Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Greensboro, North Carolina

Friends: "Friendly Bicycles," one of the premier bicycle shops in Greensboro, takes its name from the street where it was originally located. But even if it weren't named for that street, one of the main thoroughfares of this city, it would be a most inspired name for a bicycle shop.

Even to the non-devotee the bicycle conjures images of warmth and friendliness. It is almost a universal symbol for youth and innocence and simpler times along with joy and freedom and flight from earthly concerns. With "Hospitality" virtually synonymous with the South, it was no surprise to find a street named "Friendly" here. I assumed it was as common a street name throughout the South as "Main" is everywhere else. But Les, the gray-haired proprietor of "Friendly Bicycles," explained the name was drawn from the early strong Quaker presence in Greensboro. The Quakers are known as the Society of Friends. They still maintain a college in Greensboro and continue to exert a strong influence on the community. Les didn't know if "Friendly" was a popular street name elsewhere, nor even if any other shops in Greensboro had adopted it, as he had.

Les certainly lived up to the name of his shop, gladly chatting, sharing his vast knowledge of local lore while poring over a cycling map of the region, advising me what to see and how to get there. One of the places he recommended was the Guildford Courthouse National Military Park where a Carolina Cup criterium bicycle race is staged every September on a 1.9 mile course. I was hoping also to find the U.S.Pro Cycling Championship Course in the area, but I had my "Greens" mixed up. It is not held in Greensboro, but rather Greensville and in South Carolina, not North. That was a little disappointing, as I knew that George Hincapie, the only teammate of Lance to ride with him on each of his seven wins, lived near that race course. I was hoping I might encounter him out training. Other pros lived in the area and trained with Hincapie, making it a hotbed of US cycling.

But cycling still has some prominence here in Greensboro. The local Barnes and Noble bookstore had more cycling books, including several I was unaware of, than any book store I've encountered. It also carried the widest array of cycling magazines that I have seen anywhere outside of Europe. Along with several English publications there was a very polished racing quarterly from Australia. But it wasn't the cycling that brought me to Greensboro. It was rather, first, to visit my friend Tomas, long-time cycling compadre, and then Lyndon, long-time Telluride compadre, and his new wife Stephanie over in Winston-Salem, part of the Triad of cities including Greensboro and High Point.

I pushed hard yesterday, biking 86 miles from south of Roanoke, Virginia to arrive at Tomas' home 45 minutes before dark, happy the terrain leveled somewhat at the North Carolina border, allowing me to get my average speed for the day up to almost 14 mph, the best in days after the steep ups and downs of southeast Ohio and West Virginia and Virginia. It was the fourth different place that Tomas and I have had a reunion since meeting in Puerto Escondido, Mexico in January of 1981, back when Puerto Escondido was little more than a secret surfing spot and haven for vagabond travelers. I was wintering there with Crissy. Tomas had biked down from San Francisco on his way to Guatemala. I joined up with him for the 175-mile stretch over the Sierra Madres to Oaxaca on mostly unpaved road, what was then known as the roughest bus
trip in all of Mexico. It was a test ride for me before tackling the more than 1,000 miles of dirt and gravel of the Alaskan Highway that I planned to ride that summer.

Tomas and I have rendezvoused a couple more times over the years in Puerto Escondido. I also
visited him when he lived in Cupertino in Silicone Valley, as I bicycled down the Pacific Coast.
The past three falls we have met up at the Telluride Film Festival, where Tomas manages the
concessions stand at the Opera House. Tomas would somewhat like to be the bike bum that
I am, but he has engineering skills that are too much in demand. He is one of a handful of authorities in the world on flip chips, an integral part of cellular phones. He has worked all over the world for a variety of companies, including Motorola, taking bicycle breaks whenever he can. He took a job in Greensboro a little over a year ago with RF Micro Devices. One of the allures of the job was that it required him to oversee their plant in the Philippines, necessitating several visits a year. He just returned from a month there.

Tomas lends his engineering mentality to the bicycle and his given me countless equipment tips over the years. I have him to thank for my 48-spoke tandem rear wheel that has virtually alleviated broken spokes when I am touring. I also have him to thank for my deluxe Gore-Tex jacket, that he was able to get me for half-price when he was on sabbatical from the engineering, working at REI.We have so many shared interests and so much going on in our lives, we talked for hours last night without once having to reminisce on our past great rides together. Maybe we'll do that tonight, though not likely as we are set to have dinner with Lyndon and Stephanie over in Winston-Salem.

Later, George

No comments: