Posted March 20, 2014 – We meet a lot of interesting people in this crazy full-time traveling lifestyle, and they often give us great inspiration.
While we were camped on the eastern fringes of Phoenix Arizona recently, we found ourselves surrounded by mountain bikers.
These guys would hop on their bikes every morning and hit the trails with vim and vigor. They would return later in the afternoon, worn out and very happy.
Mark has always had a passion for mountain biking, a passion I didn’t share with him at all. Since high school, I have been an avowed roadie!
He started chatting with these guys about their bikes, the trails nearby and whatever else mountain bikers talk about.
One fellow among them sported a white goatie, a few craggy lines on his face, and a foreign accent, and we soon discovered his name was Marcel and he originally hailed from Switzerland.
Marcel was a compact build and very fit. Every time we saw him, he was wearing a t-shirt that said something like, “Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim” (a grueling hike between the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon) or “Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon.”
When we asked him about these shirts, we found out he was quite an athlete.
Now 76 years old, he had been a runner until recently, and he had a wonderfully competitive spirit.
At age 74, he had noticed that one particular fellow kept winning a certain 7 mile running race in the 70+ age group, so he set his sights on that prize.
He trained and trained, entered the race and beat the defending champion to claim the title for himself. He told us that he then hung up his running shoes, on that very high note, with pride.
But he still puts on his mountain biking shoes and helmet almost every day, and we watched in amazement as he faithfully went out for one vigorous ride after another.
Mark was so inspired by Marcel that he began scanning Craigslist for used mountain bikes, and before I knew it, we were driving out into the Phoenix neighborhoods and picking up his-and-hers mountain bikes.
In turn, our trusty cyclocross bikes that had been with us in our trailer since we started our adventures nearly seven years ago ended up on Craigslist themselves.
My history with mountain biking is not good. The last time I rode one was a decade ago on the notorious Bootleg Canyon trail outside Las Vegas. We were at the bicycle industry’s big Interbike trade show where bike shop owners and employees can test new bikes.
Out on the trails, I had flown off over the handlebars of my test bike on some kind of wacky double jump that was way beyond my skill level, and I’d knocked myself out cold. The next thing I knew, an EMT was asking me if I remembered my name as he gingerly lifted me onto a stretcher.
But mountain bikes have come a very long way in the last 10 years, and these new bikes are unbelievable. Sticking to trails I can handle, I have been having a blast. I never would have thought it could happen, but I’m hooked.
Marcel sent us off to practice on a beautiful trail called Wild Horse, and after a week of exhilarating rides together, Marcel took his motorhome down to Tucson to ride with some buddies down there. When he returned, we went out as a three-some to tackle Wild Horse all together.
What a ride!! Mark and I were thrilled to get through it without putting a foot down for the very first time, but while we high-fived each other, we noticed Marcel was kind of shrugging. For him, cruising through the gnarly bits on this trail was routine.
Gosh. I had admired his racing stories and watching him zip between our rigs on his mountain bike before, but seeing him in action was truly awe inspiring.
What was even more fun was to discover that he has been RVing since 1970 when he built a Class C motorhome for his family. Class C’s were new to the market back then, and he saw his first one at an RV show.
He crawled all through the thing with a tape measure, took copious notes, and went home and built one onto his one ton truck.
His wife Charlotte laughs that they took their three kids everywhere in that homemade rig and never spent a weekend at home after that.
For the past twelve years, the two of them have been wintering in the southwestern states in a Class A. One of the highlights for them each season has been connecting with their kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.
Marcel has passed on his passion for fitness, and not long ago his whole family entered a running event together — four generations pounded the pavement side by side.
We feel blessed everyday to be living this quirky life, and certainly one of the best things about it has been meeting inspiring people that we never would have encountered if we hadn’t gone traveling.
Thank you, Marcel, for showing us your unique fountain of youth!
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