When I first learned that Chris Vogts, a well-know bike mechanic from Madison, was killed in Mississippi on a bike trip to New Orleans Friday, I didn’t think I knew him. Then today I saw his photograph, and I instantly recognized him. I was not friends with Chris, but I remember him helping me on a couple of occasions when I was in Budget Bicycle in Madison. As a bike geek, I know lots of people at lots of bike shops across the state, but Chris stands out not just because of his red beard, but also because he had a particularly cheerful demeanor.
It is a case of tragic irony that I only learned Chris’ name on Fat Tuesday as part of reporting that he was killed riding his bike to New Orleans. I honestly got a lump in my throat reading his obituary when I saw that in lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to either the Dane County Humane Society or the Wisconsin Bike Fed. I’m not sure I will ever be able to go into Budget again without Chris in my thoughts. It is only fitting that Chris’ friends are planning a post-funeral memorial ride around Lake Monona.
I turn 51 at the end of this month, and as I age, I find there are more and more places that bring back bittersweet memories. That is certainly part of getting older, and I understand death is part of the circle of life. While we don’t have the facts about this crash yet, I am tired of reporting about innocent people riding bicycles being killed through acts of carelessness.
As I pedaled past the railroad tracks that run through the Menomonee Valley, a rare sunset broke my long streak of gray commutes home. I was thinking about Chris’ last ride, when a siren prompted the Valley coyotes to harmonize a mournful reply, and I smiled. As I mentioned above, I only met Chris in the bike shop, but I think he would have also smiled at the urban soundtrack that accompanied my Spielbergesque, solitary ride home. Those of us who spend a lot of time on two wheels savor these special moments that interrupt out solitary thoughts as we coast along. They remind us where we live, who our neighbors are, and what is truly important in life. Tailwinds to you Chris.
Please everyone, take great care when you get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
On his blog, The Active Pursuit, Tom Held has written an excellent report about Chris, with photographs of Chris with his bike, interviews with his friends and coworkers and more details about the funeral and memorial ride. You can read more here:
Chris Vogts’ cycling friends plan to pedal around Lake Monona on Friday evening, in a memorial to the red-bearded adventurer killed near the end of a solo bike tour from Madison to New Orleans. Read more…