Steve Potter is a local business owner and a regular fixture at the Pagosa Lakes Recreation Center. I first met Steve years ago when he installed a security system for the recreation center. The years went by and that was that.
Several years back Steve reappears at the recreation center, this time as a member. In no time at all, it became evident that this big guy wasn’t in this for the short haul — “this” being the long hours he pedaled that stationary bike to nowhere, morning after morning. As the months rolled by, Steve also grew thinner. You could say the pounds he had been lugging around were literally melting off him.
There is a reason for this seemingly maniacal and persistent attachment to the stationary bike. I also started seeing lots of Steve on the Tuesday evening Wolf Creek Wheel Club rides. Steve had been a cyclist before, but life has a way of derailing leisure activities. Think family and business; and before long the latter takes over in a major way.
“What got me back on the bike after a twelve-year hiatus, at age forty nine, was a heart attack and waking up in a hospital bed with two stents implanted in two major arteries and coming to the realization that I was not bullet proof anymore. That was a wake-up call. I am fortunate that the first one wasn’t the final one. It is my goal now to make sure we don’t have a second heart attack. Thus, I got on the bike and rode.”
Instead of saying my goal is to make sure “I” don’t have a second heart attack, Steve used the pronoun “we” to convey the profound impact having a heart attack has on your loved ones.
“I see too many men my age doing the same things that I had done, thinking the same thing: that they are going to live forever without taking precautions and guarding their health, giving in to job demands, claiming they are too busy, don’t have enough time, etc. We have all used those excuses and, sooner or later, it catches up to us. Thus the people you love and care for are left alone to deal with the aftermath of your self neglect.”
Today, a leaner (65 pounds lighter), older (54) and healthier Steve has successfully completed two major rides in the last year — the GECKO Wolf Creek Pass Ride (which starts in Town Park and goes up and over the 10,857 foot pass to the ski area and back down to the park), and the 109-mile “Tour de Tucson” (which he completed in 6 hours and 35 minutes).
Now Steve has his sight on the 29th annual Cross Florida — a 170-mile, one-day bicycle ride that crosses the state of Florida, going from the eastern terminus at Cocoa Beach to Weeki Wachee Gardens on the Gulf side. The Space Coast Freewheelers sponsor this annual ride to raise money for local charities.
“I did this ride back in May of 1993 in just under 11 hours,” said Steve. “ This year, one of my best friends, Terry Grandfield, from Pennsylvania, will be participating in the effort with me. He and I put this on our bucket list mainly because we have never done the ride together and thought there would be no better time.”
Just a quick note about bucket lists: according to Steve, once you’ve accomplished one of the items on your bucket list, add another one back on! Getting to the end of your list should not be an option.
Several weeks ago, while riding his bike, the thought crossed Steve’s mind that the Cross Florida ride is a perfect opportunity to raise awareness for men’s health.
“I want to raise the consciousness of men my age in regards to their health.” Steve also added that our fitness habits are created at a young age.
True to his belief, Steve and his friend, Terry, will be raising money for our local GECKO organization (Get Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors) through the Florida ride.
“We chose GECKO because of what it instills into young people through its affiliation with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and HMI (High-Mountain Institute).”
GECKO, a local nonprofit created by Morgan Murri, has awarded nearly $50,000 in scholarships to 13 teenagers from our area to outdoor education programs. Students apply for this program on the basis of need and are selected through an application process that includes interviews and writing an essay of why they want to participate. The more money Terry and Steve can help raise, the more scholarships GECKO can make available.
“The more kids we can send to these outdoor education programs and influence at a young age,” said Steve, “the more we can help them become more than they had dreamed of, creating in them good if not great life habits and building character and leaders for tomorrow through the outdoors. (To learn more about GECKO, visit wwwjoingecko.com.)
“We would like to challenge the community to get behind this effort and will be asking for pledges made for miles completed (if you donate $1 for every mile completed, we raise $170 toward another scholarship). I am hoping to encourage local churches, businesses, civic organizations and individuals to get behind this effort with their support, financially and through their prayers. One hundred-seventy miles on a bike in one day, regardless of the geographic location, is a test of will, mental and physical fitness. There comes a point on any epic ride where you question why you are out there. In this case we will have the added incentive of riding for the future of our teenagers and our community.
“I also want the community to know all proceeds will go entirely to GECKO. Terry and I will be paying our own way: flight, lodging, trip support and food.” Donations can be made at Mountain Home Sound and Security, at the Hub, or by going online to www.joingecko.org.
Meanwhile, Steve has cranked up his training mileages, cycling almost every day and spinning with a group of local cyclists who are being coached by Morgan Murri at The Hub every Tuesday and Thursday evenings. If you would like to join these free spin sessions, call Scott Slind at 731-2002 for more information.
We wish Steve success in his goal and may the wind be at your back (and Terry’s as well).