You don’t really know a road until you’ve bicycled it. On a bike, everything is magnified: the surface, contour and camber; the hills and valleys; the ruts and potholes; even the shoulder. Riders pay attention to the shoulder, because it’s always possible that we might quickly have to occupy it.
Arrington McCardy, founder of the Eleuthera Long Riders, who died of a totally unexpected heart attack on the April 9th “Ride for Hope,” joked that they should rename the Queen’s Highway for him because he knew every inch of it better than anyone else. He loved riding so much that some nights during the full moon, he would bunk at a friend’s place in Bannerman Town and leave at 3am, pedaling along in the moonlight, headed for Spanish Wells, 100 miles away. Once he asked me to join him, but I weaseled out, and promised to have the coffee ready when he came by.
Self-trained, he had unorthodox techniques. On a steep hill, the standard tactic is to shift up two cogs and stand up, adding your body weight to the downstroke, using your arms to wiggle the bike from side to side to help the upstroke. We never saw Arrington stand up. Instead he would hunker down in the saddle and simply power his way over the hill. And he always left us in the dust. I was hoping to watch this technique in the White Mountains this year, when he and Hazel would visit us in New Hampshire.
Arrington was a cycling evangelist. He constantly tried to convince his friends to take up a bike, grumbling when they made excuses. His ambition was to ride every major Bahamian island—Abaco was in the cards this month, Cat Island next year. Thanks to him, we were able to cycle Long Island (the Bahamas version). He made all the arrangements—twice. This was just one of his many kindnesses, and all the shared laughs, the food and fun, the friendship that made our winters on Eleuthera so special.
He had more than one dimension. A skilled craftsman, who learned his trade at the former U.S. Navy Base, he built pretty rental cottages on his waterfront property, where visitors were sometimes even invited to dinner. Four of them were with us at his 64th birthday party on March 26th. He fished since he was a boy, annoying his father by eating the bait, a habit which gave him a lifetime distaste for conch. He liked music from island ballads to the classical guitar recitals. He had a devoted, loving family, whose laughter was contagious. The Hon. Alvin Smith, Speaker of the Bahamas House of Assembly, once remarked to me: “Now there’s a man who knows how to raise a family.”
The thought of him gone at such an early age is impossible to bear, so let us not think of him as gone—just away for the present. Let us be glad he died painlessly, doing something he loved. Arrington’s last Ride For Hope was also my last, for several reasons. The main one is that I could never ride another without thinking of the big hole this one left in all our lives. I’d rather think of him as I often saw him, way out in front, clicking into high and hunkered down for the next hill. God speed, my dear friend.