Reader Portia Masterson walked into the office on a drizzly day in late March. It was an unusual moment for a couple of reasons: first, Portia usually sticks close to her home in Golden, near Denver; second, when she's out and about, she's usually riding her bike.
Masterson owns Self-Propulsion Inc., a
bike shop that caters to bicycle commuters and long-distance
tourers. She doesn't think much of the adrenaline junkies who tear
up trails on their mountain bikes. "Every once in a while, we'll
have someone walk into the shop with a bike just covered in mud,"
she says. "Our first question is, 'Where'd you get that?'... Well,
don't do it again.' "
Self-Propulsion newsletter is full of tips for
serious bikers - how to keep your hands from going numb, your buns
from hurting and your ears from freezing. Her mechanics are mainly
women, who, she says, give "great attention to detail," and she
offers discounts to only two groups: folks who pedal to work each
day and bike cops.
In theory, Portia's friend,
reader Neal Schwieterman, ought to qualify for a double discount.
Neal spends his days pedaling around Paonia on his knobby-tired,
two-wheeled police cruiser. After only a year here, he knows just
about everyone in town.
Before coming to the
Western Slope, Neal was a Jefferson County, Colo., sheriff's deputy
for 11 years, three of them on a bike. He's full of harrowing tales
- like the time he was run over by an irate Christmas shopper
searching for a parking spot, or the time a bunch of kids tossed
firecrackers at him, thinking he was just a biker in a yellow shirt
(he stopped and introduced himself, then got to know their
His most heartbreaking experience came
during his last week with Jefferson County, when he answered a call
to Columbine High School. "It was eerie," he says. "The first call
said, 'There's a 911 call from Columbine High School. There's a
party down in the southwest parking lot.' The next call said
'multiple shots fired,' and the floodgates just
Neal spent much of the next five hours
hunkered behind a football outbuilding with 10 kids; "Four of them
were almost 1084 - that means almost dead." He called for help
while the two student gunmen fired down at them from a library
window. Amazingly, all the teenagers with him survived the
"I thought, 'I'm never going to live
through that again,' " he says now. "I decided to do something
active to make sure that doesn't happen again."
That something is teaching Paonia High School students how to
kayak. He starts them out with rolling lessons in the county
swimming pool, then takes the braver souls out into the local
rivers to try their paddle at whitewater. In the process, the kids
learn about self-reliance and determination.
Government officials can throw all the money in the world at
preventing disasters like the Columbine shootings, says Neal, but
it won't do much good. "The biggest problem was that those two kids
didn't have the coping skills they needed."