Extremes. Everything has its opposite. Insane wealth and abject poverty. Pure evil and guileless goodness. Exquisite joy and absolute sorrow. Hope and despair. Exhilaration and depression.
Fortunately, most of our lives are spent somewhere on the spectrum between these extremes. Otherwise, we probably could not maintain a sense of balance for long. This last week, though, I have experienced movement from the middle toward the extremes.
Last week, my wife and I traveled to Phoenix to spend four days with our daughters and their families. Included therein are two very fun sons-in-law and Marielle’s three children, my three red-headed grandsons. The most important catechism I have taught them is, “Whose buddy are you?” to which they each reply, “Grandpa Dave’s buddy!”. Just doing my part.
I keep a bicycle at Marielle’s home so I can ride while there, needing only to take my cycling gear. Over the years, I have figured out the best place to ride close to Marielle’s home, a round trip to Usury Pass. In fact, in her part of the valley, Gilbert and Mesa, that is really about the only interesting ride. Everything else is a grid of straight, intersecting streets. So, after a few years, I have yearned to find some place new to ride.
Enter Larry Kahn. Larry is my brother’s brother-in-law and lives in the Phoenix area. I met Larry a year ago last spring when he came to Salt Lake for my niece’s wedding and wanted to ride. So, I organized a ride with him, my son-in-law, and two nephews-in-law and we had a great ride here in Salt Lake. (See, “Speaking of Spokes – I Am Not Nearly As Fast As I Used to Be, May, 2012).
So, before heading to Phoenix last week, I contacted Larry about returning the favor and taking me for a ride in some new area. He willingly agreed, and so it was that last Friday I recruited my daughters, Marielle and Marinda, and we headed over to Larry’s home. We were a little late arriving thanks to my delay in getting prepared and Marielle’s near disaster of ripping our bikes off the top of her van when pulling into a covered parking stall at Marinda’s apartment complex. (We both totally forgot about the bikes, but were very fortunate. After the initial impact, the handle bars slipped under the covering. We were able to remove the bikes before pulling the car back out. Aside from a broken crossbar on her rack, there was no other damage. Most importantly, the bikes came through unscathed.)
Because of our delay, and also considering my daughters don’t quite have mine and Larry’s fitness, Larry decided to abandon a more aggressive route and take us on a tour of his town. So for the next two hours, we meandered around the streets of Paradise Valley, admiring the nice homes, architectural wonders, and delightful desert scenery. It was a perfect Phoenix day, sun shining (a not uncommon occurrence in the area), and in the low 80s as we rolled along the base of Mummy and Camelback Mountains.
After the ride, Larry treated us to tangelo juice he personally squeezed and froze from tangelos he personally cultivated and harvested. Sweeter and purer than anything you can buy, and a delightful treat at the end of a refreshing ride.
It was a day of glorious riding, as close to “paradise” as one can get. Perfect conditions and, most importantly, a day spent with two lovely daughters and a good friend, approaching one of those extremes, exquisite joy.
Well, Sunday evening found us flying back to Salt Lake, returning to our home and regular daily lives, and more toward the middle of life’s spectrum. We are fine with that. A part of what makes moments joyful is their infrequency. They are not so constant as to become mundane.
So this week was flowing along as usual till late Thursday afternoon when a colleague called me into his office. On his computer screen was the headline, “Utah Judge killed in Millcreek Canyon auto-bike accident” and the story of how Judge Anthony Quinn had died from injuries resulting when a driver coming down Millcreek Canyon became distracted while looking at the fall colors, veered across the road and hit Judge Quinn who was riding up the canyon in the opposite shoulder.
Judge Quinn. Being an attorney and cyclist, I certainly knew him. I had appeared in his courtroom. And while I did not know him well, we had chatted occasionally during cycling events and when we happened to cross paths. In fact, the first time I visited with him outside his courtroom, I felt awkward, not certain whether to call him Judge, Your Honor or just Tony.
Suddenly my world was turned a little bit upside down. He is only the second cyclist I have personally known who has died while riding his bike. The other occurred about 25 years ago. A group of us including a fellow racer, Jim Jackman, had been out on a ride. He had dropped off the pace as we climbed a hill. We knew he was heading home anyway, so we just kept going. Later, I learned that, while descending the other side of the hill, a car had veered across the road, entering the shoulder where Jim was riding, and hit him head on.
I didn’t know Judge Quinn well enough for this to shatter my personal world. While shaken, his death will not cause for me the extreme sorrow it will for those close to him and who love him. But I have known the unexpected death of one I loved dearly, and I can empathize with the sorrow others are now feeling.
As a cyclist, I know and understand the risk we take when we ride. I have heard the arguments of how cycling is no more dangerous than getting in your car. Not sure I believe that, and as cyclists we are certainly much more vulnerable. Judge Quinn recognized and accepted these risks. He was involved in a serious accident a year ago and worked hard to return to this sport he loved. As reported to the Deseret News by Utah State Bar President Stephen Owens, “Quinn fought to recover from the accident and return to cycling, telling a colleague, “Our sport is a dangerous one.”
And it can be. But I love to ride. Riding has given me many hours of joy and happiness, helping me to experience the richness this wonderful world offers. It has also brought times of sorrow. This last week, I have experienced both as a result of this sport of cycling.
But then, this last week is in microcosm an apt metaphor of extremes. Like the yin and yang of Chinese philosophy, extremes are interdependent aspects of the lives we live. Experiencing one enables us to appreciate the other. Indeed, each is a part of the other. Having enjoyed a wonderful day of riding with my daughters and Larry helps me appreciate the sorrow associated with Judge Quinn’s accidental death, and his accidental death brings appreciation for the joyful time spent riding with Larry, Marielle and Marinda.
So here’s to life, to cycling, to my daughters and Larry, to Judge Quinn, and to the experiences that make life the wonderful and terrible journey that it is.