There’s a great little bike shop in Minneapolis called Charlie’s Tangletown Bike Shop – not unlike many other fine shops in the growing list of bike-friendly cities around the country – friendly and knowledgeable people who share their passion for all things bicycle. However, this place is very special to me. First, it was started by my partner’s younger brother, Charlie Siftar, a handful of years ago and second, because Charlie died last week from a heart attack while he was out riding his fat bike with a friend. This happened on the day before we were to fly from San Diego to Minneapolis to celebrate his mom’s 89th birthday. It may sound macabre but when it’s my time to go, I hope it’s doing something that I love like riding my bike.
What sets Charlie apart from me (and a lot of my cycling friends) is that he had a long, successful career in industry first. He has two great kids and an equally great wife with all of the financial and emotional stresses and challenges that go with this. At some point, however, he said enough is enough; I’m going to follow my passion. He left his job and after working at another shop for a few years, started Charlie’s Tangletown Bike Shop. How many of us have the heart or chutzpah to take this enormous leap of faith?
I had the pleasure to ride with Charlie several times during previous visits to the Twin Cities. Both times, he opened up his garage, literally filled from floor to ceiling with classic bikes and told me to take my pick. Talk about being overwhelmed with possibilities! One hot summer day, he and one of his buddies took me on a century ride through the flat, wind-blown, grid-patterned roads surrounding Minneapolis. These guys must have been genetically programmed to hammer in these kinds of conditions. It was only when we hit the rare steep hill coming off the Mississippi River that I felt like I could redeem myself and represent New England with pride. His friend even led me out for the final sprint of the day – I think he might have felt sorry for me.
At his funeral two days ago, the service had to be delayed because there were so many people trying to find parking places, some ended up about half a mile away. The church was packed with people and I think there might have been more folks standing then in the pews. When anyone dies young (Charlie was in his mid 50’s), it’s hard to accept the loss. When someone dies who has touched the lives of so many people, it gets even harder. When someone dies who really is a cornerstone of his community, it stops making sense. We’ll all miss you Charlie!