All Things Must Pass

Now the darkness only stays the night-time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It’s not always going to be this grey

George Harrison

Yesterday in lieu of a ride we went to a celebration of life for Bob Powers. Who was Bob Powers? Probably no one else in Different Spokes has a clue. Bob and his wife Bonnie were the founders of Valley Spokesmen Cycling Club back in 1971. For the arithmetic impaired that was 52 years ago. This was in an era when being a cyclist was a sure indicator you were a dork, maybe a communist, and possibly immature or daft. So for this “power” couple to form a cycling club in the hinterlands of Dublin CA, which was at that time barely a dot on the map, was bold as can be (or possibly a scream for help).

We’re by no means involved members of Valley Spokesmen. When the club puts on the annual Tour of the Sacramento River Delta, we often joined that two-day ride, which by way was another Bonnie and Bob invention. The Cinderella Classic was another of their many creations, a century ride just for women and girls in order to encourage more female participation in our sport. We saw Bob annually every year at the Cinderella where we usually volunteered to help out with morning registration. Both the Powers were always there with Bob being the go-to guy for any emergencies or out-of-the-ordinary problems and Bonnie supervising registration. But Bob was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and passed away at age 86 just two weeks before this year’s Cinderella.

Bob and Bonnie were/are the strong roots of Valley Spokesmen even into their eighties. They have continued to pour immense energy into the club including the Cinderella Classic, which they invented. Every year they were key organizers and put in hours beyond compare. I learned at his memorial that in addition of forming the club and creating and organizing its signature events, the Cinderella and the Mount Diablo Challenge, they also were responsible for the Hekaton Century, which I used to do annually as well. Oldsters will recognize this as a great century that toured Contra Costa County but is no longer put on probably because Contra Costa is now so developed and many of the roads are busy thoroughfares now. What else? They also organized many of the club tours such as the ride to Paso Robles for the Great Western Bike Rally, two-week tours in various locations in the US and Canada including most recently in Kentucky.

Although Valley Spokesmen is eleven years older than Different Spokes and is a much bigger club than we, there are similarities between us. The early Spokers were also avid bike tourers and both clubs developed at a time when cycling was just starting to lose its weirdo halo. That Valley Spokesmen were lucky enough to have two such “Power”-houses to pour energy into it was a blessing.

Our club too has had members who took up the reins to create and re-create the club we have but no one has the longevity of the Powers. Although Derek and I are the only long term, extant members from the early ‘80s left, our interest and involvement in Different Spokes has waxed and waned over forty years. (Dr. Bob and Karry, also oldsters from the early ‘80s, recently rejoined after many years absence.) But like the Powers many of the oldsters, though gone now, had the same dream of a cycling club for their community.

The Valley Spokesmen is still a large and vibrant club. It has a racing team, still puts on several important cycling events every year, donates scads of money gathered from the Cinderella to local women’s organizations, and has an enthusiastic leadership team. But like Different Spokes it too is struggling with “succession”: ride leaders and and new rides continue to be difficult to cultivate. Does that sound familiar? And recently the leadership asked its members for volunteers to step up and help create a renewed club vision. Clearly they are thinking that continuing to do the same-old, same-old perhaps needs to be challenged.

Different Spokes is in a similar place. The current leadership needs to be refreshed badly for the club to remain vibrant and fresh. Roger, David, and I have been doing this for six-plus years now and whatever vision we had is likely turning stale; Jeff, Mark, Stephen, and Laura are more recent board members and I hope they stay on. Unfortunately Different Spokes has not had members as long lasting and visionary as the Powers have been for the Valley Spokesmen. Even so our small club is still capable of great things if we all put a little energy into the club.


2 thoughts on “All Things Must Pass

  1. The Valley Spokesmen’s rides are infamous. I have done the Hekaton, the Paso Robles Great Western Bike Rally, the Cinderella, the Muffin ride, the Mount Diablo climb, the TSRD (Tour of the Sacramento River Delta) and for many years the No-Drop led by VSWRT (Valley Spokesmen Women’s Race Team). The Powers were always, hands on, involved.
    Let’s not forget that VSWRT became a powerful women’s team because of the influx of women from Different Spokes San Francisco when, as I recall, we more than doubled the team’s size as we prepared for the Gay Games in New York.
    Thank you for the update and that was a cleverly woven pitch for club participation.


    1. Hey Elia, I forgot about you–big mea culpa! You’re another ‘old fart’ who’s still hanging on after four decades. I should add that Bonnie and Bob were always super LGBTQ-friendly. And the pastor at their church is one of us too!


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