Are you Riding or Hiding? – Eddie Arguelles

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving” – Eddie Arguelles

Mike Padgett said this earlier today: “We had a large turnout at 5 AM this morning for a memorial ride for my best friend, Eddie Arguelles. Lots of emotional, spiritual, and physical support for friends and family. Three cities supported the ride with police escort. Local bike shops sent SAG vehicles. Cycling clubs and groups, competitive and social riders bonded together to show the love that we all share for Eddie. Eddie did a lot of blogging and even wrote about “Memorial Rides”

Eddie wrote this in his blog: There is a willful species in the world that carries with it nothing more than a simple code of ethic. It is true of every single one in this species, persistence! You will never keep a cyclist down, you will never break the bonds that are established in our crazy little groups of suffering, you will never dull down the sharpness of our camaraderie, you will never break our spirit, you will never beat us, we always win!

Thursday, April 24, 2014, exactly one week – almost to the minute – of Eddie Arguelles’ fatal hit-and-run, hundreds of cyclists, close friends, co-workers and family gathered at Starbucks in solidarity for Eddie, showed support for the cycling community, and collectively gathered to discuss what can be done to minimize the number of auto/cycling/pedestrian incidents in the Rio Grande Valley. We finished the ride that Eddie wasn’t allowed to. And we did so with a little underlying fear inside a good number of us, with a whole lot of pride in all of us and reflecting upon all the wonderful memories that we shared with Eddie.

I watched in awe as the crowd of supporting cyclists grew and grew and grew. I have to admit that I giggled to myself for just a bit as I remembered the term “militant cyclists” that was used the day before in a response to the letter to the editor in a local paper.

“Is this what he meant by ‘militant cyclists’?” I asked myself as I witnessed each rider hug and console each other with invigorating calmness.  No, we are NOT militant cyclists. But we certainly are NOT pushovers either.

For decades I remember the Valley being labeled as backwards and ignorant and uneducated and lazy. Now, I find myself in the midst of community evolution. A horrific tragedy happened and we have all learned from it and are carefully and quietly and intelligently discussing methods of change, playing devil’s advocate and observing all sides of the issue. This is what gives me hope. And we all know what happens to those who do not change. And change IS happening. We are now more forward thinking, intelligent, highly education and active in lifestyle and community than ever before. Sure… there are still those who do nothing else but hangout in the neighbors garage and float a keg, smoke some weed, and have nothing productive to offer the world. But that doesn’t mean that this latter population is the majority. Clearly by the responses published here (on the link below), the ignorant WILL NO longer be ignorant to the issue.

http://www.themonitor.com/opinion/letters/letter-cyclist-killed/article_39b46546-cb33-11e3-b453-001a4bcf6878.html

The 5AM Wake Up Riders efficiently and effectively organized THE most mesmerizing bike rides of our life time. We all met together once but discussed details as they developed on almost an hourly basis over the last week via group text and resulted in a fine tuned event with a very loud message.

“The event is a way to keep Eddie’s memory alive, and rather than focus on the tragedy, it is a way to focus on the way he lived his life.” Ramon Hermida

“In my opinion, this is the best way to counteract the disgusting act of drinking and driving. It demonstrates the beauty of clean living.” Ileana Garcia-Spitz

I arrived to the ride a little early to the Thursday ride, just as I did last week and waited in my car until about 4:20a.m. This is my speculation but I’m pretty sure that after learning the details of Eddie’s hit and run, he was hit right about this time exactly one week ago from that moment. I took that time to reminisce and be grateful for all that I had and had been given.

Because of the large number of cyclists that were predicted to come, we were directed to the Lowe’s parking lot next door as to not over crowd the Starbucks parking lot where we all normally gathered as the starting point for our ride. I unloaded my embarrassingly dirty orange “Mimi” bike, I was immediately greeted and blessed by Big John, the same man who greeted and blessed me at my very first bike ride event ever… Arbor Day 2012. That was a great sign. I took a good look around.

Wow! So many cyclists! This early in the morning??? We must be nuts! Nah, we must have all been really touched by this man to all be up this early in the morning and not filled with anger but actually overflowing with love and respect.

I made my way through the crowd from Lowes to the entrance of Starbucks. I leaned my bike against the wrought iron fence and immediately began scanning the area for the best light and angle to capture the moment and the enormous crowd.

“Are you preparing for the selfie?” someone asked.

“Yes, yes I am.” I replied. This one was going to go down in the history books. I had to get it right… for Eddie. I couldn’t let the light hearted part of the ride disappear because someone took Eddie from us. His light hearted humor must remain and this was the only way I knew how to keep it there. “Andale Myssie!!! We’re waiting for the selfie!!!” he would yell at me jokingly.  I had to get it right. Andale.

I was given the bullhorn and Monette, Eddie’s widow, took the speaker. I watched and listened in pure awe as she gracefully thanked the crowd for their support. Her voice cracked and her lips quivered but her eyes looked straight into the hearts of the cyclists in front of her. Her strength and bravery and stoic beauty was enchanting. I stood by her, completely still unable to breathe, holding the bullhorn with tears gushing and mocos running out of my nose so very thankful that all the cameras were BEHIND me unable to capture me in the emotional state I was in (or so I thought).

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Eddie Palacios led us in prayer for safety and thanks for all our blessings and then Mike Padgett announced the 5AM Group expectations and safety reminders. He went over the course route and then the floodgates opened when he read us a quote from Eddie Arguelles’ blog. (I posted it above) And even the President of the University came and spoke to the group.

“Today, all of you ride in his memory,” Dr. Nelsen said. “Somos familia. We are a family. Be safe. Keep him in your heart. Keep Monette in your heart. And remember, this is about Eddie, and this is about us all being part of one big family.”

And then it was my turn… I felt my throat immediately go dry. I had explained to the crowd that Eddie had me take silly selfies of him and I and anyone else who rode with us that day after every ride… and I wasn’t about to break that tradition that he and I enjoyed. However, I did add something new, a little bit of me and my Momma. I asked the crowd to do two selfies. One of all of them just being normal and the second with their hands raised up in the air with the hand signal that says “I love you” to Eddie. AND THEY ALL DID.

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And then we all rode off… together.

I waited to the very end, like I usually do. It was completely and totally surreal. The whirr of the 400-some bicycle tires churning in unison over asphalt was the hymn of unity, remembrance and honor. I turned the corner onto Jackson Road going South and took my eyes up off the tire in front of me and said just one word… ‘WOW’

The sight in front of me was nothing short of spectacular. From Highway 107 (aka University Drive) all the way South on Jackson Road to FM495… pretty much as far as the eye could see were flashing red lights of bicycles, two by two, all along the bike lane for miles upon miles in the velvet black of night.

Three cities, three police departments, almost three hundred cyclists (the numbers are still in question) united together for Eddie, for what he loved to do, for what he wanted his family to do, for what he had hopes of his community embracing… for the love and benefits of cycling.

The community has spoken. And the conversation has just begun. About a year ago, I had posted that I was warned about the various bike gangs and how territorial they were about their members, their distances, their paces, their bikes… and I admit I saw it then… but not on that morning. There were no gangs. There was only a “species”. The one species that Eddie spoke of in his quote.

I find myself now in the beginnings of an enormous wave of change. It will anger some. It will empower many. It will be necessary or it will be our own fault for allowing our world to morph into IDIOCRACY (yes, just like the movie).

http://www.themonitor.com/news/local/late-beloved-cyclist-s-friends-and-family-pay-tribute-with/article_46c9f7d4-cc1c-11e3-9c94-0017a43b2370.html

http://www.kveo.com/news/cyclists-gather-memorial-ride-honor-fellow-rider-killed-drunk-driver

http://www.krgv.com/news/almost-200-participate-in-memorial-bike-ride#.U1lzmQk8hS0.facebook

https://www.facebook.com/RioFastRacer/media_set?set=a.10201899788724925.1073741851.1490054572&type=3

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