It was an unusual but awesome feeling coming into downtown Wenatchee at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday. Bicyclists of all ages, abilities, and on every conceivable style of bike pulsed from the outlying neighborhoods into city center. For once, bicycles outnumbered vehicles.
By 9:30 a.m., between 600 and 700 cyclists had congregated at the convention center for the Rally for Ed, an almost impromptu event lending emotional and spiritual support to Ed Farrar and his family. As most everyone in both the medical and outdoor community around the Wenatchee Valley knows, Ed was recently hit by a car, severely crushed, and in critical condition for over two weeks. (Read more about Ed’s condition.)
These first few weeks in particular were a time when the community wanted to help yet also a time when the family most needed to focus, without distraction, on Ed’s immediate needs. And so the Rally for Ed emerged as a way for the community to show its concern for Ed, demonstrate its support for the entire family, and raise broader awareness about keeping cyclists safe out on the roads.
No doubt about it, those of us who rolled into this pond of pedalers on Sunday morning liked the feeling of our own company. We liked taking to the road in a flock that was 6 riders wide and a 100 bicycles long. This was a mass so tangible that even the drivers of two-ton trucks would not roar past with a 30-mph speed differential.
As a group, we rode the Criterium circuit around downtown Wenatchee. The Wenatchee Twilight Criterium is a race that Ed has spearheaded and kept alive summer after summer. Next, we headed to Skyline Drive and the route Ed was commuting on October 22 when a distracted motorist swerved across the center line and struck Ed head-on.
There was something incredibly cool about occupying the width of Orondo Street and creating a bike jam as we pedaled out of town. I’ve seen such jams in some European cities and in some parts of Costa Rica as commuters ride to work. In parts of Europe, congestion has created acceptance of cyclists. In Costa Rica, cycling is an economic issue – bicycles provide transportation to the majority who can’t afford cars. Here in the U.S., there’s huge potential for bicycles to improve personal health, public health, congestion, air quality, and contribute positively toward climate change. And yet cyclists are cursed by those who don’t want to brake or give a few extra inches to share our publicly-funded roads.
Also, on this Sunday morning it was appropriately religious to be outdoors in the creation, supporting others in need, trying to give back to a giver. This was palpable religion and if there were a church that always met under the blue cupola of sky and worshipped through actions rather than words, it might attract a sweaty congregation of misfits.
The ride ended at Central Washington Hospital where Ed is still hooked up to Lord knows how many machines and sensors in the intensive-care unit. Outside of the hospital, we listened to friends, colleagues, and family members talk about Ed.
A number of comments resonated with the crowd and there were tears and misty eyes. Michael Hanson reached many of us both emotionally and motivationally as he talked to us about ‘echoes.’ In life we get back what we put forth. If you want to receive love, you must give it. Want compassion? Then live with compassion. As we looked around this crowd, we were witnessing Ed’s echo. It was humbling to see how many people this one man has impacted. And it made us focus the mirror on ourselves and take stock: What would our echo look like?
Michael also emphasized how we all want to help now but how the real need for the entire family will come much later when the masses have moved past this ‘acute’ phase. Helping out when the doldrums hit, keeping the Farrars in our thoughts and prayers over time, offering our assistance down the line -- this may be the true measure of our friendship and character.
Mark Broberg, a doctor in the same orthopedic practice as Ed and the perennial Ridge-to-River winner for his age group, is well recognized as a man of iron. That provided credentialed context when he stated that he knows no one who is as physically, mentally, or emotionally tough as Ed. The road ahead will be tough but Ed will get back to the highest capacity possible.
What awaits Ed is not publicly known. Likely, it’s not privately known either. Healing is mysterious blending of physical, mental, and spiritual elements. Ed brings strength to the game from all these domains and while we can’t help him physically we can bolster him emotionally and spiritually. And, within limits, that will impact his physical healing too. It’s paradoxical, but we are all in this with Ed--in ways we don’t understand.
Tyler Farrar, Ed’s son and a world-class bicycle racer, capped off the formal part of the rally. It was a tough position for a young man. How do you describe the damage done to a dad, the flux caused in family dynamics, the emotions connected to the cacophony of community concern that all exploded from that millisecond when steel crushed flesh? On a personal level, it’s been a Big Bang redefining the nature of his universe. What do you say to all that?
In this case, Tyler simply gave heartfelt thanks and expressed his gratitude to the many who stood in line to help and who cared. “It’s hard to put words to all of this, but it has meant so much to the family.”
In the end the Rally for Ed was not just a dazzling display of how one person can touch so many lives; it was an equally dazzling display of how a community can care for its individuals. Terrible happenings often reveal pain-coated beauty.
See our slideshow of the Rally (98 images and some commentary).
- Thanks to the Wenatchee Valley Velo and The Wenatchee World for giving legs and life to the Rally for Ed.
- The Farrar Family requests that instead of flowers donations be given to Wenatchee Valley Velo cycling club (P.O. Box 1991, Wenatchee, 98807). Donations will be used to support Ed’s causes: bike safety and the club’s annual Wenatchee Omnium Race.
- I've noticed the yellow ‘See Bikes,’ bumper stickers raising awareness that bikes do share the roads with vehicles. Ed’s star appeal crosses many community cultures and a similarly bright bumper sticker with a bicycle and a somewhat enigmatic expression (Remember Ed, or Spare an Ed, or …) might raise bicycle awareness among local motorists while keeping Ed’s struggles in our thoughts.