ORLANDO – About a year ago, Dave McConnell’s love for biking across Central Florida attracted the attention of his cousin Nathan, who had just bought a new Schwinn Mountain Bike.
“My cousin Nathan decided he wanted to get a bike and start riding,” McConnell said. “We rode one time, on May 1, 2010. We went out to Snowhill,” the mountain bike park in Sanford.
“That was the first time that I know of that Nathan rode his bike, and probably the last time,” McConnell said.
On Tuesday, McConnell, who lives in Orlando, started a blog, one he refers to as “a sort of online journal of my bike rides. Nothing extreme. Not making any Mountain Dew commercials.”
He plans to routinely update the blog with photos and narratives of his travels around Greater Orlando – “just me using a bike instead of a car whenever possible,” he noted on his Facebook page.
There’s a larger purpose to this blog than describing great places to ride a bike in a region where the auto is still king. The blog is being called, “Nate’s Bike,” because McConnell is now riding that same Schwinn Mountain Bike that his cousin Nathan bought last May. It many ways, the blog is a tribute to his cousin.
“I’m always riding a bike, so rather than my own, I want to ride Nathan’s,” he said. “I’m going to keep riding, but I want to take him with me. I’ll ride his bike for him.”
To Dave McConnell, this blog also says a lot about how close his family really is – and how much the family came together last summer, following a horrible tragedy that shocked not only the McConnell family, but the entire state.
Last August, McConnell’s uncle Elroy “Roy” McConnell, 51, a triathlete and accountant, was taking a beach vacation in St. Petersburg with his sons Elroy “Roy” III, 28, Nathan, 24, and Kelly, 19.
All four family members were tragically killed by a drunk driver ooperating a Chevrolet Impala who ran a red light, hitting the family head on. Demetrius D. Jordan, 20, the driver of the Impala, was later charged with four counts of DUI manslaughter, DUI causing serious bodily injury and possession of alcohol by a minor.
Dave McConnell, who also participates in triathlons, said it was his Uncle Roy who got him involved in this enhilarating outdoor physical activity.
“The whole reason I do these triathlons is Uncle Roy,” he said. “Uncle Roy got into these triathlons running and swimming. He was really big into it. When he died in that accident, my Uncle Jim, his brother, got into it as well. He spoke at Uncle Roy’s funeral, and one thing people kept asking me was, ‘Has this tragedy brought your family closer together?’ Uncle Jim said it best at the funeral – ‘We’ve always been close.’ ”
McConnell, a local educator, said it’s been difficult coping with this tragedy, particularly by taking the advice most people offer him: to moveg on.
“That whole move on thing … what philosopher or genius said ‘You have to move on,’ “ he asked. “I don’t believe it. Who is to say that the future is any better?”
If it’s been difficult to put the deaths, and the impact they had on his family, fully behind him, McConnell said he has drawn some strength from thinking about the way his late Uncle Roy viewed triathlons as being a spiritual as well as athletic mission.
“I got involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes with Roy,” he said. “It’s a global organization of athletes who, rather than compete for personal gain, use sports as a ministry. Uncle Roy, he was a good steward of what God gave him. Uncle Roy said, ‘I pray while I run.’ He was competing for Christ, that’s what he does. That’s the kind of guy Uncle Roy was.”
Is that why McConnell started the blog? Probably not, he said.
“This is not necessarily spiritual for me,” he said. “Right now, it’s Dave out riding, having a good time, taking Nathan’s bike with me.”
After Nathan’s death, he said, “his wife called me. Nathan had a lot of friends and a lot of things that went to a lot of people, and she called me and said, ‘You know he got this bike so he could ride with you,’ and she wanted me to have it.”
The blog, then, is McConnell’s way to share his love of biking – and to remember Nathan, his beloved cousin.
“Have you ever seen the bridge that goes over Semoran Boulevard? That’s a bike trail,” he said. “It’s a really cool view. You get to see and do a lot of cool stuff on a bike, and ultimately you get to shed calories.”
How long does he plan to keep blogging?
“I’m going to do it until the wheels fall off,” McConnell said. “That’s just me. I’ll do it until I can’t any more.”
To view the blog, log on to http://natesbike.blogspot.com/ and become a subscriber.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando @Gmail.com.