It was tough leaving so many great friends and the inspiring Red Rock Canyon and surrounding mountains of Las Vegas for Vero Beach a year ago.
Vero Beach is a small city of 16,000 with a very rich barrier island community.
I traded the spectacular mountain scenery and high desert of the West for the ocean and flat scrub lands of Florida's east coast. It was nice to know my dad and sister were just a car ride away in South Florida, too.
One advantage of being in a small town is that people are more trusting and not as jaded of strangers -- and that helped me this morning when I blew out not one but two tire tubes and was left stranded 13 miles south of Vero Beach just north of Fort Pierce on Old Dixie Highway.
My neighbor Sharon, also a bicyclist, and I both know we can call each other if we have mechanical issues with our bikes on the road and are stranded. But Sharon did not answer and she called back to say her car was at the shop getting a new battery.
So, I carried my bike to the Old Dixie Highway roadway and stuck out my thumb and lo and behold a red pickup truck was sailing along and stopped.
It was Zack, a surfer from Sebastian who was driving back home after surfing the Fort Pierce Inlet just five miles to the south. He was still in his wet suit up to his waist and he looked like he was in his late 20s.
Zack was a friendly chef, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park in New York's scenic Hudson Valley and we swapped Hudson Valley stories because that's where I grew up and worked for newspapers for about 10 years.
I threw my road bike into the bed of his truck after he moved his two surf boards to make space and the 20-minute car ride flew by as we chatted restaurants, Hawaii where he lived and life in Sebastian. We even go to the same place for authentic Mexican food in Wabasso - Carmen's hole-in-the-wall operation inside the Wabasso Convenience Store where you can get a fish taco for $2.50.
Zack works at Kountry Kitchen, just up the road on Old Dixie Highway in Vero Beach and he talked of one day owning his own restaurant on A1A in Vero Beach. The sous chef also does catering and is experienced with preparing fish -- the underrated protein, as he says.
Zack talked with spirit and earnestness, and his drive and motivation will take him places. He's about to pay off his CIA student and truck loans and he lives his life the right way.
Kountry Kitchen, give the man a raise or at least a bonus for his good deed. I know I'll be at Kountry Kitchen soon to thank Zack again in person and take him out to lunch one day.
And Zack, consider this post a reference for any future job.
You're a good guy who does things the right way. Thanks man.