This afternoon, I felt like I stepped back in time 40 years. I was out for a quick ride, and was passing a convience store where I saw a group of older riders standing next to their bikes that all appeared to have chrome lugs. So, I thought I'd stop for some hot chocolate as an excuse to see what was going on. As I wheeled up closer, one of the guys yelled, "Nice jersey." I forgot I was wearing my 50+ jersey over three other layers. I replied, "Thanks.", and pulled to a stop next to them. What I saw was just short of unbelievable. There were five Schwinn Paramounts and one Schwinn Vouyager. They all appeared to be 60s or 70s vintage, and none of them had more than five cogs in the rear. All original equipment. It turns out the guys riding them were all in their late 60's except the one they called Ackerman. He had just turned 70.
So, I spent about 20 minutes with them and found out only their first names or nick names. There was Sal, he lost his wife 10 years ago and lived near Middleburg, PA. Turns out all of them had lost their wives, and only one remarried. Then, Harold was introduced as being, "From one of those God forsaken cities on the west coast." I was then introduced to Clark, Bing, and Woodsy. These guys were having the time of their lives as they joked, talked, and laughed with the kind of ease that only comes from knowing each other for a long time. It turns out I was right. They had been riding together, playing golf, and fishing (for large mouth bass, Woodsy was quick to point out) for over 35 years. None of them were from this area. They spent most of their time planning and then taking adventures all across the country. This particular ride was to honor Ackerman.
But at the moment everyone was angry at Ackerman. Harold called out to him, "Ackerman, tell him why we've been here so damned long." Ackerman just sneered. Woodsy, however, spoke up and said, "The damn fool is riding on sew-ups and got a flat. Now we can't get the glue to hold the tire on. So, we're waiting for Clark's wife to bring the Bago (I assume he meant Winnabago) with a new wheel." Bing jumped in and said, "Yeah, we had quite a time just talking him out of wearing those old shoes with the wooden soles and nailed on cleat. He says he likes to keep things pure. I think he's just being a jackass." At this point Ackerman came over and took a close look at my bike. I suspect his real reason was to better hear what others were saying about him in the hopes he could defend himself. He asked, "Is that one of them carbon bikes?" I replied that it was, but not in the same league as what they were riding. There were grins all around. Harold asked how much it weighed. So, I invited him to lift it. He did, and then so did everyone else. Bing said, "Hey Sal, this would be a heck of a lot easier than trying to lose that five pounds you're always talking about. Why don't you get yourself one of these." We talked for a few more minutes about their bikes and mine, when I noticed Clark and Harold headed back in the store. Several minutes later Clark came out opening a small tin of cocktail sausages. Sal saw this and said, "Ah, do you have to eat that? Nobody's gonna want you to pull now." Clark just grinned as Sal added, "When he eats those things he gets incredible gas. I think he does it on purpose." I then noticed Harold coming out holding an ice cream cone. He took it over to a little girl I had not been paying attention to who had dropped hers. He asked the girl's mother (who was busy talking on her cell phone) if he could give the ice cream to her. The mother nodded, yes. As he gave the ice cream to the girl her face just lit up.
Well, I couldn't stay around and talk any longer. I had a phone call I was expecting at home. But as I rode away I kept thinking, I'm pretty proud to be part of the group of riders who are 50+. In another 10 years I hope to have as much class as these guys.