Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Barbara Ann

Unlike many guys, I have never engaged in the idea of ‘naming’ a personal vehicle. Although the idea doesn’t see much life in the 21st century (at least where I live), I’m sure some guys still embrace that Neanderthalian rite of passage. Most likely it only occurs in the land of amateur Ricky Bobby's, who still wear blue jeans and white t-shirts (with the ubiquitous pack of Marlboro's rolled up in the sleeve).

Of course, no naming of a vehicle can transpire without cause. Whether it is a favorite girlfriend, Mom, or just the local roller derby hottie, there must be a reason that name will have a special place of honor on a guy’s vehicle.

Well, a few months ago, I decided to join the Neanderthalians and christen my red-and-white 2008 Specialized Allez Elite. Her name is now Barbara Ann, and this is her story.

Since joining the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Division of Fiscal Services Parks Accounting section in March of 2000, one of my earliest friendly colleagues was a vivacious redhead from Paris Landing State Park named Barb. Over the years, though my specific duties did not always involve Barb’s work at Paris Landing, we remained fairly close, always ready to share good-natured laughs about the follies of work and life.

In late September of 2008, I had the misfortune of breaking a femur in a rather unique, and slightly embarrassing, bicycling accident. Riding clipless, I simply fell over rolling to a stop after being unable to disengage foot from pedal. The bike had all of 10.07 miles on its cyclometer and there would be another year passing before the miles ridden were a greater number than the months owned.

Two days after surgery, while I was still in that euphoric land of pain meds, the phone rang, interrupting my visions of traipsing suntanned on a faraway beach with Mary Stuart Masterson. There we were, just the two of us, Mary Stuart and I, munching on fried green tomatoes and sipping on Hurricanes while also drinking in the elixir of the sun’s afternoon warmth. This interruption had better be damn good.

On the other end of the line were Barb, and her partner-in-crime, Kristi, giggling like schoolgirls making crank calls while hanging out at home as they skipped fifth-period geometry class. And they were all too eager to give me the business on the unusual details of the accident. Although I would receive many calls, visits, and cards in the next few weeks, none warmed my spirits like that brief, initial repartee with Barb and Kristi.

The story now fast forwards to a mere three-and-a-half weeks later. It is Sunday, October 19. The phone rang and on the other end of the line was Kristi. This time there was no Barb, and there was no hilarity. In fact, there was nothing but stunned silence on my part as Kristi said that Barb had passed away the night before, due to a heart attack. She was only 60 years old.

The time since has passed with more than a few days spent remembering Barb, her laugh, and her love of family and friends. Few people continue to touch so many lives as Barb did in her life. Kristi (and others) keeps her picture close by as sort of a guardian angel. I still have her cell phone number in my address book. Yeah, she was just that special.

And, as the time has passed, my injuries have healed and I am back in the saddle once more. This time I’m riding smarter, with no more days of fancy clipless pedals for me. For I am not a racer, intent on whipping past a pace line in a criterium, I’m just a guy who loves riding his bicycle.

And his bicycle is now, and forever more, no longer nameless. She is Barbara Ann. And, as Paul Harvey would say, now you know . . . the rest . . . of the story.

No comments: