1992 was a long, long, long time ago. Let me tell you about how I (the guy on the right in the above photo) met the guy on the left, and what happened then.
I started writing for Bicycles Today in the middle of 1991, during my sophomore year at Miami University. My early columns were surprisingly popular despite being probably the longest and most thematically complex pieces the magazine had ever published. In December of 1991, I was sitting in the line for gates in the 17 and Over Expert practice session at the Christmas Nationals, which were held indoor in Columbus, Ohio. I heard someone ask, “Are you Jack Baruth?”
In the twenty-two years since then I’ve gotten used to that. One of the weird things about extremely minor fame in limited areas, like cycling and auto writing, is that people will talk to you out of the blue. Genuinely famous people don’t get approached because their fans respect them. Non-famous people don’t have anyone approach them. It’s the middle between the two extremes where everybody and their brother feel totally free to get up in your grille.
At the time, however, I was still amazed that anybody read what I wrote, and more so that they’d recognize me from my picture in the magazine. I was also a bit nervous because this guy was about six-three and clearly far more solidly constructed than I was. (I was only eight months out of my last leg surgery at this point.)
“Uh, yeah, I think so,” I said.
“I’m Nick Pearson,” the fellow offered, “and I’ve been reading your stuff.” In the years afterwards, Nick and I went to dozens of races together. When I opened up my bike shop, Squidco, in 1992, Nick was one of the “factory riders”. (The top photo, which I believe to be from the summer of ’92, has the rather modest “team uniform”, which consisted of a long-sleeve shirt.)
Nick was, and remains, a brilliant man and talented artist. He’s also a much better rider and always has been. I cannot remember ever beating him in a race when he stayed on his bike. That didn’t stop the New Voice, Louisville’s weekly paper, from catching me ahead of him in practice and printing the photo on their cover:
“I bet you have that framed,” Nick likes to say.
Nick was already married when I met him, and he’s had three children since 1992. The oldest is in college, and the middle one just bought a car from my ex-wife. When I heard that Nick was going to be in town, I rode my Supercross Dirt Devil bike over to baby-momma’s house to say hi. Oddly enough, we were still wearing about the same thing:
We’re making plans to go riding after I heal a bit more. It’s great to stay in touch with people. It’s great to have long-time friends. It’s great to be alive, even after everything that’s happened to me before and after the day I met Nick. I’ve had it tough sometimes, but when I sit down and really think about it, I’ve had it pretty good, too.