Sunday, August 6, 2017

With A Heavy Heart ...

Thank you, Pam and Bruce, for 21 memorable years.

This is the one post I thought I would never have to write.  And then the unthinkable happened a couple months ago when Bruce called to tell me that The Outdoor Store was closing its doors.  My heart sunk as if someone died.  Did I not just blog about another great LBS shutting down a few months ago? Once Bruce explained the situation, I had to agree with him.  But what was I going to do?  As if the store only existed for me.  It took me a while to sort things out in my head. My vacation with Carly was the perfect therapy.

It's definitely not about me but totally about what is best for the Blevins family.  Although I am sorry for me and the community, I am happy for the new path they are going to take.  Everything happens for a reason and though I may not realize it now, by God, I will on down the road.

For the past few weeks, I have been reliving the unbelievably life changing memories that have come about through Pam and Bruce's friendship and The Outdoor Store's sponsorship over the past 19 years. Like, in 2000, the first time I used clipless pedals.  They said to come ride some gravel roads and double track to get used to them before I went on single track.  Sounded reasonable, I thought. However, they took me on the now defunct Tellico ORV trail system.  Holy cows!  That is NOT where you take a clipless newbie!

Or when I joined the "racing team" in 1999.  To be a part of a family that loved to get sweaty and dirty and push the limits was a dream come true.  One of my first races was the Bud Light Ocoee Challenge held at Chilhowee Mountain.  I began my career in the Sport category. Somehow I managed to finish the 16 mile course in 4th in 1 hour 54 minutes.

Note the tennis shoes and toe clips.  How I ever survived, I do not know.

I was totally spent.  Charlie had come to spectate.  On the way home, I was so exhausted that I fell asleep. This is the race that Ellen Carroll blew past me like I was standing still and then rode a rock garden like a beast.  I had to walk it!  Seeing her do what she did is what inspired me to get my shit together so that I could be like her one day!  My hunger was insatiable.

In 2000, I upgraded my racing machine to the 2000 Specialized FSRxc, the unofficial beginning of the S-Works line.  I didn't care that it weighed 28 pounds; I felt even faster on this machine!

So pro, with the squiggly SID.

In 2002, the team started to get some home town recognition.

I am in the background, 7 months pregnant.

I remember the year I about killed my husband making him ride the Tour For Tots ride that the store put on to raise money for Christmas gifts for those kids less fortunate.  Carly was about 5 years old and on the Trail-A-Bike.  I was enjoying the hills, even when my little stoker was not stoking. On the other hand, Charlie was being a good husband and father and suffering like a dog.

And the time when I almost had a sub 3 hour 100K Ride For Life hosted in part by the store.  Joshua used to pedal back then and was a beast!  I remember saying to myself with about 10 miles to go, "Just hang on, you got this, don't pop now!"

I will cherish these forever.

I still have my first two team jerseys.  They "swallow" me now.  Had The Outdoor Store not existed, I wonder ... would I have still found mountain biking?  Or would I have taken up another sport?  Or would I have just vegetated on the couch eating Twinkies and drinking Diet Cokes?  I am so thankful for them opening up my eyes to this riding bikes thing.  I have seen so much because of them.  I have pushed my limits and then reset them innumerable times.  I have made good friends.  I have discovered new foods. I have gotten stronger.  All these things ... because of the impact The Outdoor Store made on me.

Before Swiftwicks were Swiftwicks, they were WickWear.

I have 3 pairs of these socks left.  They are 15 years old! A true testament to the quality of Swiftwick. The Outdoor Store was one of the first accounts the company had.

One of the original bottles.

I felt so loyal to this LBS that I purchased as much as I could through them.  One time I even cancelled a S-Works bike frame order with another bike shop because I felt guilty. Apparently after 15 years of being a Specialized dealer, The Outdoor Store wasn't good enough (not doing enough volume) to continue being an S-Works dealer. That was in 2010.  As a result of that guilt, Bruce became a Niner dealer, and I started riding them.

But with the days of on-line shopping, all small businesses are feeling it. I suppose that this is the evolution of shopping, but darn it, sometimes I wish we could go back to the days of Sears and Roebuck.  So when I stepped back into the store after we got back from our vacation, I got choked up.  Reality hit me hard when I saw 3 bikes left on the floor and racks devoid of product.

For me, I will move on and make a new LBS friend.  It will just mean traveling a bit further. I hope to find a new team that will treat me with as much kindness and respect as Pam and Bruce have.  For them, I wish all the happiness in their new endeavors.

Bruce was/is an amazing mechanic. I never once lost or DNF'd a race due to a mechanical.  He kept my machines in immaculate operating condition.  If he didn't know an answer to a problem, he would call until he found someone that did.  That will be my biggest headache; finding a new mechanic that I can entrust my "wheeled" kids to.  This is more serious than finding a new doctor, people!

And if you ever have a hankering for tinkering on some bad ass bikes, Bruce, my basement door is always open ...

Thanks for the memories!