As I have gotten older, I have taken to taking stock of long lost friends. Here is what I wrote about one in the January issue of 2018. Last week, Jim Harrell finally found a challenge he could not overcome. A rare lung infection took advantage of his lungs that had been compromised while serving in Vietnam. He quietly passed within days.

I met Jim when we were both in real estate in the ’80s. Or was it when he and Mary Hiner bought the Stone House and Serenity became one of their first tenants? Whatever… I remember Jim as a hard charging, “let’s get this done” realtor flying all over the western United States selling ranches. But, truth be told, he would be just another of my life’s friends were it not for Ride the Rockies.

One year, out of the clear blue, Jim, who had no training or experience riding a bicycle, announced he was going on Ride the Rockies and that we would go together. I would have brushed off anyone else, but by then, I knew Jim could do whatever he put his mind to.

On the fourth day of the tour, Jim and I were flying down the highway beside the Arkansas River between Salida and Canyon City at about 40 miles an hour. He came up behind me and shouted that he wanted to try drafting. I tried to warn him to stay one side or the other of my back wheel because if he so much as nudged it, he was going down…. When I heard that awful telltale whine, I turned to see Jim being tossed like a limp ragdoll, head over heels to the pavement. As I stopped, I was so scared that, oddly enough, my first thought was, “I can’t throw up now. I have to keep it together for Jim.” Then, as I approached, he stood up on his own, looking like a giant hamburger in torn Spandex. OK. Ride the Rockies is over for Jim Harrell. Nope. Like a true Marine, dripping blood from head to foot, he got back on his bike and said, “We need to find a medic.” I still wasn’t convinced that he hadn’t broken something. Jim finished that tour without a single complaint about anything. He is the toughest man I have ever met.

The day before, we stood astride our bikes atop Monarch Pass watching black clouds with hanging sheets of rain between us and Salida. We stood for several minutes staring off into the maelstrom. I reflected on how I hardly knew this man. I knew he was a Marine who served in Vietnam and I knew he never talked about it. I also knew not to worry about that silence. So, what was he thinking now? If he was scared, he never let on and I never asked. I clearly remember thinking that I would follow this man into combat and wondered if he was now willing to follow me into the storm? Jim quietly said, “Let’s roll.”

There are few things I cherish more than the bond formed when I and a partner silently weigh each other, weigh the options, weigh our fears and then unconditionally commit, with those two simple words, to never turning back. Yes, Jim Harrell, I only knew you for a short time. But, the bond we formed on Monarch Pass will stay with me for the rest of my born days.