A Bench on the Lake
A bench on the lake where he bicycled with his daughter says his name: Darrell Preston, an internationally known, prize-winning journalist, an avid bicyclist, and my lifelong best friend.
Darrell loved bicycling the way fish love water. It was an essential element for him, and it made him free. The stresses of his work in journalism loomed large, as he covered financial markets, bond markets, and as a result, he had to interview all kinds of grumpy people. When he got home, he got on the bicycle and rode, rode, rode, till every ounce of stress had left his body.
He lived in Richardson, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, so of course, he had to bicycle in the Hotter than Hell 100 in Wichita Falls, Texas, many times. It made him happy to sweat hard and ride full out.
He was my best friend, and I loved him through one broken marriage and many a lady friend. We’d get together from time to time, and talked a lot on the phone. He was the Best Person at my wedding, and I was the Best Person at his wedding. After his divorce, we met up at Rocky Mountain National Park to go on all the trails he’d done with his wife so that he could reclaim the space. After my divorce, we met up at a castle in France.
One of his girlfriends wanted to share the love, so she got a bicycle, a sweet little vintage Motobecane. She hadn’t bicycled a day in her life, and Darrell had the unfortunate experience of her company during his rides.
“Going for a ride,” he’d say, and he’d be free — but now, she’d run, get her helmet, and pop up on that bicycle of hers, expecting them to ride side-by-side.
Oh, he blew up my phone that year! He griped about how he had to bicycle slowly for her, and how she wore out after only a few miles, and yet he wanted to be kind. He knew she wanted to share what he loved most in the world: bicycling. She wanted to be part of it, but he wanted that time alone, pure, free, and soaring.
Darrell crisscrossed France on his bicycle for a month, trying to decide whether to marry his girlfriend. She was laying the pressure on him, and they’d been together for five years. He shipped his bicycle in a box and celebrated when it arrived intact. His first night in Paris, he realized he had not thought of making any hotel reservations — so he ended up sleeping under a bridge by his bicycle, hoping that none of the local clochards would bother him. They didn’t.
After riding all over France and into the Alps, thighs aching, sweat streaming, he took a flight back home. He had decided to propose — but that silly woman met him at the airport and ragged him out for not calling her more. She screeched and howled and complained, and after a day of her squawking, he ditched her and got back on that bicycle again.
I miss him so much; it’s like a physical pain. I miss his jokes, and his deep brown eyes, and his slow, sweet drawl when he said my name. He did yoga so that he could keep stretched out. He thought it made for better bicycling.
He had super-strong legs and amazing back muscles. He passed away from an ugly MRSA virus, after needing treatment for a spider bite — a really sad way for a great man to go if you ask me.
So, this summer, I have a plan. I’m getting in shape. I’m taking my blue-gray Trek in ever-widening circles, and I’m going to ride that Hotter Than Hell 100 in his honor. Now, I can’t do it as Darrell did it. Nobody could. That event, in the first week of August, happens to be a sign-on for misery for beginners like me. Nonetheless, I’m on it. They have an amateur race for 25 miles — far less than Darrell ever did, but a huge distance for a neophyte like me.
Darrell rides with the angels now, and I’m going to make him proud of me. I’m hitting that amateur race at The Hundred with all my heart. I know he’ll be pumping along right beside me.