A Special Guest Post By Kara O’ Kelly, the Winner of our "Nominate Your Dad" Father's Day Contest.
My dad has been a cyclist as long as I can remember. He taught both my sister and me how to ride bikes at a very young age. I thought it was the most terrifying thing I ever had to do when I was young. No matter how many times I cried or was about to fall, he was right there by my side to catch me.
Ever since I finally got this monumental childhood accomplishment down, you could not get me off of a bike.
Growing up in Broomfield, Colorado, we rode our bikes everywhere. We biked to the grocery store, the ice cream shop, family and friends’ houses, school, and parks. We even discovered a little secret spot where there were fun jumps and trails. Most of my childhood memories involved riding our bikes. My dad was a huge influence on this.
Almost every day he would get out and ride. As long as the weather allowed, dad cycled his commute into Boulder. His passion for cycling extended to making sure we knew that kickstands weren’t cool, which my sister and I took to heart and never owned a bike with one!
Over the years, I developed a deep love of cycling, and, like my dad, rode my bike everywhere. One fateful day during my sophomore year of college things took an unexpected turn. I was riding my bike to the physics lab and I had to make one street crossing on Baseline road to get to the school trail. There was a crosswalk and the blinking signs to stop cars. There were two lanes in both directions, on the opposite side of the road a bus and multiple cars had stopped for me.
The bus was blocking the furthest lane from view. As I slowly came around the bus, I barely had a second to register a car speeding towards me. The impact was immediate. I hit the windshield and the force of my body shattered it. I remember a high, shrill sound, either the car’s tires screeching or my screams in the air. I was catapulted 20 feet in front of the car and landed on the pavement, on my side.
Shooting pain pulsed from my back, where I had previously had spinal surgery. The pain was so severe I was unable to get up. The bus driver came over to where I lay and held my hand while we waited for the ambulance to arrive.
My dad was the first one to meet me at the hospital. It was the scariest moment for all of us. I had fractured my pelvis in three places, with other more minor injuries all over my body. My bike was completely totaled. The frame itself was broken. I was not wearing a helmet and it is a miracle I did not suffer extreme brain injuries.
It’s not an exaggeration to say this event changed my life. It took me almost a year to get back on a bicycle. The memory of that day is super vivid. Once again, my dad was right by my side. I was just as terrified to get back on as I was when I was a little kid. He supported me with every push of the pedal. We both put our helmets on and rode down the street. To be honest, I felt drunk. The whole world was topsy-turvy and I was afraid of falling right over.
I would have never thought I could ride again, especially on the road, but having my dad by my side, giving me endless words of encouragement made me feel safe.
Every day since that one, I have been riding more and more. I got a new bicycle and a new helmet. There is not a time where I do not wear my helmet now. I am a huge advocate for them and I don’t allow any of my friends to not wear one if they ride with me. No matter how short of a ride or how “safe” it will be. My story just goes to show anything can happen anywhere.
As the years go by, my dad and I continue to ride together. These days we’re riding roads and trails, and even tackling cycling events. We did my first organized ride together,Elephant Rock, which was a major milestone for me. And we didn’t stop there - next up was Tour of the Moon. While I’m new to racing, my dad brings a lifetime of experience. He has done them all - climbed all the mountains and raced all the trains. We have so much fun together on these rides and get so many compliments with our matching SpongeBob jerseys.
I still learn new things every day from my dad - like the fact that you can never own too many bikes (sorry mom!).
My love for cycling is beyond words. I love it for the life lessons it has taught me, both big and small. I know I have my dad to thank for that passion. From being a role model to helping me take my first spin on two wheels, my dad’s love for biking is contagious. The anxiety and the fear of getting back on my bike after the accident were almost crippling - it could have robbed me of one of my life’s greatest joys.
Instead, thanks to my father, I conquered that fear. I am so grateful for my father’s support and that of the whole bike community in Colorado. My relationship with cycling has already been the ride of a lifetime.