The conference room at the Bahia Resort buzzed as I reached my hand into the glass bowl to pull out the name of the winner of a New World Tourist at the National Bicycle Tourism Convention in San Diego.
For the past three days, the movers and shakers who represent the heart and soul of cycling stopped by the Bike Friday booth to drop their business cards into the bowl and chit-chat about cycling — the tie that binds us all.
Arlen Hall, a tour director for Adventure Cycling, is a Bike Friday owner and very vocal supporter of our bikes and our cause. I can’t tell you how many people came up to me at this event to tell me Arlen is Bike Friday’s biggest supporter.
As my hand swirled around the bowl and the anticipation intensified, Arlen said he started thinking to himself.
“I thought, what if he picks my name?” Arlen said. “I don’t need another Bike Friday. I have one and I have one for my girlfriend. So I thought, who would I give the bike to? Then I thought, I’d give it to Camille.”
According to Arlen, seconds later, I announced the winner to the crowd: Camille Solei Stupar.
She screamed and rushed to the front.
With 250 folks at this convention, it was hard for me to talk to every last one. I did spend an elevator ride with Camille earlier in the week, so I knew a little about her. But not enough.
Camille lived in California for a long time, and then moved to Florida. There she got rid of her car.
When she was between jobs, a friend offered to build up a bike for her.
“A good friend of mine built up a Trek 520 for me,” Camille said. “It was such a great bike, and I asked to pay him. He wouldn’t take any payment. Instead he told me, ‘This is your Gratitude Bike. Just pay it forward.’ ”
So, that’s what Camille does. She recently got certified by the League of America Bicyclists as an instructor, and started doing tours in Florida.
“To be honest, you have a new dealer in St. Pete, Two Fold Bicycles,” Camille said. “And I was there looking at your bikes. They were high on my wish list.”
Camille’s goals are to get bicycles into the hands of those who don’t have access to bikes. She wants to teach kids how to ride, and mothers.
“I think we’re losing a whole generation of cyclists,” Camille said. “There are a lot of kids who don’t know how to ride because their parents don’t know how to ride. I want to create mother-child classes to teach both.”
Camille simply couldn’t wipe her bright infectious smile from her face the rest of the day.
“Now that I have this bike, it will allow me to do a lot of traveling with my bike,” Camille said. “And it will let me take the bike riding now, and give it to one of my volunteers who recently got her bike stolen.”
Paying it forward.
“You couldn’t have picked a better name out of that bowl,” Arlen said.
I couldn’t agree more.