"Have you seen Val around recently?" The question might sound like an odd one, coming as it did at the start of Val's memorial ride, but the speaker was my friend Joe and Joe believes things that not everyone else believes. For example, Joe believes that the world would be a better place if a lot more bicycles looked like this:
I wished I could honestly say "Yeah, Joe, I was riding with Val just yesterday" instead of thinking that cancer sucks and it took my friend away a few weeks ago and I really don't think I'll be seeing Val again any time soon.
It turns out I was wrong about that.
Because Val is everywhere here today. Sure there's the life-sized cardboard cutout of Val that we all get our pictures taken with, and there's Val's bike the Dread Nought being strongly ridden by Val's widow Connie and there are the numerous Val-tribute mustaches but there is something more, something that is the pure essence of Val.
Val could fix things. He wouldn't tell you your bike was too old, too heavy or too weird to do something, but he could tell you what you might do to make it better. Heck, he'd be happy to show you what to do to make it better. And he'd build things. He built bikes, he built rides, he built thousands of friendships.
And about a hundred of those friends are here today. And we're all riding.
We ride and we eat and even though there will always be this sadness in our hearts, sadness that our friend has ridden onward to somewhere we have yet to go, the joy of this day, this ride and the rides yet to come is overwhelming.
"Ride Well," Val advised. And we do.
I miss my friend, but you know I've seen him at least a hundred times today.
Ride well, Val.