John and Lynne

John and Lynne

When I began riding bikes with the D.C. Randonneurs, I didn’t imagine the significant role this activity, as well as the people involved in it, would have on my life. But the randonneuring community is small and the rides are long. Preparation for events leads to pick-up rides through the countryside with other randonneurs.

Brevets require riders to maintain an overall pace, but randonneuring rewards successful completion rather than speed, and I think these elements contribute to the evolution of a rather unique sporting club.

There aren’t many people who “get it” when it comes to randonneuring. Most people think we’re crazy and tell us so in various ways. But we know the appeal of long days on the open road, and even if we don’t share much in common beyond that, we have a way of sticking together.

In a sense, it’s like living in a small town. Our little community grows stronger through mutual acceptance as we tolerate–  even appreciate– each other’s quirks and our individual approaches to long-distance riding. Nobody else understands where we come from or why we choose to ride long year-round, through rain and chill, on sunny as well as less inviting days, but we do. We get it, and among each other we relax, knowing we need never explain that part of ourselves.

You start randonneuring, and unfamiliar faces gradually become cycling buddies. Over time, you develop the ability to recognize fellow D.C. Randonneurs from afar. Some combination of their bike setup, the way they sit or pedal, their clothing choices, or the bags they use to carry their gear reveals their identities before you glimpse their faces. Every rider has a unique profile.

John and Lynne
John and Lynne outside Frederick on August 29, 2015

This was the case with local riders and long-time D.C. Randonneurs John and Lynne, who I’ve known since my early days of randonneuring in 2005. John and Lynne regularly rode tandem and used conspicuous helmet mirrors to see behind them. Their loaded-up Ortlieb panniers made them easy to discern. They almost always appeared to have packed for a long tour, rather than a brevet or day ride. Even on warm days, they layered up for unpredicted changes in temperature.

Outside of randonneuring and weekend rides, I had no knowledge of their lives, but we shared an affinity for tandeming and riding that led us to encounter each other fairly regularly. Felkerino and I saw them a few times this summer. We’d be pedaling along a country road thinking we were the only cyclists around for miles, and suddenly we’d spot John and Lynne on their tandem. We’d all smile, and exchange hellos and waves.

John and Lynne

Avid riders, John and Lynne loved being out together. When it came to brevets, they were extremely dogged. Not the fastest randonneurs, John and Lynne seemed to enjoy testing their endurance through randonneuring events. They never expected anyone to bail them out or pick them up if they missed a time cutoff, and always finished under their own power. I admired that tenacity and self-sufficiency.

John was a skilled router, and after decades of riding he and Lynne knew the roads around our area intimately. They sewed rides together from all the nearby quiet rural roads.

This weekend John and Lynne were out on what I imagine was one of their regular weekend rides, and a drunk driver hit them from behind. The drunk driver killed them, and I really don’t want to accept that these two gentle souls died so violently during what I have come to find is a glorious pastime– a weekend tandem ride with one’s partner.

Our community has experienced a great loss, and I’m so angry and sad. Angry that our country has such a problem with drunk and dangerous drivers on our roads. Angry with myself for reading the comments in response to the Washington Post article about John and Lynne’s horrifying deaths at the hands of an intoxicated driver, where some suggest that cyclists who ride on roads are just waiting for an “accident” to happen to them, and that the only place for cylists is on trails. Angry that so many leave cyclists to fend for their own safety in the face of racing giant boxes of metal.

Mostly, though, I am overwhelmed with sadness that John and Lynne are gone– that I’ll never see John and Lynne on another ride, or be able to look forward to a chance encounter with them on their tandem and those overpacked Ortliebs.

42 thoughts on “John and Lynne

  1. I was reading what I thought was a fine piece of writing about the friends you have made … and wham, in the middle, comes the dreadful news.

    We’ve never met but cyclists the world over form a community, don’t we? And we’ve now lost two members from our community in a horrible way. Please let their families know that they are in my thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dammit. . I’d been seeing posts about this all afternoon and felt so bad. I never rode along side them to my knowledge, but. Dammit. Shit, Now I can’t stop crying and I can’t type. Shit. Fuck
    I/m sorry.
    Shit

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  3. I last rode together with John and Lynne somewhere between Emmitsburg and Gettysburg one wet and chilly morning last spring. They were out doing a pre-ride for a local cycling club’s half-century and battlefield tour. They didn’t mind tackling a long ride on a wet, cold, and uncomfortable day just to ensure their fellow riders would have a good route the following weekend. They were both smiling.

    They were a great team, a great credit to the mid-Atlantic cycling community, and will be deeply missed.

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  4. Terrible, terrible news. My condolences to all their friends and family. When I read about something like this, and it is far too often that I do, I feel like something must be done. But I never have any idea what, and that is maddening.

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  5. A year ago it was Flor’s friend. Earlier this month it was Lolly’s friend. Now this. How can this be acceptable to anyone? And these are just the fatalities. When I think of all the people in the DC area who were “lucky” enough to live, I get even more frustrated. Thanks for writing this Mary. Let’s hope neither of us ever has to write another.

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  6. Reading your post, I was smiling broadly, reading about two individuals who enjoy such a wonderful activity together… and then I felt like I was hit by a truck (literally – my heart skipped a beat – at minimum) by the words that followed with such sad news. I am so sorry for the loss that those who knew them are feeling, and there is nothing to be said that brings comfort or that will take it away.

    I am horrified when I read news stories about accidents involving cyclists, and particularly the comments that often follow these stories. I can understand all of the emotions you are feeling because I have felt (and often continue to feel) them myself. There are far too many “close calls” and no one should ever lose his/her life in this way.

    Truly, I don’t have words to convey the emotions I’m feeling without even knowing this couple, so I can only imagine what those close to or who knew them are going through. When does this end? How many have to be injured or die?

    Sending thoughts of strength, love, and hope to all.

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  7. As I gradually read you story I realised as I went along you were speaking of John and Lynne in the past context so I knew what I was about to read but I just hoped I would be wrong for once. Sadly I wasn’t so all I can say is how sorry I am to read of their lose and I just hope that their family and friends can take some sort of comfort from knowing that they went together and were doing what they loved. I am sure there will be many left with memories of them just like you. R.I.P John Lynn

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  8. Thanks, Mary. In a short post, you summarized so much about both randonneuring and John and Lynne. And you used the word that I kept thinking of for them: “gentle”. The news story on NBC4 last night included the now-heartbreaking little detail from Lynne’s sister that they still held hands after decades of marriage.

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  9. Always sad to read about a cycling death. Even more sad to read about someone from our Randonneuring community. My condolences to your group and their family. It was hard to write this as I feel so sad and angry at the same time. RIP John and Lynne.

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  10. This is a very sad event that should have never happened. The laws need to be tougher and we as cyclist need to change how we think. This might not have helped in this situation, but we need to stop thinking we need to make ourselves more visible. We need to start thinking we need to get the driver’s attention. I ride with a flash 6 (flashing) on my seat post, a thunderbolt flashing on my rear triangle, a LNM 800 lums on my rear triangle, my helmet has a flashing white light built into it. (livall.com), The top of my helmet has flashing (red, blue, green leds) on the front of my helmet I have a specialized styx flashing so I can look people in the eye and make sure they see me. On my handle bar I have a 1000 lum flashing facing forward and a garmin virb. I also have a specialized styx flashing on both front forks.

    If I get buzzed, I know it is intentional. I’ve had other cyclist say they could see me from over a mile away.

    Since the driver was drunk I doublt this would have helped but I wanted to share this with everyone. Since I started riding with this setup the number of times I have been buzzed has gone down between 80-90% and I commute to work 3-4 times a week. I use to get buzzed on average 2-3 times a week. now I usually go a month without getting buzzed. Also, this would give you great aimunition in court should you need it.

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  11. So many comments that echo my thoughts. I’m bad at this stuff, but it leaves a pit in your stomach. And its not just bikers at risk – cars riders just as vulnerable – and walkers/joggers – shared responsibility to stop these people getting into vehicles and leaving down the road. I’d add ageing drivers with poor eyesight and reactions too. Self-drive cars cannot come soon enough here.

    In the meantime I concur with faf1967 – 24×7 make sure you have flashing lights on front and back of your bike. “Blinkies” don’t cut it – for a small investment now you can get some seriously bright LED power that are strongly visible in daylight. Personally I’m using the Fly6 system and a 350 lumen front light.

    Sombre times.

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  12. Saw this on facebook several times in the last 24hrs but still no words, really. Just sad/mad feelings that can’t be easily articulated.

    (I’m also looking forward to self-driving cars.)

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  13. How horrible and shocking, it makes my stomach twist thinking about their families and what they are going through right now!
    Thank you for writing this, Mary, I know it wasn’t easy.

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  14. MG,
    I am so sorry for your loss and the loss of such a great couple.
    I am experiencing the same emotions of sorrow and rage and frustration that this kind of event occures.
    Thank you for your posting esp. since these losses often happen without notice and should not be ignored or forgotten.
    Dennis in PDX

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  15. So terrible. We have a system of laws that are ludicrously ineffective. It makes me so angry.
    I know the randonneuring way is not to wear blinky lights, but one reason I do, day or night, is I find it extremely effective at grabbing the attention of inattentive drivers. Unfortunate that it is needed, but I have noticed the majority ! of drivers looking at their phone these days. Unforgivable.

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    1. Well, you have to do what makes you feel safer. Also, behavior differs if you are riding by yourself versus in a group. I know Ed started using a blinky light for day riding in the city. At night, I find that blinky lights are distracting when I am riding. I started wearing more reflective gear for night riding in the city, and I think it helps. John and Lynne were rear-ended from behind at speed so I don’t believe that blinky lights would have helped them.

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  16. This brought tears to my eyes. Though I didn’t know John and Lynne, I feel as though all of us in the cycling community are somehow connected, and the death of a cyclist always seems to hit home. I am so sorry.

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  17. Mary, this was a nice piece on a tragic situation. I initially read your post just after a tandem ride with my son that took us on mostly trails, but also roads. It is dismaying that people drive drunk (a drunk driver killed my wife’s brother when he was driving a car and stopped at a red light). I too found the comments about bikes on roads dismaying, though even in less than tragic circumstances I often get comments about the dangers of riding a bike on roads. My response is always, you drive a car on roads, right? But people don’t get it.

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  18. John and Lynne were two of the sweetest, most caring people I know. You sensed it immediately upon meeting them, from their kind smiles to their full panniers — they always had the tool you needed for any roadside difficulty. I remember one ride many years ago, HHPP out of Myersville. They were ahead of me and didn’t know I’d become ill. Barely crawling, 35 miles still to go, I look up and it’s John and Lynne. They’d come back in their car just to look for me. That was so them. I’ll miss you terribly, John and Lynne.

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  19. i am so sorry for your loss. thank you for sharing.
    recently, a cyclist was killed by someone running a red light. i was shocked that the article did not include the ‘he was/was not wearing a helmet/had lights/in the bike path’ and then i was mad at myself for being shocked. it is acceptable for the public and media to blame the cyclist and that is unacceptable.

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  20. This senseless killing must stop. But that would require transforming what we now have into a civilized society. So we count ourselves fortunate to be able ride another day. Thank you MG for the composition, your words will live.

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  21. I am Lynne’s sister, Arlene. I want to thank you Mary for the beautiful article you wrote about Lynne and John. Yesterday, at Lynne and John’s Celebration of Life event, I heard so many wonderful stories about both of them. I learned more about my sister’s accomplishments that day than I have every known. Over one hundred people turned out and it was a great tribute to Lynne and John. Blessings to the bicycling community. I will do whatever I can to advocate for safer biking and to toughen drunk driving laws.

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