Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on September 12th, 2007 at 7:51 am
This was the ride I’ve been waiting for. My ride up to and around the Rim of Crater Lake awoke not just my dormant leg muscles, but my love of riding.
Pumice dotted deserts; boulder-strewn hillsides; windswept, whitebark pines. Oh, and then there’s the stunning view of the lake. It was a visual feast (more photos here).
But it’s not the postcard panoramas that I’ll remember most from this day. That distinction will go to something tragic, but no less memorable.
The story started when I rolled up on a heart-shaped display of rose petals just before a turnout. Thinking it was just a nice gesture of encouragement for passing riders, I pulled over and snapped a few photos.
After I rode away, something made me turn back around and talk with the two women sitting on the tailgate of a truck near the display.
I soon learned the roses were a memorial for Mike Simmons. His wife Carole Johnstone-Simmons and his daughter Hallie Stanfield retold the story…
Mike was struck by a motorcycle at the spot of the rose petals while training for last year’s Cycle Oregon (see news story here). “He loved riding up here”, his wife Carole said. Hallie added that, “It was just a freak accident”. Mike, a hunter and all-around mountain-man from nearby Roseburg, collided with a motorcycle on August 19th, 2006 and died from head injuries two weeks later. He was 61.
As the story sunk in, Carole and Hallie told me that Mike’s other daughter, Nicki Ford, was on the ride this year and would be coming up the climb any minute.
When Nicki rolled up, she hugged her mom and her sister and then went over to a rock by the side of the road where her dad was fatally wounded.
She uncovered a Diet Pepsi — her Dad’s favorite drink — and said, “This is for you Dad” just before chugging it down. Her custom-made bike had “unfinished business” painted across the top tube.
In one of those strange, circular moments that gives you the chills, I finally connected the dots…
On last year’s Cycle Oregon, I hung out with a group of folks from Roseburg. I recalled they were wearing matching necklaces in honor of a friend who had died just before the ride. They had a special dinner one night in his honor and they asked me to take a group photo. I now realize that friend was Mike Simmons.
My ride around the Rim was unforgettable in many ways.