Day 4, June 25
Odessa to Spokane
It is with tears and a heavy heart that I report that one of our little group of riders was killed today in an accident with a car. It happened on an open stretch of Washington State Highway 23 near Davenport, Washington, one of the safest-appearing sections of road we've traversed so far. The road was wide and lightly traveled. At one point I timed the interval between cars at 8 minutes. There was a wide bike lane on either side of the road. The weather was clear and hot.
Many details are not yet clear, and his name has not been released as police search for next of kin to deliver the sad news. We do know that he was struck in mid-day by a driver in her thirties who did not appear to be impaired by drugs or alcohol, police said. He was killed instantly by the impact.
I had ridden with the victim about an hour before the tragic accident, and we'd chatted about a son he was very proud of. A short time later, he was with a group of us at a water stop in a little town. When a local couple out on a walk came by, he engaged them. "Tell us about your town," he said, and we talked to the couple for pleasant several minutes until it was time to hit the road again.
Although I'd said in an earlier post there are three recumbent bikes and trikes on our cross-country ride, there were actually four. The victim was riding a Ryan Vanguard, one of the earliest commercial recumbent bikes available. It's an extremely long bike with the handlebar mounted under the seat. A rod connects the handlebar to the fork so the bike can be steered. He had purchased it directly from Dick Ryan, the builder, at least 15 years ago, he told me. Ryan later sold the company, and very few Vanguards are seen these days.
At a group meeting tonight, several riders wept as they told stories of our new friend, now gone forever. A sheriff's department chaplain brought some details of the accident and advice about how we can cope. The ride will go on. My wonderfully sensible wife told me on the phone that that some activities we really want to do merit taking clear risks. Otherwise, she said, "life's not worth living."