By Erin Brockett
Kona ambassador Don Brockett is a gravity rider, racing downhill and enduro series’ in the Pacific Northwest. As it was for many, 2020 was an interesting year for Don. His company asked him to move from his home in North Bend, WA, to Houston, TX, just as the pandemic was setting in, a move that would place him 3 hours away from the nearest shuttle trail. At the same time, his wife, Erin, who was born with polycystic kidney disease, reached end stage kidney failure and required a transplant. Amazingly, Don applied to donate, matched, and was selected as her donor. Their surgery is scheduled this summer. The following letter is from his wife, Erin:
My husband keeps insisting that his Kona Ambassadorship is a joint gig because I own a camera and occasionally stumble upon a half decent photograph. The truth is that I’m built for supporting backstage. I’m a blue flow girl, the logistics queen, the dog wrangler, the wannabe photographer, very little of note. But when Kona asked their Ambassadors to craft a story about superheroes, I needed to step into the light.
At the end of July, my superpower will be having three kidneys. Don, on the other hand, is made of real superhero stuff.
Don and I met in 2010 when he raced with motors instead of pedals. For eleven years, Don has been first in line to support me as a friend, as a husband, and as a future father. When my then-partner, who had introduced us, passed away in an accident, Don was there. When doctors told me that I may not be able to carry children because of a hereditary disease, Don was there. And when my kidneys failed completely, Don was first in line to donate. We weaved in and out of each other’s lives, cheering from the shadows, shoring up the supports that would one day become our podiums.
I declared my love for Don in a hot tub after nearly ten years of friendship. He taught me how to ride a mountain bike and I taught him how to rock climb. Downhill races, Whistler weekends, and weeknight party shuttles became part of our routine. Over time, I found myself climbing less and riding more, drawn into the positivity that emanated from the two-wheel community.
Despite often hanging back on the flow trails with me, Don’s racing career took off in 2018-19. In the span of a year, he went from middle of the pack to top of the podium with five consecutive Northwest Cup first place finishes in Category 1. Just as Don was bumping up to the Pro class and steadily climbing the ranks, his company asked him to give it all up and move to Houston. Little did he know that soon, I’d be asking him to give it all up all over again.
Don and I moved from Washington to Texas in March 2020. Instead of riding Moab, Angel Fire, and whatever else Trailforks had to offer when pulling in for the night, we sat idly as the world shut its doors around us, heartbroken and already homesick. We watched my body deteriorate alongside our souls as we realized how much the mountains had sustained us. My kidneys were finally giving up the ghost.
Stuck in Texas, in a pandemic, without social spaces in which to build new friendships, Don and I were very much alone. Houston sports a few mountain bike trails, but you can only ride flat, sandy singletrack so many times before you start looking for something else to do. So, after getting married in a paired-back pandemic ceremony, Don and I decided to start planning a family – but only if it meant our kids wouldn’t inherit the disease that was killing me.
Turns out, IVF technology can be used to screen embryos for certain genetic conditions, and my kidney disease is on that magical list. After six months of hormone-induced mania, a drained savings account, and a whole lot of tears, we have a shot. I should have known that the guy who tucked me under his wing all those years ago would sacrifice everything just to sit in a doctor office and hold my hand so we could have a chance at a family someday.
On the heels of this tremendous news, Don and I are finally moving back to the Pacific Northwest. Home. Probably 97.2 percent of the conversations we’ve had over the past 16 months have centered around how much Don misses riding. And yet, despite finally getting back to gravity, Don is giving up another racing season, six whole months of bikes, just for me.
This summer, I’ll be the proud recipient of Don’s left kidney. Someday, I hope to be the mother of his children. The guy has literally saved our lives, stepping up to donate, spending his life savings to make some mini riders, and putting his passions on hold so that we can have a chance at a future together. I’d like to think that I’m worth it, but you can’t underestimate how much this guy loves riding bikes.
So, while we have a few weeks before surgery to fill your feeds with gnar, Don’s 2021 Ambassadorship will be defined by his superpowers and sacrifices made off the bike. And knowing my husband, he’s going to do it all with a superhero smile, a Kona shirt, and a whole lot of heckling.