It’s the most often asked question I hear. There are so many reasons why I personally ride: health, happiness, to inspire, to see the world at a slower pace, but that’s for another post. Today I talk about why we ride.
By we, I mean my hometown Ridgway, Colorado. Nestled at the base of the San Juans, it is a hidden gem of a town with a population of around 1,000. It is a surprising breath of fresh air as you journey south, an unexpected mix of old ranch town with an infusion of art and culture. Home to an award winning brewery, a hip taco joint, an authentic Thai restaurant, and bike trails galore, this town has my heart. I have left and come back many times, and feel this time I may not leave again. This is the town where you know 90% of the people you pass on the street, where there is poetry along the walls in the alley, where your child can walk safely home from school, and no matter who you are, you are not without family in this town. We do great things in this town, we create great things in this town: poetry, art, beauty. We are a close knit bunch. And when the unthinkable happens, we all feel it.
This is why everywhere you walk in the town, you will see bumper stickers proclaiming “AXELOVE” or “I Ride for Axel”, stuck on cars, bikes, tip jars, street posts, and more. We in this town have many reasons to ride but one unites us: The Axel Project. Because this part of the story is not mine to tell, I will share with you an excerpt from the Axel Project website:
Axel Project was created in honor of our son Axel who was killed in Sayulita Mexico in February 2013. Axel Micah Charrette was born on February 15, 2011. As he began to grow and take on his precocious toddler personality, it became readily evident that he shared our love of life and adventure. It was obvious in everything he did; from learning to walk at 10 months to hopping on his Strider bike to go anywhere his wheels would take him. It didn’t hurt that he was always trying to keep up with his big brother, whom he loved and admired.
Little Axel packed a lot of life into his time with us. He made multiple camping trips to places like Moab, Fruita and Sedona. He visited 16 states and 3 countries. He hung out by the ocean surfing and biking in San Diego and even spent his first birthday in Costa Rica.
He left a mark on almost everyone he came in contact with. His energy, kind soul, and joy of life was contagious.
While we will be forever impacted by his loss we are also left with two years of wonderful memories and lessons for the rest of our lives.
In the months after our loss we wanted to come up with a way to honor his memory. We decided to set up the Axel Project. Axel loved his bike and we loved watching him gain confidence and enjoy life as he rode around.
We believe biking not only builds confidence in young children but also improves health, is an outlet to express pure joy, is a foundation to a lifelong appreciation of nature, and helps strengthen family bonds because it’s an activity the entire family can do together. By getting more children and families on bicycles we are helping build healthier communities and a better world.
For all of us in Ridgway, and those around the world who know the Charrette family, we have learned a lot. We have learned that life can be fleeting, that life can be cruel and unfair. But we have also taken something else from this: hope and inspiration. We try every day to let this motivate us to truly love and enjoy the world we are lucky enough to be a part of. Every time I begin a ride, I am reminded that this is a gift to me, and whether it is luck or a blessing or whatever you want to call it, I have been given this day to live to the fullest, and I take in a moment of appreciation for that.
And once a year, we are given the opportunity to join together and remember Axel and to ride in his memory, during the Axel Project Bicycle Classic. This year marked the inaugural ride, with around 100 riders from at least 10 different states, all riding for Axel. The sun shined on us warmly as we rode through town. The road was filled with the orange and black of the commemorative jerseys, as well as glimpses of 2 riders who had donned tuxedos for the event. At the top of Dallas Divide, bacon (cooked by a local father and daughter) awaited the King and Queen of the mountain. In town a family fun ride and scavenger hunt was led by a local mom and cyclist. Strider set up a great obstacle course for the kids, the adults enjoyed Axel Ale (compliments of local Colorado Boy brewery) and New Belgium beer, as well as a local favorite: Korean short rib tacos. The park filled with participants, families and local supporters who came out to share in this celebration of love, of AXELOVE.
Whether you know the family personally, or whether this story moved you, or maybe you just love to ride or have always wanted to bike in Colorado, I encourage you to join us in 2015 as we continue to ride for Axel, and let this story be one not of tragedy but of inspiration. And every bike ride you take, make time to truly appreciate the fact that you are there, in that moment, doing something you truly love.