David Laborde: My KEEN Story

So am I an outside guy? Of course! At least I guess I used to think I was… I live in Oregon. I have a bike. I have a snowboard. I have running shoes. Doesn’t that make me an outside person by default?

An urban outside-er. Someone who chooses to bike or walk instead of drive. Someone who skateboards to the store, or runs park trails. Someone who doesn’t mind throwing on the rain gear, ever. I am now and here’s why.

I was at the my kiddos first day of kindergarden. Everyone was crying. The kids. The parents. Probably even the teacher. Everyone’s checking everyone else out. Checking compatibilities. Checking friendliness. I spotted this tall guy dropping his daughter off. He seemed like a good guy. Big smile. Big voice. Funny accent — if Scottish is funny. We chatted about the scene. We chatted about a couple of the cute moms. After a few minutes, the talking quickly evolved to laughing. He pointed at me and said in his now loud Scottish accent,”We’re gonna be best friends in two weeks!”  He was right!

He introduced me to his gang: The Thirsty Fathers. I know, bad name, but it stuck. He said, “Come out and ride with us! Tuesday night! Every Tuesday night!” “Sure…” I said.

So let me explain. The Thirsty Fathers. You have to drink beer. I drink beer. You have to have sired a child. I have sired a child. You have to ride a bike. I have a bike. They meet at a different location in the Portland metro area every Tuesday at 8:00 p.m., ride their bikes to a drinking establishment, then often ride to another drinking establishment that has a shuffleboard table, far from the first one. Shuffleboard seemed key to the location. Next, they often ride to another drinking establishment that has great late night food. Then home by midnight. It generally works out great as long as you stick to those rules.

The first night I met up with The Thirsty Fathers, my new Scottish friend told me to meet him at the Kennedy School soaking pool at eight. The plan was to soak and ride out from there. Rad! The Kennedy school is less than a mile from my house. I meet the boys there. We grabbed a beer and lounged in the pool under the stars for a while. We got out, dried off and were back out out bikes before nine. I asked, “Where to?” “St. Johns!” someone replied. Now that’s a good ten miles from here… but off we went! I was probably ill prepared that evening but really kept up just fine. It was no race and the whole concept and beauty of a social ride became very clear. It was a gorgeous fall evening and we rode sometime five wide down backstreets and bike boulevards through North Portland. We arrived at a friendly local bar in Saint Johns, had a couple pints, almost won trivia night, and made some amazing friends. About halfway home, a couple fathers peeled off and went their separate ways home. A few of us went to a cozy bar in Northeast known for great eats and practically ordered one of everything off the menu! I think I made it home by midnight, but maybe not. Close enough.

The next morning wasn’t very smooth. It’s Wednesday. I think maybe one less beer would have been good. By noon my legs and back were killing me. Anti-inflamitories were needed. I kept thinking, though, “I rode 20 miles last night!” So cool! I was so excited all week to meet up again next Tuesday, but by Monday I was a little nervous. I had been added to the group email list and the emails about possible routes for the evening were floating through. Summit Mount Tabor!? St. Johns again, but this time over the bridge and back?! Some crappy bar in Sellwood? Even some dive bar on 112th and Division? Pouring rain in the forecast!!! I don’t know. Should I fake an injury? Just skip out?

I didn’t fake an injury. I showed up, and I rode 25 wet miles through unknown parts of beautiful Portland that night. Again, outside, on bikes, no hurry, little agenda, perfect. This went on and on. Week after week. Season after season. My daughter just started fourth grade. That means I’ve been out riding the dark street of Portland every Tuesday night for the last four years! That’s nearly 200 Tuesdays! Brilliant!

I’ve probably bombed Mount Tabor 20 times in the dark. I’ve ridden over every bridge in Portland. I’ve blasted down the Esplanade and through the rose blossoms. I ridden under willow trees frozen solid. Full moons, crescent moons, no moons. I’ve slipped on the ice and plowed through the snow. I’ve been to the seediest bars in Portland. I’ve eaten all the best late night food in town. I know all the bike boulevards by heart. I’ve gone around the Glisan street roundabout ten times without stopping.

I’m getting outside. A lot. I’m an outside guy. Since getting my outside on I’ve ran trail races, competed in local alley cat races, hiked 75 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, and started working for a local outdoor company that fully supports my hybrid lifestyle. Life is great.

Thank you Scottish friend, thank you Thirsty Fathers, thank you Portland, and thank you outside.