Tim Watkins, at home in the great outdoors, explored on two wheels.
hen my family located to Colorado Springs in 1991, my children’s dad, Ted Eastburn, an avid road biker, wanted to learn to ride on mountain trails. As is the story with so many hundreds of others, that’s how Tim Watkins came into our lives.
Tim, with his striking long red curls, weather-toughened skin and big toothy grin, worked at Criterium Bicycles when Ted met him and they took to the trails together. He was a masterful bike mechanic, as anyone in Colorado Springs or Monument, where he had his own shop for a while, can attest. It’s impossible to imagine how many people he taught how to change a tire, or how many right now are riding bikes Tim sold them or customized for them. And he was a master of the trails.
Ted and Tim developed a friendship born on the trails, from Colorado Springs to Moab. They rode the Alps in France together one lucky summer. And lucky for us, their friendship extended to the rest of our family. Tim was present in the lives of our sons as they grew up, a shining example of generosity, kindness, reverence for nature and the Colorado creed of love for the great outdoors.
On Sunday, Sept. 17, we recoiled at the news of Tim’s death on Mount Herman. We knew he had been missing and were hopeful he would be found. We knew how strong he was in body and spirit. But after his body was found and we learned he’d been killed by a gunshot, we were shocked and outraged.
Not Tim, the most peaceful man imaginable. Not on this mountain whose trails he knew like the back of his hand, many of which he’d helped build. Not Tim, who had found love over the last few years and married his beloved Ginger. Tim, who had become a grandfather to Elora, who so cherished the lives of his children, Arielle and Isaac.
My son told us he’d seen Tim at Old Town Bike Shop just two weeks earlier and that he was beaming with happiness over his family and his life.
The days that followed were a nightmare of disbelief, tempered only by our warm memories of Tim and the memories that others shared. This was a guy so comfortable in his own skin, he came to a Hollywood costume party painted green with little coiled ears, as Shrek. Here was a man who showed up to help with a swim class decked out in a mermaid’s sweeping tail fin. Here was Tim, who tenderly and religiously sewed beads in beautiful patterns onto strips of soft leather, cut to fit onto the front of a bike. In our Colorado Springs house, several pieces of his work have been on display for as long as I can remember, gifts he shared with Ted.
Over the week, we remembered how Tim showed up for us immediately when Ted died seven years ago, and offered the balm of his kindness despite his own despair.
As the week wore on, a great blossoming of love arose from the rocks and trees and dirt roads of Mount Herman over Palmer Lake, Tim’s hometown. Memorial rides were organized. Tim’s Facebook page overflowed with personal testimonials. His friends and family shared photos, including many of the beaded leather emblems on the fronts of their bikes, gifts from Tim.
On Saturday, Tim was memorialized. A procession of over 200 bikers rode down the mountain from a spot about 3.5 miles above, wearing T-shirts that bore the slogan: Be Like Tim. They raised a 21-bell salute and let out a war cry, a Lakota saying beloved by Tim that translates “it’s a great day to die,” as they began the descent into town.
“We rode as a pack down the mountain roads to Palmer Lake Town Hall ... led by Ginger, his brave and beautiful wife, and some of Tim’s strongest friends,” Lori Nunnally said on Tim’s Facebook page. “People of all ages and abilities rode down the mountain.”
They dismounted their bikes and walked the last 200 yards, helmets off, led by Tim’s son, Isaac, were met by his daughter, Arielle, then entered the outdoor ceremony in single file, to the sound of bagpipes. Tim’s oldest friend, Daniel, expressed it perfectly when he said everyone thought Tim was their best friend, and they were right.
Now we are left to face what’s next, fortified by that outpouring. We will miss you, Tim. May the road rise up to meet you. May you know how deeply you were loved. And may you know how your presence on this earth changed all of our lives for good.