Last week I rode one of my favorite mountain bike trails in Boise. I had to pedal through town and then rode two miles up a paved road to reach the trailhead. I like the route through the city because it takes me past all of my childhood schools from kindergarten to high school. The last one is my elementary school which was at the base of the two mile grind to the trail. The traffic is much lighter at this point so I was just entering zen mode.
While pedaling up the steep hill, some guy yells, “Hey, are you riding corrals trail today?”
I turned around and saw my new friend using hand cranks to pedal his recumbent bike. I replied, “Yes, would you like to join me.”
He said, “That would be great, there are five gates on this trail and I need help to open them. If I ride too slow, feel free to ditch me.”
Moments later I was breathing heavy trying to keep up with Pat. After a few minutes of small talk, I asked, “Are you injured or do you just like the recumbent bike?
He replied, “I was in a motorcycle wreck seventeen years ago and am paralyzed from the chest down.”
His custom built bike was an amazing machine. Pat was frustrated with off the shelf recumbents so he used his engineering skills to design and build his unique bike. He told me another story about being discouraged in his wheelchair in the early days after his accident. He was stuck in the grass in his front yard and thought that there must be a better solution. Not being able to find one, he designed a third wheel that can be added to any wheelchair. It basically transforms the chair into an all-terrain vehicle that can roll over curbs, dirt trails, grass, gravel, snow, and sand. This is now a multi-million dollar business and his invention is sold in 39 countries.
He would often stop and used a spray bottle to moisturize his upper body with water. When I inquired about the need he told me that the accident caused his body to stop perspiring. When we crossed out first creek, he asked me to soak his shirt in the water as an insurance policy against overheating. He also mentioned that this was an issue when he races. That is when I learned he has won four national championships.
After the fifth and final gate, we were looking at a big downhill. He said, “I ride a bit faster than you so this is where I say goodbye. I will check out your books and will look forward to riding with you in the future.”
He quickly ditched me.
I used to think that travel was required to meet amazing people. It is nice to know that is just takes an open heart because the world is full of silent and humble heroes.