As of Tuesday, March 6, 2012
© Copyright 2013
I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike. I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like.
Fourteen-year-old Jesse Romero was clearing limbs that had blown down during the previous day's storm off his family's land in rural eastern Lee County Sunday when the lone bicyclist came riding up.
The industrious teen has matured beyond that don't-talk-to-strangers stage, but he's smart enough to know when potential danger is about. His take on the biker was simple and to the point.
"The guy looked lost, tired and harmless, and there was no way he was hiding a weapon in that spandex."
So, Jesse wasn't overly concerned when the cyclist asked for his help.
It turns out the rider was in desperate need of directions and a phone. He'd been competing in the Road Race portion of the marathon/bike race event held in Albany over the weekend and had gotten off course ... way off course.
Jesse recounts the biker's story:
"He said he was riding with a group during a good portion of the long-distance race when the rest of the bikers in the group pulled away. He said he rode by himself for several miles and was happy when he saw another lone rider in the distance. He told me, 'At least I'll have someone else to ride with now.'
"(The rider telling the story) followed the other biker for quite a ways, through a number of turns, and he was closing the distance between them when the other rider suddenly turned off into a driveway. The guy realized too late that he'd been following someone who was not a part of the race, someone who was just out for a ride in his neighborhood."
By that time, the suddenly very lost biker was in no-man's land. He is from central Georgia and knew nothing about the area he'd found himself in. He had no cellphone, and the afternoon had suddenly started getting away from him.
"The guy was about ready to panic," Jesse said of the rider. "He told me, 'I promise you I'm not going to hurt you, but I need a phone or directions back to where I was supposed to be riding. I'll give you $5 if you'll take me where there's a phone.' "
Jesse did him one better. He had his cellphone with him, and he let the rider call his friend. The biker was scared out of his wits, certain he was not going to be able to reach the friend he'd come to the race with. After a couple of attempts, though, he finally got through.
It turns out his friend, thinking his companion had gotten a ride with someone else, had waited a short period for him and decided to head back toward home in Macon. He was on State Highway 300, just short of I-75, when the call got through.
The most compelling part of Albany's "Rock, Roll and Race Weekend" -- as many have come to call it -- each year is the individual stories of the people who come here to participate. Whether they're serious athletes looking to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon or weekend-warrior bikers looking for a good excuse to get away for a couple of days, the stories are what make the weekend special.
This lone biker, who probably spent Monday and Tuesday telling friends a hurricane had blown him off course and he had to fend off a street gang to get back to the race course -- where he finished third and would have won if not for the unfortunate series of events -- has his own story to tell when he's sitting around knocking back a few with his buds.
Jesse? Well, now he has his own story to tell. And he's $5 richer.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.