You might dismiss the Tour de Fat as one brewer’s brilliant marketing with the good fortune to go viral like Anne Kilkenny’s up-close-and-personal exposé on Sarah Palin. Contrast the millions of dollars Anheuser-Busch pumps into sports sponsorship to “little” New Belgium covering costs of parties in 11 cities nationwide, each drawing thousands of people clamoring to stand in the shadow of Fat Tire’s pumped-up brand.
You might dismiss the Tour as the largest Obama-rama love fest this side of Berlin, with the Palin look-alike shouting “Lipstick!” to a wall of bouncing spectators that all get the joke. Try that down south in Dobson Springs.(FYI: James Dobson, head of the ultra-right religious organization Focus on the Family, located down in Colorado Springs, gets lots of press around here. The Springs is as far right as Boulder is far left.)
You might toss off the Tour de Fat as Woodstock redux, a nostalgic shot at profligate expression, minus Hendrix, LSD and soaking rain, given the woman naked from the waist up except for two well-placed plastic brooches.
You might dismiss the Tour as the single greatest disruptor of Fort Collins’ traffic since the Santa Fe Burlington Northern first jammed up College Avenue. Saturday, it took my family an hour to cross the street on foot, made possible only when an 80-car train challenged the throng, and the bikers yielded.
You might see this hoot on two wheels as pure silliness, like sudsy fraternity parties disguised as a noble cause. One house at my alma mater raised money for Alcoholics Anonymous with a party themed “Drink for Those Who Can’t Stop” (their last party before Miami University shut them down permanently).
You might be right on any of these assumptions, but you’d be overlooking so much. Take the passion of the pedalers hitched up like a mule team to pull a car carcass through town in support of the Tour’s tagline “Would you trade your car for a bike?” You’d be overlooking the diversity of this crowd, which included hundreds of kids, parents, grandparents and even ultra-conservatives struggling to suppress smiles, the men with their hair parted neatly and the women with hair big enough to provide much-needed shade.
You’d be missing the very definition of community, a group of people united by fellowship, shared interest and common experience. You’d also be missing pure joy.
Before closing, a side note. Two weeks ago, my wife took a serious spill from her bike and, before grinding to a halt, damaged knees, elbows, wrists and, above all, her face, leading to multiple gasps and one “Oh my God!” when she stumbled into urgent care, her white shirt splashed with blood. Many stitches later, she is recovering wonderfully, thanks in part to Rodney Albers, a city of Fort Collins employee, who rushed to her aid immediately after the crash. Rodney, you are our hero and a fine ambassador for this community.
Later the afternoon of the Tour, I celebrated the spirit of the day on my own bike, zipping to-ward Old Town on the lovely Poudre Trail. The revelers had been gradually heading home throughout the day. With the trees along the river casting long shadows, I encountered a lion on a bike, followed by a tiger and then a bear. Pedaling behind her companions was Dorothy, ruby slippers pumping below her blue-checkered dress. We exchanged grins as we passed, her smile, by this late hour, framed by a stubbly five o’clock shadow.