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Bike Rides 125
The Second Annual Darren Dash

Darren Lewis was a good friend of mine and such to a lot of people.  A year and half has passed since he died and it really hasn’t gotten any easier to digest the loss. For me it was difficult to go all of last summer without receiving one of his goofy texts, or a phone call that always started with the familiar greeting “How are YOU… Mr. U.?”

To which I’d always reply, “very WELL… Mr. L.” and the conversation would continue to go in several twisted directions from there.

One of my greatest bike riding memories ever comes from a late night cruise that included a large group of local friends, one of many such spontaneous “party rides,” we’d throw together on the weekends, but haven’t really since.

When riding in a group it’s customary for the front man to call out obstacles seen on the trail and riders will pass the word successively to the next rider right down the line.

“Stick,” each rider yells out until the warning safely reaches the end of the group.

On this particular ride Darren was the lead biker and my neighbor Hank and I were pulling up the rear with about six riders between us.  It had rained earlier that day and as we rode through the heart of Todd Park Mr. L. dutifully turned his head back toward the line of riders and yelled “puddle!” so all could avoid getting a racing stripe painted up their backsides from a little water splash.

But before the news actually reached the tail Hank and I heard a large splash come from the front of the pack, a disturbance much greater than a simple puddle could produce followed by the sound of squeaking brakes, multiplying in harmony as the group abruptly stopped at the edge of the creek where Darren had just nose-dived head first over his handle bars, right into the rushing creek water. The momentary distraction of calling out the puddle on the trail had diverted Darren’s attention just long enough at the darkest point in the park that it caused him to miss the curve. Subsequently he and his bike were completely submerged by the time we caught up.

Darren re-emerged to the water’s surface just as we stopped and what followed once we got him and his bike safely back on dry land and verified there was no injury involved, was the deepest and longest belly laugh we’ve all ever had.

As I reflect on this most humorous incident I’m reminded of what a beautiful person Darren was both inside and out.  Even while covered from head to toe with mud, water, and weeds no one’s smile was better than Darren Lewis’ and no one could laugh at themselves so humbly after such an incident. He was simply amazing that way. 

Darren was a casual bicycler who really knew how to enjoy a ride.  But he was a serious distance runner, participating and placing well in many local and regional marathons over his 38 years.  Last year family and friends came together and created the Darren Dash in his honor.  Darren Dash is an annual half marathon, 5K and kiddie race that snakes through Austin’s trail system. Participation was impressive last year.

The second annual Darren Dash will be run next Saturday, May 11th.  If you’re not participating as a runner consider joining the fun as a spectator.  The fun kicks off at 8:00 am in Lafayette Park.  Or you can watch from anyplace along the route, as many did last year. 

I’ll be leading the half on my bike again; my neighbor Hank will have 5k duties and Darren’s son Jayden will head up the kiddie race. Get more information at darrendash.org.

Thanks for racing along!

Traffic Tip:  As a pedestrian group occupying the whole path, if you wait until a cyclist is forced to slow down, stop, or leave the trail completely before you move right, you’ve waited too long.

See past Bike Rides columns at dansbikerides.com
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