Mary Craighead and Aaron Hawkins of The Mountain Bike Depot in Louisville, Kentucky sent in this report of how their shop and community have rallied to overcome the effects of the recent storms and make the best of an unfortunate situation.
The Midwest ‘cross center was devastated by the ice and snow storm that ripped through the region in late January. Roads became icy, tractionless slabs, water mains burst, and over 205,000 people within Louisville Metro were without power, leaving many without heat in teenage temperatures. It was the lack of power that led to the most calamitous consequence of all: tens of thousands of computers were rendered unable to stream the live footage of the 2009 UCI Cyclocross World Championships.
Aware of the serious nature of this situation, we immediately went to work. Seven software downloads, two phone calls to the UK, three trips to the timely closing sale at Circuit City, and we had a way to record the race. We didn’t see it as pirating; this was really more of a Robin Hood; we needed to save the city of ‘cross. Once our race coverage was secured, we went on to consider what else we could do to salvage lost comforts. A bit of pandering and a few phone calls to friends’ friends, and we had a selection of fine Euro brews and a keg of Magic Hat, Bob’s Red Mill Waffle Mixes, Justin’s Nut Butter, and authentic pommes frites with lime and jalapeno mayo (authenticity verified by two-time Belgian ‘Cross Camp attendee Andrew Lewellyn). What followed was more than we had ever expected.
Nearly 60 people crowded our little Trailside Cafe that night, and brought together the majority of the serious ‘cross folks in town. After the battering that Louisville suffered, it was great to have a big group of friends together, many of whom haven’t seen each other since the last ‘cross race. The only thing that separated our event from one in Belgium was the lack of grumpy old men smoking; well, that and the fact that overnight it had become freakishly warm – gracing us with the high 50s and flooding.
Aaron poured his heart and Bob’s Red Mill Mix onto the waffle iron all night long while I slung frites in hand-rolled parchment paper cones and we took turns popping bottle caps and pumping the keg with our free hands. We expected to see about 25 of our ‘crossest friends there, so the coolest part was meeting the 35 or so new people who we’d never met during the races of our lives. One woman didn’t even know what cyclocross was; she had just purchased her first mountain bike, heard about the party, and thought it would probably be an awesome place to meet some people who could show her how to ride it! How cool is that? Turning folks on to ‘cross, and really cycling in general, is really one of the best feelings one could ever hope to feel.
That’s really our community service mission here at our shop: be more than just a bike shop, and to let people know that we are all really fans, teachers, and students of cycling somewhere inside ourselves. We are outsiders to Louisville, and we packed up and moved here because of all of the ‘cross racing and the strength of the OVCX Series. We firmly believe that you should leave every venue in a better state than when you first set up, so that is what we aim to do.
We want culture – bike culture. We knew we were on the right track when someone came up to the beer counter and, looking around starry-eyed, stated “Wow, we almost have a real counter-culture going here!” and she was quickly shot down by local ‘crosser Doug’s retort, “Kinda? Really? This is counter-culture!”
We know a lot of folks probably just came for the free beer, and we’re okay with that. Pavlov’s dog can be trained to love the cowbell. We think, though, that our friend Brian summed it up best in saying:
“It is the joy of being in the company of people who understand. People who understand why you would jump off of a perfectly good bicycle. People who understand why you like to suffer so much. People who understand why racing in the mud is so much better than on a dry street. We have an actual community here, and not a bad one. It was as if these people had been put in a room where talking about tire pressures and tread patterns was going to be totally acceptable just one last time until late summer swings around.”
We do crazy things. We do even crazier things to race our bikes. We don’t discount a little bit of crazy because after all, it’s a little bit of crazy that brought Da Vinci to design a modern bike, Columbus to sail around a 2D world, and Louis Pasteur to leave a brewery and start trying to cure rabies instead. Nikos Kazantzakis told us that a man needs a little madness, or else he never dare cut the rope and be free. Hey, after all, it’s only a little bit of crazy that sets apart those with a vision from those who reach just beyond what their eyes can see. Here in Louisville, we’re more than just visionaries.