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The Slow Roll – the heartbeat of strong communities.

With unlimited space to social distance, a good bike ride slows time, allowing us to breathe, laugh, and embrace all that surrounds us.  An opportunity to be a part of the landscape, not just charging across it in an SUV, missing most of what Oklahoma has to offer.  What a better way to lend support to our Main Streets and small businesses than stopping to eat and drink every 15-20 miles? Every dollar invested right back into the communities we visit in a direct way, with nary a dime spent to propel a multi-ton vehicle along with us.

Keith Reed / Keith’s Bike Fort

Can I pivot for just a second? I don’t know… maybe it isn’t really a pivot at all. One of the things that I’ve leaned on since getting busy in college is riding bicycles. My dad got me into them when I was young and I’ve been trying to keep up with him ever since.

It has always been a major part of my businesses, too. Maybe not how you think.. directly.. but a huge part of keeping me engaged and on point to help lead and create vision and life within the company.

About 8 years ago, my dad invited me to go with him on a week long bicycle tour of Oklahoma that he had been doing for years prior. I had never done something like that but decided that it would be a fun get-away. I needed it in June anyway. Business was always really hard that time of year for us and getting out and embracing the slow roll of life on a bicycle tour seemed fitting.

I did not know what I was getting into, really. I wasn’t even sure I could ride 60ish miles a day for 7 days straight. What I learned that first tour was that it was EXACTLY what I needed.

Fast forward 5 or 6 years and I found myself sitting as the chairman of the Oklahoma FreeWheel and working with a group of now close friends (I’d call them family) to bring this rolling reunion to life each summer. This ride changed how I look at bicycles and about seeing our state. Going by bike is just different. You feel it. You touch it. You take it ALL in. You have to and you are better for it.

This is not unlike what I talked about a few weeks ago – it is more than just a commute or a way to get from one place to another. It is about strong communities (in your small circle, business, city, state, etc..!). It is healthy, life giving, and really does change your perspective.

A few day ago, one of the people I look up to in this world of sustainable travel is a legend in the Stillwater / Perkins area (and beyond!) named Keith Reed. He recently wrote a post reworking an opinion piece put out by Oklahoma’s Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell in the Tulsa World.

Now, before I go on, if you are ever looking to start bikepacking or bicycle touring, you need to know Keith Reed and Keith’s Bike Fort in Perkins, OK. It is one of the greatest things in our area and full of support and community and inclusion. This is Keith. Taking my dudes around on his cargo bike made by Norman’s own Scissortail Cycles. Yes – it’s a good as it seems! (He will probably get mad that I posted this pic)

Keith Reed Cargo Rides – Oklahoma FreeWheel – 2017

Ok, back to the story….

The piece was about the pandemic and what life on the other side might look like. Now, if you aren’t aware, Oklahoma plays host to the largest portion of Route 66 in the country and the Lt. Gov’s job is to promote tourism in our state which he has done (arguably) better than any recent person in his role. That’s applaudable. But, like me and many others, we see a potential in Oklahoma outside of auto based sprawl – not just for the American Road Trip but also for life in general. For everyday commuting. For the life and safety of our communities. While my focus is mostly on how Edmond can become something greater than a car park, Keith took it even further here.

The Tulsa World recently published an opinion piece from Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell concerning his ideas for life on the other side of the pandemic.  I appreciate his passion is tourism, and he hit on some key points in his letter, but I can’t help but think he shorted Oklahoma’s potential.

As someone whose been known to scream at the top of my lungs (only in my head or on solo rides) at the way we often attempt life in this state, his letter just didn’t settle with me, so I reworked it adding my personal perspective.  On first glance, it might appear to be a rebuttal. That is not my intent.  Frankly, I’m tickled to death that someone at his pay grade is finally taking tourism in our state seriously.  This is simply a perspective filtered through my soul, producing something I know to be true because I’ve had the good fortune to experience it personally, time after time.  I am a thousand percent sure Oklahoma would be a better place if more people could also have the same experience.

Keith Reed / Keith’s Bike Fort

Lt. Gov. Pinnell is a HUGE promoter of Route 66 and this piece is all about the case for the great American road trip. Take a few minutes to read it and then jump into Keith’s “soul filtered” re-write over on his blog. It is worth the time.

Here is the truth.

The Ok FreeWheel has been going on for more than 40 years – taking people from TX to KS via the small towns and back roads (and also the big places!) via bicycle. Helping people do what they might have felt impossible. Seeing places that they had never seen before. Forcing people to slow down and breathe. To live. To let their hair flap in the wind a little bit.

One of my favorite pictures of all time – EVOKE Sip Truck – coffee and bicycle hauler

I have learned from this tour how life can change by pedaling a bicycle. I can tie this into so many things in life: stronger downtown areas, healthier kids, cleaner environments, better mental health, a clear mindset……and more and more and more.

Like Keith, I want to see Oklahoma by more than “just ok” – it is time. I want to see Edmond continue to be a great place to live. I want to see bike racks in Downtown Edmond full. I want to see kids riding to school again. I want to see city leaders embrace the challenge of alternative transportation.

I have hope in a cleaner, healthier, safer future for our town.

Maybe you aren’t quite ready for a solo bicycle tour of Route 66 or of Oklahoma. Maybe you aren’t even ready for a 10 mile pedal around Lake Hefner. I want to tell you that you can do it. You will benefit from it. Just start small.

Ride for coffee on Saturday morning. Pedal to the grocery story for that one thing you forgot to grab. Take the mail via bicycle. Ride around the block. You will see that things are different. You smile more. You can feel the soul of your community. You will get a glimpse of the heart of this place.

This post was all over the board but I think what I’m trying to say is this:

The Slow Roll matters.

Give it a chance and see what it does for your life and those around you. I think you will find you are stronger (mentally and physically), your community is stronger, your town is stronger.

Now, the entire reason I wrote this in the first place, go read Keith’s (and Lt. Gov. Pinnell) posts on Route 66 and start planning something super awesome for when this is all over! They are both great pieces and worth your time. Hell, maybe you will join me for the 2021 Oklahoma FreeWheel? Registration is already open. We want to make this a huge party on the bicycle since we lost the opportunity to ride together in 2020. Let’ do it!

Carry on. I’ll stop rambling now (at least with these words…….)

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