During my exercise regimen to hone my fifty-seven and a half-year-old body into a human cycling machine, I have also had to focus on other things. Not the least of which was preparing to walk my baby daughter, Michelle, down the aisle and to dance with her at the wedding reception. After paying a host of bills at the end of the reception last Saturday evening, I got a couple of hours of sleep and then left from O'Hare with my son, Scott. We flew to Omaha where we cycled to Council Bluffs, Iowa to start RAGBRAI several hours behind the pack. While winging our way to Omaha, I had a few minutes to finish this article for the Telegraph. Whirlwind? I hope that I have some of that wind to catch up with 10,000 plus bikers that will be miles ahead of us.

While preparing for RAGBRAI, I had plenty of quiet time as I pedaled past angry dogs, hotrod motorists, and long and lonely stretches of country roads. During these tranquil moments, I remembered events in Michelle's life and thought about her upcoming marriage. Where had all the time gone? It seems like just last year that I watched her being born at KSB. It was less than a year ago since she was a toddler who loved to join in family wrestling matches with me and her siblings on the floor of the family room. While her older brother and sister jumped on my back in their version of WWF, Michelle loved being protected in my arms. She would laugh and giggle as she found a safe-haven in my arms while being a part of roughhousing.

It wasn't long after this that Ginger, our family's Irish Setter, died. It was on a Saturday in the summer. While we sobbed as Ginger breathed her last breath, I explained that Ginger went to heaven and God would take care of her. When I returned from burying Ginger in the backyard, Michelle greeted with me with an insightful question: "Daddy, if Ginger is going to heaven, why did you bury her in the ground?"

It seems like it was only several weeks ago that I chased Michelle around the kitchen with a beef tongue that I was preparing for dinner. She had been spoiled while growing up and everyone doted over her especially when it came to eating. While on a cruise, she became enamored with eating beef tongue-although she had no idea what she was eating. Even though she didn't know what it was, but she knew that she liked it. I promised her that I would prepare her new favorite food after we got home. True to my word, I bought a tongue. As I got ready to prepare the tongue, I called Michelle into the kitchen. I placed the raw tongue in front of my mouth as if it were my tongue and chased her around the kitchen mooing while she shrieked in disgust. I must have looked like a deformed version of Mick Jaggers.

It was just a couple of days ago that I went with her to okay her selection of a wedding dress. There I was in blue jeans and a leather jacket, with my little girl in a beautiful wedding gown. That remembrance really threw me for a loop. My little girl was suddenly standing before me as a beautiful woman. Ambivalence was the word for that moment. Happy I was that she was happy, but unhappy and grief-stricken I was that she was passing out of my orbit and spinning off to create her own family constellation. Her childhood was over and her adulthood awaited. Where have the times of our lives gone? It was all that I could do to fight back tears of pain mixed with pleasure as Michelle modeled for me her special dress for her special day.

Watching your children grow up and out of your family is a lot like long distance cycling: Feet become miles in time and miles like years add up all too quickly. Gone forever are my days as a callow fellow. And so life goes by-all too quickly. So, Michelle, learn this lesson from your graying father. Enjoy the gift of youth now because these years of your life speed by with ever-accelerating speed. And to the rest of you, my readers, enjoy the time of your life now. Today will soon become distant yesterdays as we all cycle through life.

This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 7/27/00.