My friend Jon (who was a Today’s Nice Stranger when I originally met him on Atlanta’s Edgewood Avenue — here’s that story) took a metaphoric Leap of Faith when he gave me a bike he found in the garbage and fixed up a few years ago. I named that bike Magic (that story’s in my book), and she’s been spreading magic ever since.
Yesterday, Jon took a literal leap of faith (130 pounds less than when I first met him when he went by the name Big Jon, by the way) when I went to his eclectic home to pick up another bike in the tiny old resort city of Mountain Park, Georgia (a rustic, charming, frozen-in-time kind of place that was abandoned by rich folks when man-made Lake Lanier was created by the building of the Buford Dam in 1956).
I had asked Jon online if he might have one for Diana, my student who moved to the United States from Venezuela alone at age 16 and who just last Tuesday learned how to ride a bike for the first time in her life and has already been whipping around Piedmont Park since then.
He said he did, and when I asked him how much it would cost, he replied, “This was gonna be thrown away because bike shops no longer fix bent deraileurs. Well, they gave it to me and I was gonna give it to my neighbor but she just wants a coaster bike, so I said who could use this bike ? Then your cry for help popped up.” He asked for nothing*.
Jon rescues bikes. He’s been doing it since he was a kid, from the dump in rich Sandy Springs. Jon also has a history of rescuing houses and people, and he spent forty years with his twin sister caring for his ill mother, who died last year, right there in the very home in Mountain Park where he grew up. He showed me where the garden was, and the chickens, and the rabbits. He showed me the bikes in various states of functionality as far as the eye could see, from which he harvests parts to create new, usable models. He told me:
“There’s no drug I could take that would be better than the feeling I get when I’m fixing a bike.”
The old van he used to transport his mother sits in the front of the house. Jon is thinking of turning it into a mobile bike repair business. He’s thinking of setting up a page online to sell his refurbished bikes. He’s thinking of who he can rescue next through the miracle machine known as a bike.
A man of deep conviction who quotes scripture often, it’s not hard to see that he’s, of course, thinking of his next Leap of Faith.
* Here’s Diana’s new bike. Stay tuned for an update after I get it to her! (Note: I can’t ask Jon for any more free bikes. Hang tight while he gets his biz up and running and I’ll post the link to that for you. He will most likely be offering very good deals.)
As Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor, a League Cycling Instructor, a PeopleForBikes Ambassador, and the author of Traveling at the Speed of Bike (book and blog), I shine a light on people making it more welcoming to ride bikes and access public space close to home and around the world. Meet some below! If you’d like to put stories to work for your company, municipality, or organization, see here.
Meet Greg Masterson (Metro Atlanta Cycling Club)
Meet Marjon Manitius (Brookhaven Bike Alliance)
Meet Byron Rushing (Atlanta Regional Commission)
Meet Creighton Bryan (Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy)
Meet Betsy Eggers and Jack Honderd (Peachtree Creek Trail and Brookhaven Bike Aliance)
Jon’s Leap of Faith (Street Minister and Bike Saver Extraordinaire)
A Second(er) or Two about Why You’re Needed (City of Dunwoody)
Meet Matt (Painter of New Cycle Track by Mercedes Benz Stadium)
Meet Dr. Walter May (Reinhardt University)
Meet Alex Gee (World Bicycle Relief)
Meet Shawn Deangelo Walton (Everybody Eats ATL and WeCycle)
Meet Charlton Bivins (Clayton County Cycling Club)
Meet Emmett McNair (tour guide extraordinaire)
Meet Mike Flueckiger (Primary Mechanic at Global Spokes)
Thank You, Courtney (NYC’s Peoples’ Bike Mayor)
Meet Carden Wycoff (Wheelchair Warrior at 6 MPH)
Meet Jillian Banfield (Bicycle Mayor of Halifax, Canada)
Meet Arcy Canumay (Bicycle Mayor of Waterloo, Canada)
Meet Shelley Carr (Bicycle Mayor of London, Canada)
Meet Susan Stokhof (Bicycle Mayor of Victoria, Canada)
Meet Daniel Eppstein (Director of Operations at BYCS)
Meet 31 Women Making the USA More Welcoming for Riding Bikes (the “You Go Girl!’ Series)
Meet 11 Bike Tour Guides (from the Bicycle Tours of Atlanta Team)