The Void in a Beautiful Day

Yesterday, I wanted to go for a ride. I truly did. It was a beautiful day - mid-70º, sunny, calm air. It was a perfect day to be out on a ride. It was a perfect day just to be outside, period. Instead, I hated the day. I sat around by the computer waiting to read a name. One name. Through the late morning I sat. Into the afternoon I waited. I dreaded that when I finally saw it, the name would be a familiar one. I wondered as minutes, then hours, passed. Would I be relieved to find the name belonged to a person I did not know? I probably would; how could I not be?

Baseline Avenue. So many people I know travel that street. Many of them do so daily, or nearly that often. I do as well. It is a major bicycle route through this area. Commuters to and from work. Recreational riders out for a spin. Students heading to school (though fortunately not this particular day). Racers on a long training route. Often is the day I spot a familiar rider headed the opposite direction, or someone I don't know but see, same time, same place, each day. 

Let me tell you a little about Baseline - it is a fast street, even on two wheels. Heading west bound, that is. Thirty miles per hour can be approached with no trouble. Heading the other direction, though, that is another matter. That little bit of slope is all it takes. That and direction of travel make all the difference in the world. As I ride eastward (the upslope direction) along Baseline approaching Mills Avenue, there is a spot where the grade changes ever so slightly. It levels out; maybe even slopes downward, though not for long - twenty, thirty, forty feet, maybe. To people driving by the change is probably imperceptible. Anyone who rides this stretch of road though, will know it is there. At the end of a long ride, I look forward to it as welcome relief before I turn onto Mills. From Mills it is exactly seventy-three one-hundredths of a mile to home. As short and insignificant as that one spot along my route is I looked forward to its arrival, the role it plays in my ride.

That little leveling of the road will carry a different meaning now. Yesterday a bicyclist lost his life there. I suppose that twenty to forty foot stretch of pavement will seem less welcoming from now on. The pavement may have been warmed by the sun Friday morning but, regardless of the sun shining down, it quickly became a cold spot and will likely remain so, not just for me, but for all who are aware of its new significance.

The longer the day wore on, and then into the night and there was still no word, still no name to give the victim. Victim, unidentified bicyclist, both are terribly cold and impersonal terms to have to apply to another human. An inadequate way to leave things. When I awoke the next morning to discover the identity of the rider - Mr. Ali Mirage - I was relieved to realize that, in fact, his was not a familiar name. At the same time I realized that other people will have awoken that morning to the pain of loss - the aching void that opens following the loss of a loved one, a friend. For those people, moving on, would carry an entirely different meaning than it would for me.

I will be able to ride this morning, but I will feel for those who, because of their grief, will not. Though I did not know him in life, I will pass that spot of road and think of Ali Mirage, and will likely do so each time I pass that spot from this day forward. I will wonder who Mr. Mirage was, I will wonder if he was a long time rider, or if he had only recently taken up riding. I will wonder what he was about that day - was he on a regular Friday morning ride, one for pleasure, or was he attending to some business? There is much to wonder about. Ride in Peace, Mr. Mirage, ride in peace.