Man down

11 Apr

I’m working on a few ride reports, but I just wanted to take a moment to remember a fellow rider, Jim Swarzman, who was struck by a Dodge RAM in Leucadia while riding a 600K (hosted by the San Diego Randonneurs) with his fiancée and a friend. After being air-lifted out, he died a few hours later (in the same hospital I was taken to when I crashed near-by last year). I didn’t know him long, and I didn’t know him well. That said, here’s what I do know:

Jim was a smart, strong rider; enthusiastic, committed, and while caustic at times, he was also incredibly generous, jocular, and always ready to help out rookies (myself included) with advice and encouragement. He was devoted to improving himself as a rider, as well as the clubs/organizations he participated in. I thought I’d ride a fast 600K with him, both of us fighting to complete our R-60s. I thought he’d be by my side shouting encouragement as he passed me climbing the mountains of Breathless Agony. I thought he’d make a superior RBA. But now he’s gone.

While he wasn’t a big man, to steal someone’s metaphor, he leaves a big gap in the pace-line.

I didn’t sleep well last night. I rode over to a friend’s house after I got the news, and on the way I saw a man teaching his little boy to ride a bike. I paused, watching the man run alongside as the boy pedaled tentatively at first, then furiously, as the man slowly released his grip on the saddle. Listening to the boy squealing with laughter, my thoughts turned black. How long before the joy and trust beaming from his countenance are violated?

When I got buzzed by an SUV on my commute in to work this morning, I had to dig deep to restrain myself. I thought about a story Jim told recently of chasing down and confronting a motorist in Ventura…

…and now, to make matters worse, checking the news, I find there is some speculation this wasn’t an accident.

What consolation can we offer his loved one’s? His friends and family?

It’s a tough reminder of how fragile we are out on the road, and lots of people, some callous, some caring, will say what we do isn’t sensible; that we shouldn’t ride for so long; that we shouldn’t ride through the night; even that we shouldn’t be out on the road at all; but out of respect for Jim, and respect for myself, I’m heading back out there, and I’m taking the lane.

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3 Responses to “Man down”

  1. Bill Meadows April 11, 2011 at 9:49 AM #

    im still messed up in the head over this… much like you i didnt know jim well, but i did know him…. i was just commenting to a friend that the best thing we can all do, both for ourselves, the community, and jims memory, is to get back out there and live our lives much in the way jim lived his…. on a bike, riding towards the horizon, and loving every goddamned moment of it.

    we’ll all see jim a bit further down the road and then we’ll all get that last ride in….

  2. Errin April 11, 2011 at 11:29 AM #

    This really saddened me. I read the email right as I got home from Feel My Legs and my first thought was to stay off the bike for a long time. I was sick to my stomach about it. However, maybe like you say, the best way to honor Jim is to ride for Jim. This weekend I’ll be riding the MLBC for Jim, and I might even do it on my Fargo. I think he’d like that! RIP Jim.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Encino cyclist killed in Leucadia; local TV speculates an attempted vehicular serial killer could be at work « BikingInLA - April 11, 2011

    […] Man down « Cycling as Metaphor says: April 11, 2011 at 9:42 am […]

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