Riding my road bike the other day, I was feeling pretty good for the unusually hot temperature. The hills coming up out of Sewickley didn’t feel so bad and it seemed like now at the end of the riding season, I was in fairly good shape for the shape I am in. Until…..a guy who could not have weighed more than 130# soaking wet came flying by me in a rather official looking pro team kit and shaved legs gleaming in the sun. I knew he was serious as he gave me the obligatory wave with the right finger and as I tried to hang on to his wheel, I said,” where did the 30 years go all of a sudden.” My “in-shapeness” was relative now to my age group and certainly not in the age group of the guy who just smoked me on the hill. As I drifted off the back, I kind of went into a daydream mode which you can do on a road bike and just pedaled and thought about the old days. Look above to see the leather hairnet head protection that we wore and the wool jersies. We were official looking as we tried to mimic the Euro Peleton. When I look at that picture today I say to myself,” how would that leather hairnet protect anything?” With age comes wisdom and the need to look cool and official wanes. However, the enthusiasm for the sport was genuine and no group of people embodied it more than a group from Moon Township, Pennsylvania aptly named “The Moon Cyclists”
Our group of North Parkers were quickly adopted into their group after we all met in the ACA Time Trials and Races. Jody and Gary Gillis, Mike and Judy Mihok, Gary Bywaters, all took George and Debbie, Art Bon, the Habays and me into their fold. The unifying thing among us was not just the love of the sport of road racing, but the social aspect of having a beverage or two after a group ride or race was over. In the winter, we used to use the Ambridge Bike Shop facility in Coraopolis,Pa as a roller riding venue a couple of days a week in the winter to keep our cycling spirits alive. Rollers are cylindrical indoor training devices that move under the front and back weel and tend to improve balance and riding in a straight line. Sometimes the staight line was compromised as one’s attention slipped and the hapless rider would crash inside or ride into the wall much to the amusement of the fellow riders. We followed this up with spaghetti and beer at Segneri’s Restaurant as we laughed about how we “schvettted up the floor of the shop and fogged all the windows”, all the time making fun of each other. It became a tight group and we all looked the part of the serious racers thanks to the talents of Kathy Schnaubelt who made high quality cycling clothing at the time and still does today. Gary Gillis used to call her shop the “schvette shop ” with all the old ladies sewing away on the Singer sewing machines in very hot and humid conditions. But they seemed happy and our cycling kits had a big crescent moon on them and we took pride in wearing all of our Moon Cyclists gear. I wish I had some of that stuff left but it was indeed a long time ago and the “schvette” definitely destroyed the fabric over time.
Many rides and post ride parties were enjoyed over the years and it is amazing how good friendships developed. Peer activites and sports can bond relationships that can last a lifetime. Mike Mihok is an ER doc and I credit him with actually saving my life when I ended up in his ER with stabbing pains in my back. Mike instantly knew my previous history of having a DVT in my leg and recognized the signs of a pulmanory embolysim. He immediately admitted me and had a series of tests done to confirm the malady and had it not been for the quick action of Mike and his team, I might not be writing this blog. He was a good friend.
Sad to say, sometimes you don’t keep up with some friendships and they drift away without you really knowing it until the years pass. You have great memories and even though we have the excuse of kids, the job and aging parents and in-laws, the fact remains that to have a friend is to be a friend. I had too many great times with the Moon Cyclists to let that drift away and now I am in the mindset of trying to rekindle the relationships by what else? Putting together a group ride. I am going to do it and we will again tell the stories that we all like to tell like how we took Greg LeMond’s picture at the World Cycling Championships as he exited the port a john. We all were there to ride in Colorado and take in the race at the Air Force Academy. We were such fans then that in true paparazzi fashion, we could not wait to take pictures of the Tour Champion wherever and whenever we could. The poor guy couldn’t even hit the can without the Moon Cyclists all stalking him. Hilarious then and hilarious today. We can talk about how Gary would crave chocolate after a ride, eat it feverishly and then sink into a chocolate coma and become almost incoherent. Gary Bywaters instituted team time trials at the time and we all rode with each other in different combinations a lot of the time and laughed about how we performed or didn’t perform. How Larry Lynch yelled at us after his pull because our miles per hour slowed down after he killed us with each pull. We had several recovery beers after those time trials. Lots of good times -leather hair nets and all!!
As I watched the young guy with the shiny shaved legs drift away from me, I savored those old days in my mind and as we all have entered or will soon be entering the “empty nesters” league, we need to rekindle the fire of those old days. Not as fast, not in races, but definitely in fun and laughter. Make sure you keep in touch with all of your friends if you can. It is so important and it is never, ever too late to rekindle the “schvette together.” Thanks for reading.