Rediscovering the Joy: Get to Know Obed QC Manager Joe Headrick
It’s always the question: what price is happiness?
Today, Joe Headrick is Obed’s quality control manager. It’s his job to ensure your Obed is packed well and that the gears are ready to ride the moment you get it built up and out onto its first miles. When your bike comes direct to you from our Tennessee headquarters, the buck stops with Joe. And it’s a gig he absolutely loves.
“Man, this team here, it’s amazing. I live and breathe to get up and work every day with these guys,” he says with a smile. “They’re my family.”
But three years ago, he was in a completely different quality control industry, working with equipment not nearly as exciting, in an industry not nearly as rewarding. Lucky for him, a pivotal moment in his life would take him from that into a solo trek across the country, experiencing some of the finest mountain bike trails in the country, while he did a dutiful deed as a good son for his late mother.
As an industrial radiographist for fossil and nuclear facilities in Tennessee in 2017, Headrick was an industrial equipment quality control manager, using x-ray and other radiation technologies to determine the integrity of mechanical equipment. It was a good job, but it wasn’t very exciting. He worked hard at his job, but as a result didn’t sleep well, ate poorly. It was beginning to grate on him; his future wasn’t looking bright.
“I found that being winded lugging equipment upstairs, it wasn’t a good sign,” Headrick recalls “I was too young. I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. I wanted to get back in shape. So I bought the gear and bought a bike.”
The rest, as they say, is history. The bike bore into his soul and became his raison d’etre at a pivotal point in his life. “I fell in love with it. Absolutely, fell in love.”
So he made a brave decision. Not only did he quit the job, he also sold his house and spent six months converting a Chevrolet Express van into a camping vehicle for a six-month “van life” experience driving across America. Just he, his dog and his mountain bike, and no plan other than to experience the country. It also presented him an opportunity to spread his mother’s ashes. “My mom passed away in 2011, and she didn’t get the opportunity to travel when she was younger,” Headrick said.
In 2017, from his father’s house in Chattanooga, Headrick loaded up and headed out. “I had no plan,” he says. I got into the van and didn’t know if I was gonna go east or west.” He decided to head east, up the eastern seaboard into Maine, and run across the northern border, collecting a friend in Michigan. He crossed into Canada exploring Banff for a time, “but I couldn’t afford the price of gas up there, so I dipped back into the states.”
And while he spread his mother’s ashes across the country, he also rode his mountain bike at every stop. He discovered amazing mountain biking in Michigan (“The mountain bike scene up there by Marquette is off the charts—those guys build their trails well”) into the loamy Pacific Northwest (“the ultimate riding up there”), the Dakotas (“the plains are just amazing”), the Rocky Mountains in Crested Butte, Colorado and into the red rock of Moab, Utah (“Oh, The Whole Enchilada Trail? That was a life-changing experience!”) Midway through a ride in Napa, Calif., he saw smoke on the horizon and raced back to his van, getting out as the Sonoma Complex Fires were kicking into high gear, consuming wine country in Napa and Sonoma County.
Headrick returned to Chattanooga, and with a bit of experience turning wrenches on bikes, would find himself joining a team at Obed, working his way up from bike packer into the title he holds today quality control manager over not industrial equipment, but the love of his life: bikes. And it wouldn’t have happened without that pivotal moment that the bike, in all its two-wheeled glory, re-entered his life.
“We’re given that first taste of freedom when you’re a kid with your first bike,” Headrick says. “To get back to that place in my late 20s, and ultimately find myself working in an industry and environment that I want to be in, I feel so incredibly lucky.”