Al Brody meets me in the driveway at his home in Rockrimmon. He's carrying a box of items for Goodwill, and loads them into his new Dodge van.
"Oh, you have to check it out," he says. "It'll get 26 miles to the gallon. Diesel engine, four cylinders, with room inside for bikes and boats."
His voice carries excitement and hope. He's lost some weight — 14 pounds, actually — but he looks strong, like a bike racer. He does not appear to be a man who's recently fought cancer.
One of Colorado Springs' great community warriors, a focused and passionate bicycling advocate, Brody survived Stage 4 throat cancer. There is no Stage 5.
"I am cancer-free at this moment," he says. "I was checked out last week, and I'm done with the fight at this point."
The diagnosis came in February ("Finding growth with cancer," Good Dirt, March 18) and Brody would ride his bike from Rockrimmon to Penrose Hospital for radiation and chemotherapy treatments. He'd vowed to ride for the 20th time in RAGBRAI, the famous bike ride across Iowa in July. He accomplished that goal, though he says he managed to pedal just 300 of the 450 miles.
"I did half a day the first day," he says. "That felt good and I figured, why push it? I always believed that I could do it, and I've already registered for 2016. That'll be 21 in a row."
Inside his home, I receive a warm welcome from Brody's wife, Tamara, who brews a pot of coffee. The living room is cluttered with more boxes. It is being disassembled.
Putting 13 years of Colorado Springs residency behind them, the Brodys are beginning a grand adventure. On Friday, they'll hitch a 19-foot Airstream travel trailer to the new Dodge and point the rig west. First stop, Southern California. Their daughter Shayna lives there, and Al has ideas of riding a long ribbon of trail that stretches for miles between Malibu and Redondo Beach.
They've even purchased an electric-assist tandem bike. The power kicks in when the pedaling gets difficult, like on a hill. "It is the hand of God, exactly when you need it, a little boost," Al says.
"That's an atheist talking," Tamara chimes in.
They'll drive across the southern U.S. and be in New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras, then head north to see family and the scenery in Ontario and Maine. Tamara says they'll eventually visit friends in Germany and Spain.
Traveling the country has been a dream for the Brodys, a dream they wouldn't let go. Al's cancer battle provided the impetus to make it real.
"The problem with dreams, if you don't make it a goal with a time frame, then it stays out in the ether world and doesn't happen," Al says. "There was nothing about our life that I didn't like. But it all becomes so much more real when something happens, that mortality check that says, 'All right, you could have died this time.' No shit, I was almost there."
Colorado Springs will miss the Brodys. Al worked tirelessly to improve cycling and opportunities for non-motorized transportation. He started the Mayor's Ride, an event that promotes cycling. With deep satisfaction, Al rode in it this year with newly elected mayor John Suthers, and his friend and fellow advocate Allen Beauchamp. "I've suggested that [Suthers] receive the Colorado Springs Cycling Club's MVP Award," Brody says. "He restarted the Mayor's Ride and he shows up to cycling events with his wife. That's huge. He should be recognized."
Perhaps Brody's greatest accomplishment as an advocate is opening the Pikes Peak Highway to bicycles. He plays it down, but nobody thought that would ever happen. "Really all I did was stop the nonsense," he says. "I didn't build anything, or tear down a gate."
Of course, there are folks who might argue that point. Al and Tamara did build things here in Colorado Springs, cycling opportunities and precious friendships. They'll return to the Pikes Peak region, but currently have no plans to reside here.
Until we see them again, I think I speak for many in wishing the Brodys gentle tailwinds along their way.
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