Saturday, July 7, 2012

What Would Duane Do?

Saturday morning in Massachusetts held the promise of humidity and heat as I searched for the trail head of the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a paved 25 mile railroad conversion.  Poor planning had brought me to the Cape on the Fourth of July weekend, and traffic was a nightmare.  It appeared as if everyone from the city was now headed to the beach.  Being safety conscious, I changed my plans from a road ride to riding on the trail. Little did I know that the traffic on the trail would rival any found on the road.

Eager and anxious to ride before the day's heat became intolerable, I found myself growing increasingly impatient with the stop and go traffic, as it was mostly other words, road rage was beginning to develop.  I felt it in the pit of my stomach, slowly bubbling up as traffic crawled, then abruptly halted as someone tried to make a left hand turn against the long stream of oncoming traffic. My right hand moving reflexively to the horn.

{{Sigh}}  "Calm down, " I told myself, "the trail will still be there when I arrive....enjoy the moment, find the positive....I will never pass this way again, nor will I ever live this moment again.  Do I really want to live it in a haze of anger and frustration?"

....My hand eased off the horn and hid in my lap until I found the trailhead and claimed the last parking spot. The place was packed and it wasn't even 9 AM yet!

Unloading quickly, filling water bottles and slathering on 70+ sunscreen, I was ready to ride in record time. Wanting to get verification about the trail, I rode over to two women, who appeared to have just come off the trail.  Meet Audrey and Lisa from Rhode Island; they were friendly, confident and a great source of information.  Taking in their advice and information, giving them hugs, just because it felt right,  I  was soon on my way.

Pedaling at a brisk pace, I was enjoying the rush of the ride, when my phone did it's little 'de-de-de-de-de" scale run, alerting me to a new text message. Normally, I wouldn't read it until I stopped for a break, but today, for some reason, I read it immediately.

It was from a friend of mine, Mark, with whom I ride. He texted that a serious accident had occurred during the Saturday morning bike club ride that I typically ride when I am home. My stomach flew to my mouth. Fingers flying, I returned the text....... "what did serious mean.....who was it...what happened?" 

As is typical in these situations, the details trickled in...each one carrying worse information than the previous. The downed rider was Duane....a strong and skilled cyclist, who has promoted the sport, embraced and looked after the newbies and was an icon in addressing safe cycling.  It seemed unfathomable that he was involved in the accident. Another rider had gone down in front of him, and Duane was catapulted over top of him, landing on his head. It happened so quickly, he never had time to even react.  Duane would not recover from his injuries.

I stood on the edge of the trail, straddling my bike on a bridge overlooking a tranquil pond as I received the news.  Tears streamed down my face, mingling with the sweat.

The biking community is a tight one; the love for the sport binds us, creating a camaraderie unlike one I have ever known. We are a family.  Though I did not know Duane well, I had ridden with him on several occasions. A strong, proficient cyclist, he took care of those with whom he rode. He would block the wind for me when he saw my strength failing, give me pointers on being more efficient or  shout some words of encouragement as he passed me on a hill.  He was like that for everyone; he was a big brother.  He embraced life and lived it on his terms.

Part of me wanted to turn around and quit my ride, but a voice in my head said 'What would Duane do?"  Duane, of course, would have said  "Ride your ride and enjoy the moment!"  and I did...riding it for Duane.

The line between life and death is so tenuous....  it is imperative to live each moment to its fullest; whether momentous or seemingly unimportant, savor it.  Savor each breath, the taste of your coffee, the warmth of the sun, the pinch of your new shoes. Savor your relationships, savor the love, savor the fights.....drink in where you are in that moment because the next may not come.... don't wait.  Live your life today, whether it is riding a bike across the country or standing in line at the grocery store, live your life and give gratitude for that moment.  Find the beauty and revel in it. Live passionately; live deeply.

That's what Duane would do.

Rest in peace, my friend.  Thank you for the final lesson.


  1. Thinking of you. Thanks for posti g Duane's photo.
    Keep living your dream. Catch you soon

  2. Sue,
    This is Jean-Duane's wife and Matthew and Jennifer his beloved children. Thank you for putting so eloquently what we have been trying to convey to all. Duane died doing what he loved so we can not ask for anything more. Few people ever get that choice. We feel that Duane's life would have been in vain if people let this stop them from riding and doing something they love.
    Please contact us through Brent Stone or Chris Mathews when you come home. We would like to personally meet you and thank you for this wonderful tribute to Duane.

  3. Sue,
    Nice to have met you on the Cape trail however sorry that you received such sad news. Many thoughts of you and your friend Duane as we finished the ride. Maybe someday our paths may cross again? Keep riding! Audrey from RI