It is almost a year since a tragic solo accident left my friend Jeff Bayly in a long coma, before passing away. I couldn’t help but think of Jeff today, as I am preparing my bicycle and supplies for tomorrows century ride up the coast, a route Jeff and I often talked about riding together, but never did.
Come to think of it, Jeff and I never rode! Yet, he is the reason I started riding.
You see, we met in a business setting first; Jeff in the purveyor role and I as the buyer. He worked for a large wine/liquor distributor and I was the general manager for a restaurant. As I think back it is also funny to realize that although he primarily sold wine and liquor, he loved good beer, I mean looooooved it!!
Our friendship developed gradually over the years. As I got to know Jeff better, he shared more and more of his cycling stories with me (and he had plenty of them). Whole vacations were scheduled and planned around major cycling events, and cycling get-a-ways with his buddies were a given.
Jeff recounted his stories with such fervor and animation, that it was impossible not to get sucked into it. Ultimately he guided me wisely in my first bicycle purchase. Once I started riding, his stories of epic rides started to mean a lot more. I could relate now and understand a bit better, although it was impossible to fathom that I would/could ride a 100 miles in one day, yet alone multi-day rides. Jeff invited me many times to ride with him and his buddies, and I regret that I never did. I always thought of myself as not strong enough to keep up with him.
Today, I understand that it would have not mattered. The invitation was about the camaraderie of the ride, and not a test of strength and endurance.
Career changes had me move on and my new post was no longer in Jeff’s territory. Slowly, but steadily, we lost touch, only occasionally bumping into each other a couple of times at some of the major wine tastings in town (at which we would sneak out and have a good beer together). And then, one day early in February last year, I received this terrible email from one of my former employees, informing me about Jeff’s crash. He thought hard for almost two months, but never regained consciousness, before he finally slipped away with the love of his life at his bedside.
Tomorrows ride is in memory of Jeff, who sparked a rewarding and life long passion in me. Tomorrow, my friend, I will ride with you.