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May 2003

You're never alone while pedaling up hard hills

NewsWire Editorial

A challenge can change you, once you open your heart to it. I had that experience last weekend across 139 miles of Texas Hill Country roads, pedaling my aging bike over two days to help those who live with AIDS. The last weekend of April taught me lessons about hard roads, what can ease an effort, and what makes the most difference while riding toward a place you’ve never reached before. They’re all life lessons, something I’m happy to be learning at age 46 and trying to pass along to our readers in the 3000 market.

The Hill Country Ride for AIDS felt like the transition that every HP 3000 customer faces today. It covers ground most of us have never seen before. You have to train for the challenge if you hope to succeed. You need luck, and yes, especially passion and dedication to cross the finish line. I had everything I needed to complete the ride, much of it provided by the family and friends who cared for me.

The Ride covered a route through the Hill Country between Austin and Stonewall, along two-lane highways and county roads many miles from cities, or even villages. On the first day the biggest burg we crossed was Sandy, Texas, nothing more than the intersection of a pair of two-lane roads with The Sandy Store at the corner. The Ride is alluring but remote, the kind of path you may feel you’re on while crossing from the 3000’s legacy to the future, whether that’s a homestead position or a migration to another computer.

My solitude didn’t scare me. Even through we were miles from running water, shade or indoor plumbing, I never felt alone — even when I could see no one along the blacktop. There were dozens of volunteers cruising the roads to check on every rider, the diligent sag-wagons ready to help you with a flat tire, a spill on a gravel-strewn curve, or to get you out of the high-80s sun and avoid heatstroke.

You can count on volunteers to sag for you as well. People who give up their time and donate their knowledge still cruise the roads of 3000 Country, at user group meetings, on the intersections of the Internet, at the end of a phone line. Sometimes what you need most is simply some encouragement as you find your way through the challenging terrain of change. On the Ride I was most blessed by the volunteer crews that stood along the roadside on the highest of the hills, cheering me on as my aging thighs and calves pumped at less than 4 mph. Standing on my pedals near the crest of the Henly Hill, I could hear the wind lift their spirits down to help me, because I didn’t dare look up. “Keep your head down and pedal, and assume you’ll get to the top,” our training leader Ted Smith told us. We met that hill at mile 99, in the second day of our odyssey, and it broke more than a few riders off their saddles. I stayed on mine through the power of my supporters, those people who believed in me and donated to sponsor my effort, and some serious entreaties with my maker.

I took on the challenge as unexpectedly as some of you have assumed the task of transition. On a sunny day in February I found myself signing on for this adventure, knowing I’d need to raise funds, revamp my bike, recast my commitment to fitness and health. I was inspired by my wife Abby, who did something as brave in Dublin’s chill with her first marathon walk.

About 18 months ago you got pushed into similar unplanned territory, if not completely unexpected paths. You may have been motivated with a less loving example. But by now 3000 customers should know they’ve got to raise funding, revamp their servers, and recast their commitments to training.

Perhaps like you, it was the training that made the biggest difference while I climbed the hardest of hills. I didn’t have any endurance bike ride experience; my longest outing was about 10 miles. But the Ride organizers provided weekend routes of up to 52 miles for us to master. I rode through the rain one Saturday, one of several firsts. Much of a 139-mile route must share busy highways, so I swallowed back fear of being hit by SUVs and cell-phone toting drivers to ride the white line on the shoulders.

You’ll be encountering firsts as well on your Transition, a journey that may well feel as long as that ride. The first time you buy support from a non-HP source, or move that IMAGE database into Oracle, you might have to swallow back fear of failure and ride the bottom line of budget. A challenge can offer a gut-check on your motivation — so spend the appropriate time considering your route in your transition.

In the month before my ride I found many of you doing that diligent consideration at the Interex Solution Symposiums. One year ago most of the attendees at the Symposium were migration-bound, with little regard for learning more about their 3000s. This year’s customers arrived with their current ride route foremost in their minds: how to stay stable in the IT shop until budget and application options will let them move, or establish a new MPE-IMAGE route that doesn’t follow HP’s path anymore.

Those customers’ ability to focus on the present reminded me of one mantra I had to mutter while pedaling through the Ride’s first day. They had shown us our route for both days; some of us knew of the Henly Hill from driving it. It seemed insurmountable in a weak moment; my friend Kate said to us at the bottom, in a pit stop, “Hell, even my car doesn’t like going up that hill.”

But knowing the hill was waiting in Day Two would have ruined the chance of finishing the 70 miles of Day One. “Stay on today’s ride,” I muttered to myself in the loneliest stretches. Looking too far ahead can leave you ignoring the potholes you must steer around today.

What you’re steering with, and pedaling today, may be the element you can change with the most benefit. I mounted those hills with a bike that was built when many of your HP 3000s were new, a 1988 Schwinn 10-speed. I put a new saddle and pedals and tires on it, and had it tuned up twice. But I committed to using a machine that I knew well, to avoid the extra expense of the modern, lightweight 27-gear bikes starting at $700.

You might have made that same kind of choice in the recent past, as HP announced the end of its 3000 support and you looked over your 9x7, 9x8 or 9x9 system, or your 6.0 or 6.5 version of MPE. Like me, you might have known you were going to work harder and felt the choice would challenge you. I can assure you I felt challenged on the hills and heat of Day Two, beyond Henly, especially when I reached for a lower gear in the rising wind and found I was already completely downshifted.

I’ve now vowed to get a newer bike soon, and save the effort for higher hills of the next journey. My training kept me in the saddle on those hills, the same kind of assistance you’ll need whether you’re leaving the 3000 or staying. Many homesteaders think they can carry on with little investment or training. That looks like a way to “bonk” along the hills on your path, as surely as assuming that any migration will proceed swiftly without potholes. Advice and experience is required on those roads. Seek it out, spend to upgrade, or risk the road rash of a crash.

The most important revelation of my ride, and your transition, is the support of a committed community. On the ride we were all motivated to raise $285,000 from 250 riders and crew, and help was ready at every turn of our path. You’re not alone in your challenge, even if you can’t see anyone on the road from your saddle. Keep pedaling to the pit stops ahead, knowing those volunteers and fellow riders are just over the hill. On my magical weekend I never said “Thank you” so much, or meant it more. Gratitude is the best prayer to practice when you’re meeting a challenge. I gave thanks to all who supported me, with help I didn’t expect and absolutely needed. There’s plenty of such help out there for you, too. A hard road can change you for the better — so start practicing your thank-you’s.

— Ron Seybold  

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