Some of you have already read or heard me speak some of the words below, but I feel like any chance to talk about my friend, Ron Haney, who we lost way too early a few weeks ago, is a chance I can’t pass up. Remember, if you have someone in your life that you haven’t called in a while, or seen lately, pick up the phone or get in your car, and connect with them again. You just never know.
A few years ago, world renowned cycling coach and guru, Lennard Zinn, wrote a new book on all things cycling called Zinn’s Cycling Primer. The book is an overview of all things cycling: bike fit, training concepts, maintenance skills, nutrition, and deals with both mountain and road cycling.
I wanted to remember my friend, Ron Haney, and tell you about a side of Ron you may not have seen as much, other than the wonderful colleague and musician that so many of us know. Of course, Ron was an avid cyclist. “Avid" doesn’t really quite define Ron’s interest in cycling. “Obsession" might fit, but it’s maybe too negative a word to fit. “Passion” and “mission” might begin to describe Ron’s relationship with his bike, and with many of us who had a chance to ride with and learn from he and Barb over the years.
The first time I met Ron was at a Marine Band concert. I had only been in the band for about 6 weeks when we left DC for the 1999 West coast tour on October 1. Our first concert was in Frostburg, Maryland, and Ron had driven Barb out to the concert. This was the first tour that they wouldn’t be together in many years, maybe ever. Barb introduced me to Ron, told him I had a new found interest in cycling, and simply said, “yeah, Ron likes to bike too, you guys should get together.” I’m not sure if more of an understatement was ever spoken. Ron and I proceeded to talk a little cycling (I really knew nothing), and left it as “sure, let’s do some riding when tour gets back!” Ron gave me that sly grin and head nod, shook my hand, and I parted ways to get ready for the concert.
To say I rode my bike with Ron Haney doesn’t even begin to explain what I got from our friendship. Ron taught me nearly everything I know about riding a bike, how a bike should fit, maintenance and repair, and how to ride safely on the roads. I spent many days with he and Barb in Southern Maryland over the years following that first meeting, and rode many miles sitting on Ron’s wheel. Most of all, Ron taught me that cycling is a life long sport, a place of refuge, and a way to see the world from a new perspective. Most of all, it is a way to enjoy the company of the people you love. Over the course of many bike rides, a lot was learned by me about friendship, working in the Marine Band, enjoying life, staying fit and healthy, and perseverance.
Speaking of fit and healthy, Ron was really one of the most fit people I have ever known. As I said, I spent many miles sitting in his “draft” while cycling the roads near his home, but he always rode with a sense of compassion and care for those of us who might not be as strong as him. We would often start our rides, Ron, Barb, and me bringing up the rear, and we would all take turns riding in front, and trying to keep a consistent pace. By the end of the rides, we would just be sitting in Ron’s draft as he efficiently cranked away in the wind, bringing us home. He always had this effortless way of riding, like it was no big deal and that he would never tire. I rarely remember seeing him even look tired on a bike, and I always just marveled at his understated, but friendly and caring nature for everyone on the ride. I remember a trip to the doc, I believe on his 50th birthday, and the young Navy corpsman became concerned when he took Ron’s blood pressure. He was concerned because Ron’s resting heart rate was alarmingly low, in the low 40s, and he thought something must be wrong with Ron. Ron patiently explained to the young sailor that he was a cyclist, and his heart rate was low for a reason! I’m not sure the kid ever knew what he meant, but the doc came in and cleared everything up.
A bit has already been shared about Ron’s care for other people, friends, and especially animals. Ron and I shared a trait, that we are both only children, and we have reaped the benefits, as well as sometimes suffered the consequences of our parents family planning choices. When I first met Ron, his mother, Cleo, was nearing her later years, and I always marveled at the way that Ron loved her with his characteristic patience and understanding. He called her daily, and in her last years, he cared for her in a way that I only hope I might someday have the patience and ability to care for my own parents. He was a shining example of a good and loving son.
Ron cared so much for those around him. After a bike crash on one of our rides in Southern Maryland, I had a broken collarbone and concussion. Ron and Barb kept me at their house, with Ron waking me every hour or so due to the concussion, to keep an eye on me. Ron cared for animals, especially cats. Like my wife and I, Ron was a cat person. His gentle, calm nature, seemed to soothe both felines and humans around him always.
A few years ago, I decided to go back to school, and work on a doctorate. I studied with Dave Fedderly, then tubist of the Baltimore Symphony while working on my degree at Catholic University. Dave literally turned my philosophy on playing a brass instrument around, and tuned me in to a type of brass playing that involved working less, not getting so wrapped up in what everyone says is “correct”, and to trust your intuition about what works for you. He also taught me to trust cold hard evidence, in the form of various breathing apparatus and to record myself while practicing my trombone. After a few lessons with Dave, I realized I already knew someone that demonstrated all the qualities he was trying to shovel into my brain, and that was Ron. Ron would pick up his tuba, and with seemingly no effort at all, produce a beautiful and large sound, one that both provided his colleagues musical as well as acoustical support, but that also blended together with the sounds around him. As a brass player, many days my only goal is to simply produce a pleasing sound on my instrument, and Ron did this masterfully, with little effort, and he did it all the time. There is often a reason that musicians choose a certain instrument, and in Ron’s case, being the foundation on which everyone could rest fit the person he was to a tee.
Ron was so many things to so many people. At different times he felt like your big brother, college roommate, exercise physiologist, favorite uncle, and senior Marine that you learned how to do a strange job from. Musician, cyclist, engineer, bartender, barista, bike mechanic, woodworker…you name it, Ron probably knew how to do it, and do it well.
Most of all, Ron was a friend. I will miss this man for the rest of my days. What a wonderful person, and I am so glad to have shared some space on the planet with him.
In the Lennard Zinn book I mentioned earlier, Mr. Zinn devotes an entire chapter to Ron’s method of cycling fit. It is chapter 12 of the book, and it is appropriately titled, Haney’s Way. With so many things I had the pleasure of doing with and learning from Ron, I strive for the “Haney Way” always!