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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.