R.I.P., John O’Neill

Some of the Dogs take a break at Rampart Reservoir Back in the Day®. John and Cindy O’Neill are front and center, with Your Humble Narrator at right. At left, Michael Porter; behind, Herself and Michele Porter.

Our old pal John O’Neill has gone west on us. He was 69.

He’s probably already telling stories about his unscheduled departure over margaritas on the Other Side.

“I said I wanted to go doing 69, not at 69!”

That’s how John rolled. He would say anything at any time to anybody, and how you felt about that was strictly your problem.

We met John and his wife, Cindy, way Back in the Day®, after we moved to Bibleburg from Fanta Se.

They were both cyclists and runners, with side interests in the winter sports, and as he and I were both irascible potata-atin’ tosspots who had married well above our stations in life we naturally hit it off.

John and his spirit animal. Photo poached from the CRC website.

If you were in John’s orbit it was not uncommon to pick up a ringing phone and instead of the usual “Hello” getting a growling earful of “You suck.”

At least once, after he dropped by Chez Dog to find me not at home, I returned to a note on my car.

It read (wait for it): “You suck.”

A mutual friend, Michael Schenk, eventually declared that John’s Hebrew name was “Usuk.” I don’t think he consulted his rabbi on that one, but it stuck nonetheless.

John quickly became one of the mainstays of Team Mad Dog Media-Dogs at Large Velo, the storied cluster of strays too big for their bibs that rolled around the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado calendar to no particular purpose in the Nineties and Oughts.

While the rest of us double- and triple-bunked in single rooms at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic or Rage in the Sage, John and Cindy would rough it, camping in the sleet at some RV park, mostly to keep our horndog mutt-mate Bill Baughman from trying to drink Cindy’s bathwater.

John was working at Blicks Sporting Goods on Tejon when Herself lured him away to be her assistant manager at the Eagles Nest, at the Citadel Mall. As regulars know, she eventually fled retail, taking a circuitous route through office work, banking, and sports nutrition to become a Titan of Library Science.

But John stuck it out, a lifer in that vast army of people who see to it that you get what you came in for, even after Amazon started carpet-bombing customers in their homes from Sprinters dispatched via the Innertubes.

Today, John’s Buttface page lists him as “assistant janitor” at Colorado Running Company, and for sure he spent a ton of time on the floor over the past couple of decades, but not with a mop (as far as I know, anyway).

He helped Jeff Tarbert launch the shop back in 2000 and he’s been there ever since, though lately his contributions have mostly been from a distance, at a high-country condo, with a few days of each month spent in-house at CRC.

The original Colorado Running Company was at Cache la Poudre and Tejon, next to Colorado College, just a hop, skip, and jump from Chez Dog. It was a welcome bit of quality local retail, with regular group runs and holiday parties in addition to the solid product and customer service.

Now it’s way up north on Nevada, closer to the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs (and Trader Joe’s, Pulpit Rock, and the Pikes Peak Greenway). I didn’t visit that shop so often, especially after we moved to The Duck! City, but I have no reason to believe that a change of location affected the way John did business.

But like the rest of us he was starting to notice the mileage on his odometer and thinking about the future, or what remained of it. We chatted now and again, most recently via iMessage, and he told me he had been thinking about hanging up his jock at the end of this year. Once Cindy did likewise maybe they might roam around the country in search of someplace fresh to land. Taos? Flagstaff? Albuquerque?

He’d mentioned some health issues — fainting spells, maybe a touch of something called “orthostatic hypotension” — but we did what dudes do: talked shit about it, told Death he sucked. Anyway, he had the medicos on the job and told me just last week that he thought his health might be back on the upswing.

But that was then, and this is now. John’s gone, and we miss him terribly. When we answer the phone henceforth, the callers will just say, “Hello.” It sucks.

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20 Responses to “R.I.P., John O’Neill”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    Yeah. Getting to that time of life when you check to see if you have a pulse. Oh, good, I’m not dead yet. Condolences, O’G.

  2. Pat O’Brien Says:

    The true test is to hold your finger under your nose when you wake up. If air is going in and coming out, it is a daisy of a day.
    I wish I could have been there when the Dogs were at their finest. Yous guys were my kind of gang. Anyway, you suck!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      It was a good ol’ mob, Paddy me boyo. To rework a line from the Hash House Harriers, we were a drinking club with a cycling problem.

      There was a pretty solid core of self-employed types in the gang, so even on a workday it was almost always possible to put together a group ride of a half-dozen or more.

      This is great for slackers like me. I’d decide to skip a ride because there was something that I thought needed doing and all of a sudden a gaggle of shaven-legged alehounds would be circling the house on bicycles, calling me a wanker and a nancy-boy and much, much worse.

      The beating you’d take on a ride wasn’t half the one you’d take if you didn’t show up.

      • Pat O’Brien Says:

        “Shaven legged alehounds?”. Classic O’Gradyism. Beauty, heh. I hope Andy read this in Belgium, where he and Liz are doing a brewery tour. Maybe we can start calling him a skinny assed hard boy?

  3. Michael Porter Says:


    Reading your BLOG brings a smile to my as you write about John, but it’s sad to hear about a man who only brought laughter and joy when we were around him. Yes it was a short five years that all of our lives inter-mingled, but to know that we all shared Thanksgivings together, many miles, lots of laughs and never took ourselves too seriously is what made that time so special and now here I am sitting in my car car crying tears of sadness for Cindy but also joy because I can say John is a friend. Michele and he saw one another back in December and she said it was like yesterday that we were all together in the Springs.

    Please send me an e-mail. I gave some photos to share.

    All our love to herself and of course to you

    Michael & Michele

  4. Libby Says:

    I’m so sorry your friend died, Patrick. That is a helluva tribute full of love and appreciation.

  5. Shawn Says:

    Respect. That for your fine friend and all of those around him that he benefited, and to you for being one who can share that experience with other close and far off friends that enjoy your meanderings. May we all be remembered so well. If my geo orientation is somewhat accurate, if you listen from a far off location in the direction of the Sandi Resort & Casino, you’ll hear an Alesmith Nut Brown brew being cracked open in honor of John.
    Cheers ! 9:36PM PST

  6. Herb from Michigan Says:

    All we are is of our own making and it sure sounds like John made a deep impression and cannot go unheralded. Even by those of us that never had the pleasure of being told we suck. Like Shawn, I will toast both you and your friend this evening.

  7. Patrick O'Grady Says:

    Thanks for the kind thoughts, folks. John was fortunate in that he got to live his life right to the end, even if that end came too soon. And we were fortunate to live a bit of it alongside him.

    Michael Porter forwards this pic of Thanksgiving at the O’Neill casa in Manitou Springs in 1992, shortly after we had moved to B-burg from Fanta Se. We Dogs were always eating and drinking. Occasionally we even rode our bikes.

    At back: Bill Simmons, John and Cindy O’Neill, Mike and Michele Porter, and Herself with Your Humble Narrator.

    Thanksgiving 1992

    • Click here to embiggen.

    • khal spencer Says:

      Amazing what thirty years can do to one’s happy face, to say nothing of world view. I was just settling into a stint as a geoscientist at the U of Hawaii and getting re-married.

      I hope we can all look back at our lives with some contentment as we approach the Far Shore. Take care, all.

      And me? Shit. Thought I was about to meet my maker yesterday.


      • Herb from Michigan Says:

        Until the death of the cell phone and info screen in autos (yeah like never) I push like hell for more rail/trail conversions and other non-motorized pathways for us all. I simply haven’t seen many-if any-roadways that have bike lanes that actually work to protect us. Maybe I should check out Eugene OR? Ann Arbor MI is the worse cluster ever with their bullshit “bike lanes”.
        Glad ya didn’t auger in Khal. We needs ya around for your salient commentary and a little needling when called for.

        • khal spencer Says:

          I don’t know who approves shitty designs like that and really would like to know whose signature was on the approval documents. I want that guy’s name on my headstone as responsible for my demise.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Sounds like a road I used to ride in B-burg way back when. Mesa, it was. Took you from Uintah over toward Garden of the Gods and the Monastery Loop.

        Some traffic wizard thought it would be smart to drop in a one-lane roundabout that croaked the bike lane at Kissing Camels. Fuck a bunch a bike lane, son, git in there! Honk, screech, eeek, etc.

        I was never scared or nothin’, but a time or two someone shit on my saddle.

        Now that I think of it, riding Uintah from Cascade underneath I-25 to Mesa was no day at the beach, either.

        • khal spencer Says:

          Fuckin’ A. These libs up here want us to all stop using infernal combustion, buy electric everything, and prevent the “climate crisis” from deepening. Then they build infrastructure and developments that proudly run up the atomic number 44 flag (CO2).

          Those are all multimillion dollar homes out there and more are going up every day. I would think folks who have that much jingle in their pocket would want a road that was a little more forgiving, but on the other hand, maybe the message is to keep traffic slow.

          I suppose it is a sort of traffic calming. You can’t pass anyone except by blowing by them in the occasional turn lanes. I’ve had people do that to me all the time when I am headed out to the BLM land in the Furrister to exercise my Second Amendment Rights, so to speak. People tailgate me as I mosey along and then blow by at the first opportunity. I keep the speed limit in part because, well, I’d rather not get pulled over while loaded for bear. Or even loaded for paper targets.

          But with all that new construction, there’s plenty of big vehicles. That eighteen wheeler looked damn big. I just kinda tightened my sphincter as much as possible and kept a line as close as I could to the edge. All the while hoping there was nothing hanging out the side of the flatbed. Turning to look might have caused me to veer, which would not have been a good idea. Pisser, because it is one of the nicest bike loops close to home and rather flat, as Fanta Se goes, on those days I want to stay off the big hills.

      • Shawn Says:

        My intelligent thought of those fine single lanes roads that you (Khal) show an image of, is “Huh?” Somebody (A group of leaders) really appears to have dropped the ball. Since the road design was likely constructed in modern times with universally understood design of non-motorized vehicle use, it seems that the bike lane portion of those road sections that was likely part of the original plan, was conveniently left off the final construction plans. I’m amazed that people in that area allowed that to occur because it appears that there is no other alternative for non-motorized vehicles.

        I’m glad to hear that your close encounter of the big rig kind ended without you becoming a permanent part of the roadside landscape. Do you recall if the horn you heard was something like this at about the 24 second mark:

        If I’m ever in your area and riding my bike along Camino La Tierra, you can be assured
        that I’ll be taking the lane in protest. Of course though, I’ll have arranged for my buddy and his over-width combine harvester to be backing up traffic behind me. If somebody gets too close and irritates him, he will discharge a little stored grain on their hood to get their attention.

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