Mexican dinner with Dan's masters swim team, where I ate three baskets of chips and watched the coach hand out awards to the folks who swam 300, 400, 500 miles in 2008. Maybe it's not just bikers who get obsessive. I tipped the waitress generously. The meal made me happy.
We hit it to bed early Saturday night and got up early Sunday morning for an hour drive over to the start of the Populaire in Richardson. It began in front of the country's biggest bike shop, Richardson Bike Mart. The store is about two city blocks long. I think it has a stoplight in the middle aisle.
Lance used to ride for a team associated with the shop, and there is lots of Lance on the walls -- photos, jerseys, stuffed lions, Wheaties boxes.
I bought a Bento box with the Lone Star flag on the side to replace the one a squirrel ate.
About 30 riders milled about in the parking lot waiting for the start, including two who were there for their first brevet. Dan told me he uses the Populaire as a recruiting tool for new members. Show the newbies how much fun the crew is, and pretty soon they're in the club, racking up the miles with the best of them. Dan lives for those transformations.
But this day was not just for the new riders. Pam was supposed to be working another 12-hour day at the Stock Show, but here she was, dressed to the nines, complete with white gloves. She was carrying a big box. Now Dan was suspicious. Something was up.
Indeed. Pam gathered the crew around, did a slight diversion with small talk, then dived into a touching speech about Dan, describing him as the heart and soul of the local randonneuring effort. She talked about the hours he devoted to the sport, and his untiring efforts as a mentor, a coach, a booster. This was not an ordinary speech, and Dan was on edge.
Pam reached into the box she'd brought, took out the trophy. The American Randonneur Award, RUSA's highest honor, given each year to one individual "who has made a significant and outstanding contributions to randonneuring in the United States." This year, it was Dan's time. There was a hail of congratulations, several posed photos of Dan and Pam, a few group shots, and the inevitable joke that nobody had ever seen Dan speechless before. It was a beautiful moment.
Me and Marilyn rode in the back with Dan and several other riders for most of the day. We had a fine time out in the wind and the sun, doing what we love to do. Riding our bikes with friends.
When a guy in the parking lot shows off a shuttle picture, you know you're in Rocket Country. That was confirmed as we finished up, turning off of Apollo and on to Star Trek Road. Yes, Mission Accomplished.