Friday, July 26, 2013

Mourning for the Unknown

Tom Van Hoof and Josiah Lent
For the past few days, I've had this icky feeling I can't shake.  It's been ebbing and flowing, but mostly flowing.  Yesterday morning, while riding into work at 5am, the dam broke and tears began to stream down my cheeks.  This all began in Spring when three cyclists were hit and killed by drivers in their cars, within a two week period, here in Wisconsin.  I tried to shake it off, and for the most part I succeeded.  I allowed myself to sweep the negative feelings into deep corners of my mind--just so I could continue to enjoy road riding.  And then, last week, I got a phone call.

My friend, Josiah, called me last Friday.  He told me about Tom Van Hoof and how he was struck by a car while crossing a road from the Interurban trail North of Milwaukee.  At the time, I didn't think I knew him, and yet my emotions welled up for the loss of not just another cyclist, but a father figure to a good friend. When Tom's pictures were posted I realized I had met him twice.  No, we weren't close, but the punch hit just a bit harder.  I began to realize that Tom was family.  A part of a big Wisconsin family all connected by the love of two wheels.  My stomach began to churn and I started thinking about him, as well as the other six cyclists killed this year in Wisconsin (the latest being a twenty year old in Madison this week), and I couldn't shake them from my thoughts each time I rode.

Yesterday, I needed to release some of the tension if I were going to enjoy the upcoming RW24 event in Milwaukee.  I hit the road headed West on a not too hilly ride I've done hundreds of times.  While coming back, on a wide road with a bike lane, I was clipped by a truck with extended towing mirrors.  In a split second, I felt the slap on my shoulder and luckily veered my bike into the ditch.  I hit the gravel and sustained some bruising and road rash but was able to remount and ride back home.  The driver of the truck never stopped or slowed down--probably didn't even know he/she hit me.  Matters were made worse by the fact I was thinking about the deaths when this happened.  I wasn't unaware of my surroundings, just allowing myself to grieve.  To say the least, I am a little rattled.  I'm questioning riding in RW24 since the course isn't closed and traffic is quite bad at some intersections.  My husband is pushing me to "get back on the horse".  I will of course.  I will also dedicate my first lap to those beautiful people that hopefully are in a better place without cars.

This post is for the families/friends of those cyclists that are no longer with us.  Please know the entire cycling community stands behind you.  May you find solace soon.

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