I debated whether or not I should write this post. It's a little off topic for a blog that's about endurance sports, I'm generally not comfortable with expressing emotion, and it's two weeks late. Given all that I still think it's important to share.
On October 30th, while I rode the American Gothic Gravel Invitational, my grandfather died. Honestly I don't think there is any place I would rather have been.
My grandfather and I were never very close. We never did much together like some families do. No good reason really. I think we just led very different lives. He was a farmer who probably never rode a bicycle. By the time he was my age he owned his own farm and had more children than I'll ever have. I have no idea what he made of the life I lead.
The AGGI course passed by several places that he knew well. He farmed 80 acres on Heaton's Valley road. My uncle (his son) lives just off of Duck Pond road. His 85th birthday party was at the bar in Waubeek. Some of the gravel we rode I had been on before, but only on a hayrack or passed by in a canoe. I remember him, well into his 80s at the time, jumping off of the hayrack and running to close a gate at that farm on Heaton's Valley.
I knew he was dying as I rode. I didn't know that it would be that day, but I knew it would be soon. To say that I "dedicated" the ride to him doesn't make much sense, but I was thinking about him the whole time.
Gravel riding is and always has been a bit more personal for me than perhaps it is for many others. I am not a farmer, but to get out and ride past farms and fields gives me a good feeling. It is a connection to the land, to history, and to my family that I wouldn't otherwise have. I had, for several years, intended to ride those roads in Linn County and more like them in Delaware and Dubuque counties, but until that day I hadn't done so. I'm glad I did that day.