There are moments in our lives when each of us makes life altering decisions. We come to that proverbial fork in the road and choices are spread out before us. I know this is true because I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person to wonder "what would have happened if would have _____ instead of _____." I'm guessing that each of us can pinpoint at least five or six crucial moments when we made one of those decisions that set the course of our lives and would ultimately shape us into the person we would become.
|Bedford, Pennsylvania. Photo taken from the hilltop above Cumberland Road just west of town--2015|
For me, one of those moments came in 1995 when I made the decision to leave my hometown of Bedford, Pennsylvania and accepted a teaching job at Northeastern School District in York County...one hundred miles to the east. I made a conscious decision to move (I had been offered opportunities in Bedford) because I wanted (and needed) a fresh start. That one decision put in motion all of the events of the next 21 (and counting) years of my life. That one decision...made by a 21 year old kid in 1995...led to thousands of smaller choices that, over the course of time, brought into my life new friendships, new interests, and new lifestyles.
One of those choices occurred in the early fall of 1995. For the first time I was truly "on my own." I found out quickly that, when you are on your own, you better enjoy your own company. I was looking for something to do. I hadn't made many friends my age yet (most of the teachers in my new school were significantly older than I was) and I didn't know the area around me. A lady who worked at school with me mentioned that there was a county park near my apartment and that it was a great place to take hikes. So...I went. It was my first trip to Rocky Ridge County Park....and what I saw changed my life forever.
|For my 6th birthday, in 1979, my mom & dad bought me my first real bike. It was sparkly blue, had red handle bar grips, and a red banana seat. I remember thinking it was a race bike! 1979|
|The only picture that I have of me on my first bike--1980|
|My mom & dad purchased me a blue Huffy Omni 10 identical to this one when I was in middle school. I saw this bike chained up outside of the Amtrak station in Lancaster, PA. in 2015. I left a note on the bike offering to purchase it but never received a call back.|
I had never been a cyclist. Sure, as a child I had bikes. I can still remember the first bike my parents bought for me. It was sparkly blue and had a red banana seat. When I was six, I thought it was a racing bike! Later, in middle school, my mom and dad bought me a blue Huffy Omni 10...but, by time I got to high school, I was much more into football, socializing, and other things. To be honest...I really wish I had that bike back. So, it is reasonable to say, that when I saw whoever it was on those mountain bikes at Rocky Ridge on that fall day in 1995, I probably hadn't been on a bicycle in ten years. I didn't care though. I went home, pulled out the yellow pages, and found the closest mountain bike shop near me.
|The logo for Gung Ho Bikes when I purchased my first mountain bike. It was updated in 2012.|
|Jay Zech at Gung Ho Bikes|
The decision to walk into Gung Ho Bikes (at that time located on White Street in West York) was a game changer for me. To this day, I can still remember being greeted as I walked through the front door by Jay Zech. For those who know Jay, he has a smile that can fill a room. I think the thing that struck me the most was that he seemed (and all these years later I know he was) genuinely interested in getting to know me. Jay is my longest continuous friend in York (the title of longest continuous friend belongs to my college roommate, Chris Lowe). I cannot over state how important he, and the shop, have been to me the past two decades. On that day in 1995, Jay let me try out a few bikes (which I thought was funny because I sure as hell didn't know anything about bikes) until I found something I was comfortable with. I remember choosing a blue GT Timberline All Terra...no suspension and platform pedals.
My first mountain bike. On that day, I made a choice that would forever alter a part of who I was. On that day, I became a mountain biker. On that day, I found a passion. On that day, I found a constant. On that day, I came to a fork in the trail and I began I ride that I hope to never finish.
Live is a journey, not a destination
David A. Raymond -- March 29, 2016
|Looking out over York County from Rocky Ridge County Park -- March 13, 2016|