My fellow airhead rider passed away yesterday, just a year or two past retirement age. Sometimes we get cheated like that, reminds me of my blind gearhead friend Laurie who had her own helmet, leather jacket, and toolbox and when she couldn’t get a ride on a bike rode trains and buses all over the country… She was born just after the last Streetcar ran in Minneapolis in 1954, and died just before the first run of the new light rail trains in 2004. Or Canadian Pacific locomotive engineer Stephanie, who died a year before retirement coming out of the water on her certification dive.

We never know when we’ll “take the westbound”, as the hobos call passing on. We can maybe fudge the dates a bit with exercise, diet, and clean living… But that ain’t necessarily living! When heaven’s “crew caller” calls you, there’s no refusing the call. So best to live the most of life as we can, ’cause we don’t know when we’ll be called elsewhere.

David did that with a vengeance… He’d already lived aboard a sea going boat for years, and ridden the Alaska and Labrador highways. He was on a most of the year long ride around the country last year until a minivan mom decided to switch lanes into him, breaking his hip. He was recovering from that injury and riding again when complications from surgery slowly took his life.

It’s real tempting to stick to our “get ‘er done” habits, even after we’re retired and don’t really have to do much of anything. Or else we take advantage of that fact and spend a sunny day on the computer in our pajamas just because we can.  But mounting the new tire on the hack’d Super Tenere can wait ’til it gets cold next week, the probation officer (not mine) I’m trying to contact is off ’til monday anyway, and I can put off my web surfing until after dark.

So with a forecast high of 70, zilch chance of rain, and gusty winds but nothing over 30 MPH I followed Dave’s splendid example and went for a ride along the upper Minnesota River valley to it’s source. The valley is a mystical place, no surprise that native americans consider it sacred. It’s a broad western style valley between bluffs studded with big stones, some the size of a small house. Plenty of wildlife too, thanks to much of the river and it’s accompanying marshes being protected game refuges and parks. As always, the valley did not disappoint… I discovered a couple new roads and an abandoned railroad grade I’d never noticed before.

A lot of folks today would happily settle into their coffin and await heaven’s call, provided they were supplied with internet access and unlimited junk food. Dave lived with a chronic disease, and even though taken early by normal standards, he live far longer and larger than expected. That’s the greatest lesson Dave leaves us… Get out, wander, explore, take risks today, cause you may not get to tomorrow. And hug your friends today, because they may not be here tomorrow…

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