Words & Photos by Josh Woodward
Situated in a small suburban neighborhood, behind a high school in the heart of Silicon Valley’s sprawl of tech giants and venture capitalists, lies a patch of dirt so steep the property developer who bought it couldn’t get permission to build anything of value. So it sat. For years. Waiting for someone to come and give it a new lease on life.
Carlmont, as it’s affectionately called (a melding of the names of the two towns it sits behind – San Carlos and Belmont), is a beautiful work in progress. A place calling to whoever wants to shape the terrain. No government involvement, no financial support, just a rugged plot of land that can only be built with hand tools and the imaginations of those who live in the area. Like the Aptos jumps, it’s the generosity of a landowner that has allowed Carlmont to flourish and become the place it is.
The closest a mountain biker can get to a dynamic and rugged skatepark, Carlmont has brought together riders from all over the map; from young groms to middle-aged moms and dads to some of the best racers and cyclists in the world. The likes of Greg Minnaar, Cam McCaul and Andrew Taylor have all passed through its dusty, rocky and unforgiving terrain. The community that this small allotment of land has produced is dedicated, welcoming and, most importantly, an inspiring example of what can happen when individuals come together. On any given day, rain or shine, there will be a group of riders who progress and shape this piece of land for the betterment of Carlmont’s legacy. Nick Aguilar was one of those individuals— talented, passionate and a positive influence on those around him.
Nick was a rider like no other at Carlmont. A consistently enthusiastic and charismatic character on and off of the bike. Nick easily became close friends with those he rode with, whether they saw him often of not. However, in the middle of 2015, Nick was fatally injured in a car crash. He was 21.
Nick’s passing hit the local riding scene extremely hard. However, his memory would live on greater than anyone could have expected. His close friends and family believed that Nick’s legacy should be embodied in the best way they knew how. So every year on the day after Thanksgiving, dozens of riders congregate from far and wide to celebrate their love of riding and to remember Nick, whose passing led to the bonding of an entire riding community. Fittingly known as Hucksgiving, the event represents what Nick embodied not only as a rider but in his attitude to life. “[A] lot of us became friends with Nick at Carlmont. He was the kind of person that was always there for his friends and truly made a profound impact on the lives of a lot of people in the local riding community”, says Will Scharninghausen, local rider and organizer of Hucksgiving.
This year’s event was set to be the biggest yet. The riders, the community and the support from larger media outlets leading up to the big day proved that Nick’s story and legacy was not just a localized entity. Riders from around the country got behind the event, all connecting in their shared passion for cycling and remembrance of those who made the sport a better and healthier environment with every pedal stroke.
Then the forecast came. Rain. Rain. Rain. While this was a blessing for the raging fires that have plagued California, destroying communities, trails and millions of acres of precious forest, it was a heavy burden for the event. Downpour on terrain that had been bone dry since last winter would prove to be sticky, slippery, and dangerous. There was a definite question mark on whether the event would even take place given the grim outlook in regards to riding conditions.
But when November 23rd came, there was no mention of a cancellation. In that moment, it proved more than ever that the community Carlmont created is one to be treasured and looked upon by many other communities. Dozens of riders braved the awful, muddy, slippery and rainy conditions to ride. Spirits were high the entire day. The scheduled underground race still took place, even with a course that more resembled an amusement park waterslide. The resilience of these riders, photographers, friends and families, all participating for Nick, cemented the day and brought the community even closer. Will added, “The whole day seems like a meaningful way to celebrate the life of a legend with those who were lucky enough to have known Nick. We’re so lucky to have something that brings the community together based on a shared passion for riding bikes.”
While Carlmont still remains unknown to the majority of the riding community, it is a perfect example of what can be done given the extreme dedication that hundreds of like minded individuals can achieve. A small suburban town with nothing more to its name than being a part of the Bay Area has created something extremely influential and beneficial to its community. It is possible. It has been done. Every single one of us holds a similar motivation to ride and leave a positive mark on the cycling community. Nick lives on eternally through every Carlmont rider and in the spirit of Hucksgiving. In a way, we all #ridefornick.