September 4, 2018

For Jon

The day was clear and although it warmed up in the hills south of Hollister, somehow there was a refreshingly cool breeze. This is how Jon would want to be remembered, we said, riding our bikes in the golden California countryside.

View of golden, oak-studded hills from Cienega Road, San Benito County, California
I rarely crossed paths with Jon; he was an accomplished long-distance cyclist, with tens of thousands of miles and 44 double centuries safely behind him. We did ride in the same group in January, when he turned up for a shorter ride (which he, of course, extended).

Before we set out on our bicycles this morning, eight of us made our way to the San Benito County courthouse to be present for the arraignment of the driver who killed Jon on February 19. The driver wasn't there, but we were. His attorney responded to the judge with a plea of “not guilty.” Of course, the man is guilty of taking Jon's life. The legal system must determine whether he is guilty of the precise charge that has been filed against him.

Looking back at the shimmering golden hills, Cienega Road, San Benito County, California
There is a beautiful sheen to the hills when the light strikes them just so.

We climbed Cienega Road from Hollister to Paicines and turned south onto Highway 25. Nothing stands out about the place where Jon lost his life that day. The roadway has no shoulder, but there is ample visibility: that stretch of road is razor-straight. It can be an easy place to drive very fast.

At the future site of a ghost bike for Jon Kaplan, Cienega Road and Airline Highway, Paicines, California
Thanks to the owner of the Paicines Ranch, we expect to place a Ghost Bike nearby, in Jon's memory.

The other riders in our group are much stronger than I am; there were at least two who have completed multiple double centuries—including one rider in the Triple Crown Hall of Fame. On our return to Hollister, I motioned that they should pass me as we approached an uphill grade on Highway 25. “No, this is fine,” they said. And I understood. On this road, on this day, they were my wingmen.

I dug deep on that hill, and managed to average 13.2 mph overall, climbing 1,560 feet over 38 miles.

Know that we will return, and that we will never forget.

No comments:

Post a Comment