Brews, Bikes, and Teenagers
For 15 years I’ve been one of the guest ‘legends’ at the annual midwinter fundraiser for Trips For Kids.
Every February, Noah Rich, owner of Broken Drum Brewery donates the beer tab to Marilyn’s prize-winning charity. Often, in fine weather, there’d be a ride before the 2 p.m. event, which I led a time or two, up around China Camp. Then we’d go and “prolong the buzz” with a pint of Noah’s finest, and a burger and fries.
The event was noisy–a raffle was always held to boost donations–and usually mobbed with supporters and the usual “legend” suspects: Charlie Kelly, Joe Breeze, and now and then a special surprise like Dave Garoutte or Ross Shafer or even Wende Cragg. This year I hear Denise Caramagno will be there.
I won’t be.
When Marilyn’s group letter went out a couple of months ago, she announced that Trips for Kids would pair up with another worthy beneficiary, the teens in the high school mountain bike racing program. I asked her to please remove my name from the list of legendary riders, because I disagreed with the premise of teens fundraising in a brewing establishment.
To agree to come would be (to me) a tacit agreement that beer and mountain bikes are inextricably entwined, and that it’s not POSSIBLE to have a venue where there was no alcohol. This little protest of mine could have stopped at that, but when Charlie Kelly asked if I was coming, I told him why I wasn’t and offered to send him the letter I wrote to Marilyn and her staff, which follows:
Greetings Jon, Marilyn, staff….
I got your invitation to Bruise, Bikes & Bucks at Broken Eardrum Broory Feb 2014. I shan’t be there (this will be my first time not to come, I think)..I will truly miss the chance to meet this year’s crop of eager teen bike racers… but I can’t be there .because i have a problem with the high school kids + beer equation.
Last spring, Drake H.S. held a party at Gestalthaus, a sort of Private Awards Ceremony, and only because I’d been there in the afternoon was I witness to the bar becoming flooded with young riders. I spoke to a few of them, and came to the conclusion that there are better places to hold a bike event for high schoolers.
The bike industry is marked by thousands of positive beer+bike associations via brewery supported magazines. I’m troubled by the fact that the more attendees drink up, the more cash goes Trips For Kids.
This year for the first time you’re formally teaming up with a high school program, juxtaposing these two volatile entities, kids and beer. All in the context of the health, freedom, and fun of riding mountain bicycles…
My experience with parental alcoholism, and my awareness of the high susceptibility Marin teenagers have to booze in general, has spurred me to take a stand. Make no mistake–I adore beer, and love getting together w/friends.
But “normalizing” the association between bikes and beer and kids (very young adults) has just gotten too intense.
Here’s a link that helps with the facts : http://www.marincounty.org/depts/gj/reports-and-responses/decisions-responses/2011-12/~/media/Files/Departments/GJ/Reports%20Responses/2011/marin_youth_alcohol_crisis.pdf
The way Charlie and I see it, our bike culture uses riding to justify the drinking.
And here, the charity normalizes the heavy drinking and gives kids an acceptable setting to get into the bar milieu.
We believe that riders who ride and drink habitually are at high risk of becoming alcoholics when injury or old age prevents the exercise that allows them to metabolize the alcohol. Respectfully, Jacquie Phelan and Charlie Cunningham
At Gestalt Haus I circulated among the teens and asked a few of them why they were convening there rather than at the high school. “Probably because that’s where the coaches wanted it to be” said one. I know that the local brew pub, Iron Springs Brewery is a sponsor of the Drake High team.
I did some desultory research on the connection between Marin teens and alcohol–it’s easy: just open the Independent Journal. Every year teens die in beer-fueled car crashes. We are practically number one in the USA when it comes to kids in rehab, kids in recovery, kids that are drinking with their friends, their parents…by themselves.
I am putting these thoughts out there because it seems like no one is questioning this beer-bike link. Matt Fritzinger, who founded the Norcal Highschool league and oversaw the growth of mountain biking at high school level around the state and the country, understood my position perfectly. He put me in touch with one of the board members of the Norcal league, where I left a message in November (maybe got the conversation started, but haven’t heard back myself).
The event is in two days. I’ll no doubt hear that everyone had a great time. If you have feedback for me, I’d enjoy hearing or reading it