Garland Dyke, 71, was a beloved fixture along the American River bike trail, perched on the same bench every day, ringing his cowbell as cyclists passed, shouting encouragement and cracking jokes. To many, he was simply the man with the cowbell who always seemed to be cheering on other riders. He had long white hair, was tall and slim and was always decked out in full road cycling attire.
Just how many people he touched through the years was uncertain until Wednesday night, just days after Dyke died, and friends arranged a memorial service at that special bench at mile marker 18.5 in Fair Oaks. Dyke had been suffering from cancer, but few knew how serious it was. More than 200 cyclists arrived at 5:30 p.m., many with cowbells of their own. And as a procession of cyclists rode by, scores of people rang their bells and cheered. Some wiped away tears.
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“He was just Garland. He enjoyed riding his bike and poking fun at people and having fun with people,” said friend and riding companion Ed Echeverria. “He just had words that came out that nobody could probably duplicate because it was all spontaneous.”
Looking at the crowd of well-wishers, he said, “It’s amazing. Garland would be looking down and seeing how many people he really had an effect on. I don’t think he really realized that.”