Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Blind Leading the Blind

When the blind guy on the back of the tandem is giving you directions, you might want to question your navigation skills. I was lost in Golden, trying to find my way to the bike path, which would get me to Erik’s house, turning tight U-turns on giant tandem and trying not to stop because starting back up is a bit tricky.

Erik Weihenmayer is an absolute wonder. He lost his sight at the age of 13 and yet lives a life of adventure that far exceeds 99.9% of the sighted people in the world, including myself. He climbed the Seven Summits, which includes Mt. Everest. He leads rock climbs up to 5.10 and he's climbed the Naked Edge in Eldorado Canyon. He's solo paraglided. Currently he training to run the Grand Canyon in a solo kayak! He's also about the most positive person I've ever met. 

I hooked up with Erik via my friend Hans Florine, who has climbed the Nose of El Cap and Carstensz Pyramid with Erik. Hans told me that Erik is frequently looking for local adventure partners with which to climb and bike. A couple of years ago at Hans' prodding I sent Erik an audio email suggesting we hook up for a ride. I heard nothing back until a week ago, when Erik emailed me. He had found my original note in a long lost folder and wondered if I still lived in the area. I responded and we made a plan to ride a bike together. Yes, a single tandem bike.

I'd only ridden a tandem once before and found them pretty difficult to control. Erik offered up either a mountain bike or a road bike but that wasn't any choice at all for me. I can barely ride a one-person mountain bike. I met him at his house in Golden, which is less than 30 minutes from my house. 

After taking a brief test run, solo, on his beautiful Commotion Tandem, I decided to up the ante from my first suggestion of a flat ride, to climbing up Lookout Mountain instead. I figured Erik was strong as an ox and if I could just keep the bike upright, he'd power us up the hills. This turned out to be true and we had a great time on the climb, doing the nature loop on top, going by the country club for a bit of additional climbing and even climbing up to the Mother Cabrini Shrine via the very steep access road.

Hanging out with Erik you wouldn't know he is blind. He walks around this house and garage as well as anyone with sight. Even in unfamiliar territory, like when we stopped for a natural break halfway up Lookout, Erik just walks around like he can see all the dips and climbs in the woods. I found myself forgetting he was blind. He never asks for help to do anything. Mainly because he rarely needs it. I could go on and on about him, but that would fill a book. Better to just read Erik's books: Touch the Top of the World and The Adversity Advantage

Hopefully I'll be doing more outings with Erik. The very morning of our ride I prophetically climbed Blind Faith (10a) in Eldorado Canyon. I mentioned it to Erik and he responded, "Oh, that a great route! We should go climb it together sometime." I should have known...

Back at Erik's house after the ride he offered me a sandwich with almond butter. I helpfully told him that the jar he grabbed was peanut butter and after we exhausted all the other possibilities, I realized he had the right jar to begin with. So, I literally can see worse than a blind man...I guess I wasted all that money I spent on Lasik surgery last year...

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