“Sir! Have a rainbow, fluffy, unicorn shitting ice cream cupcake day. Be nice to your body. I enjoy pedaling a bicycle near you.”
That was a random message I received from Pete earlier this year after I had broken my ankle and learned I would be in a boot and off the bike for at least six weeks. I was despondent. I don’t know that I had told many people yet. Still, he had heard through the grapevine, took time out of his day, and cheered me up in an instant.
Pete Beers had that way. He was kind to everyone he met. He often signed off social media for the day with a random musing and the phrase “know that you are loved.”
Know that you are loved.
That’s a powerful feeling, knowing you are loved. We all need love, and Pete spread it so effortlessly. To say that he was a role model for so many grown men and women would be easy to dismiss as so much puffy exaggeration, but who among us has not uttered, or at least heard the words “I tried channeling my inner Dirt” (fittingly, he even had the coolest nickname).
Channeling your inner Dirt means being kind, even in the face of unkindness. Having empathy for those whose own might be in short supply. It means having the patience to defuse conflicts that would be much more viscerally satisfying had you exploded and lost your temper. That was Dirt. That was Pete.
I know I have told the story countless times about how my first bike commute in 2011 changed my life. I got healthy. I met a community full of incredible people. And no one I met did more to shape who I became than Pete. He welcomed me on my first group ride and answered all my dumb questions, like “Hi should I cross this double yellow line here into oncoming traffic?” He taught me about gravel rides, showing me all the best routes and where to eat and drink afterward. I learned that long, stupid rides were the best rides. Stuff like riding your bike around downtown DC all night until dawn, or taking the train to Cumberland and riding the bumpity towpath back to DC, all 184.5 miles, in one shot. And contrary to conventional wisdom, hills were to be embraced, not avoided, because riding hills with friends become some of your best bike memories.
Every time Pete fixed my bike he left a Hello Kitty sticker somewhere on it for me to find. One time he put training wheels on my bike for me after the 4th time I crashed. I followed him on countless coffee rides. I rode with him on too many trips out to Loudoun County. I leaned on him big time for ride advice. If he hadn’t showed me big stupid rides were possible, I never would have Everested, or attempted Big Savage, or survived the GAP/C&O 24 hour ride. He was my mentor, he was my ride partner, he was my friend.
Pete Beers was doing what he loved when he left us. That’s no comfort for me, because none of us are ready for him to be gone. I’ll never get to thank him again or hug him or ask him if he has any good stupid ideas. It sucks and I will never understand the randomness of this existence.
I’ll take comfort in the memories though, and they were some of the best of my life, thanks to Pete.
Know that you are loved.