It may seem incongruous. What’s a guy who drove nitro-fueled race cars at more than 300 miles per hour for 18 years doing running a cycling tour company? After making my living in NHRA Drag Racing by piloting top-fuel dragsters and funny cars down a quarter-mile track, pulling more than five gs, sometimes on fire, you can see that some people might think I’d find riding a bike comparatively sedate.
But I found lots of things on my bike, even while I was still professionally driving. I found rehabilitation after a motorcycle accident. I found respite from the uber-competitive world of car racing. I found a higher level of fitness and mental clarity. I found new routes, new friends and even my wife. But most of all, I found moments that would have been hard to experience in a car, insulated by steel and glass.
Some of my favorite moments: riding with my good friend Mike Dunn, an all-around tough guy who was a naturally talented Fuel Funny Car driver I admired, out of racetracks all over the country in Lycra bib shorts and jerseys. You could see people thinking, “What the…?!” Ultimately, I believe our small group of drag racing cyclists, which also included former Indy Car driver Parker Johnstone, maybe helped sensitize NHRA fans by putting familiar faces underneath cycling helmets. More moments: riding Mount Evans with my wife, Michelle, in complete, high-altitude, car-free quiet, and then hearing the sound of heavy hooves on rocks as large, white mountain goats scrambled up to the road side to check us out. Exploring a new route in rural Ohio and getting caught in a hellacious thunderstorm with Mikey and Michelle, who still joke about “another one of Whit’s great rides.”
No matter what your “other life” might be, cycling brings people from all walks of life together. It erases boundaries and forms a kinship among people who otherwise might not give each other the time of day. But as we know, suffering on a bike can lay your soul bare. There is not much you can hide from your riding buddies on a hard ride. You put yourself out there, and in doing so, you discover what you are made of. It must be the suffering that bonds cyclists together and forms friendships that transcend cycling. I realize that most of my best friends are cyclists. I even met my wife of ten years on a bike ride. Need I say more?
My career gave me a lot of things: a sense of satisfaction, success and victories in the sport’s biggest and most prestigious races, and maybe, most importantly, the self confidence that comes from succeeding when all the odds where against me. It also gave me the opportunity to ride all over this tremendously diverse country, including the Pacific Northwest, where we now live. The cycling is amazing here. Not only is the riding in Oregon incredibly scenic and beautiful, but it’s also safe and enjoyable because of relatively few vehicles on many of my favorite roads. Oregon’s notorious land use laws help keep sprawl at bay, and as a result, there is very light traffic outside our towns and cities.
I love studying maps and coming up with new rides that are even more beautiful, or more undiscovered than the last, and then sharing them with my friends. This is why I created Ride Cycling Tours. It seemed natural. The Oregon Pinnacles is my route. It is our toughest, most scenic, diverse and challenging multi-day ride we have on the 2012 schedule. It will test you and reward you. And it will leave a lasting impression. If you’re like me, you will leave this ride reluctantly, and you will plot, plan and devise a way to move to Oregon. Just so you can ride these rides any time you want to. They are that good.