I met Hank Greer, Out There’s longtime Everyday Cyclist columnist, where it may be statistically most likely to do so: on his daily work commute on the Centennial Trail. Returning from a downtown grocery run and anxious to put the ice cream away, I caught up to him and started to pass him on the left. As I did so, we struck up a brief, cheerful conversation as fellow pedal pushers tend to do. We talked equipment choices and from-tos (as in, where are you coming from? Going to?). We also relived highlights of past tours and speculated a bit about those to come.
After chatting easily for a mile, we drifted apart without exchanging contacts, realizing we would meet again, no doubt in much the same fashion. What I couldn’t have predicted those five years ago was that I would one day put down some roots here in Spokane and accept the honor and challenge of writing the Out There Everyday Cyclist column while he rolls out on one of those wild bike trips.
Acknowledging that I am unlikely to achieve his robust stature in the Spokane cycling community, or be able to even palely mimic his signature wit, I can only hope some measure of my own passion for all forms of cycling can achieve a similar goal: more butts on more bikes.
There is no shortage of fuel for those passions here in the Inland Northwest. From scenic rolls on the Centennial Trail or winding backroads, to winter night rides on Beacon Hill or the endless trails maintained by singletrack fanatics, there is a ride for every tire size and skill level.
Like the city itself, the cycling community seems accessible and down-to-earth. I have jumped in on group rides knowing no one, and invariably left with at least one new riding buddy. I have been approached on the street, including while delivering this magazine downtown Spokane, by fellow curious cyclists.
With one such easy acquaintance I now call a friend, I traversed a sizeable portion of our extensively trailed city, from Audubon Park to the bar at Luna on the South Hill for Easter brunch, our tires barely touching pavement. You know how when you’re falling for someone, it can be traced back through a series of small, revealing moments? An unexpected smile, an unspoken understanding, an intentional touch. That ride was one of those in my burgeoning affection for Spokane. I cite it often when people wonder why I contentedly call this city home, having travelled through more than a handful of places.
I admit to previously playing the field a bit. Raised in the infinite cornfields of Iowa, I’ve lived at least a year in South Carolina, Louisiana, Japan, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Seattle, Denver, and— for the last five years— I’ve lived in Spokane. I have never felt so at home as I do here. It might be in some small way related to my internal clock, but it is largely that I’ve found a place that’s just the right mix of self-awareness and resolve. I don’t feel a need to be the weirdest, most outspoken, fastest, or a world-saving overachiever here. I only need to be true to my passions, or to be always in search of them, to find fast friends and new trails.
Taking over the reins of this column as Greer heads out on a long cycling adventure, I am thrilled to get the chance to spread awareness of this city’s and region’s unparalleled cycling opportunities, from shore-side picnics to endless mountain tours. I hope to be able to offer just a bit of insight, and to provide some inkling of inspiration for those considering cycling as a viable means of transportation, recreation, and exercise. As I’ve learned, Spokane is the kind of special place where you just might meet a Hank Greer out there, then get to be him. // (Justin Skay)
When he’s not off on another outdoor adventure, Justin Skay is often out pedaling around town running errands or escaping the hubbub of urban living on a quiet dirt trail. He last wrote about hot springs near Lochsa Lodge in the January issue of Out There.
[Feature photo “Home is where your bike is” courtesy of Justin Skay]