“Anybody ever ride the velodrome?” Rob asked several months ago when he first walked into the bike shop where I work.
He was on his way to work just before our closing time and was kicking around an idea for a new bike. Rob looked just like many weekend riders, fairly unremarkable middle aged guy. As the months went by, he came in occasionally and looked over catalogs for Italian steel bikes and discussed the hostile riding environment in Livingston parish where he lived.
Over the course of several visits, I came to recognize Rob as a seasoned rider who was intelligent as well as risk averse. He knew his rights and at the same time knew how to make sure he was as safe as possible on the road. I learned he was a Veteran and a bagpiper with a local pipe and drum corps. I also learned that he flies medical helicopters often on the night shift, which gave him an excuse to drop-in to the shop in the evenings on his way to work.
Last week, he dropped his bike off for service, a custom titanium road bike with a well-worn leather saddle. This confirmed my suspicions that he was no Johnny-come-lately to cycling. He was training for a 1600 mile charity ride and wanted to make sure his ride was in good shape. Though Rob continued to train on a back-up bike, he called or came by every day to check and see if it was ready. We had been really backed up and every day I had to tell him, “no, not yet. I’ll let you know.” When he came by to check Monday, he brought in pamphlets and cards advertising his charity ride.
As a cyclist and piper, Rob was chosen to ride with a group on the Brotherhood Ride to honor the 411 fallen heroes who died in the line of duty at Ground Zero on 9/11. In addition to riding 60-120 miles a day from Naples, Florida to Ground Zero in New York, the group stops at memorials honoring fallen firefighters and law enforcement, and Rob would play the bagpipes in memoriam. All this was being done to raise money for nonprofits who continue to help the families these heroes left behind.
When I heard about another cyclist death, this time on LA-16 in St. Helena I was saddened as usual; every cyclist and pedestrian fatality is a tragedy, especially since so many could be easily avoided by common courtesy. It was only when I got to the shop on Thursday that I learned it was Rob. I read his name in the paper but I didn’t know the full name of every customer who hangs out at the shop. A coworker at the shop had called his house to let him know we finished tuning up his bike and spoke with Rob’s wife.
In disbelief, I went over to where his Serrota was stowed and read the name on the repair ticket.
Rob was a pretty average guy on the outside, looked like any other rider at a century ride. I had helped him most often at the shop so I wasn’t surprised when I showed the other guys his picture on the pamphlets he left the day before he died, and they said he didn’t look familiar. That was one of the things about Rob; he was pretty unassuming. He didn’t seek recognition for his charity work and only grudgingly discussed his role in the ride when guys at the shop asked him. He was more interested in talking about how he wanted to organize a ride across the state of Louisiana to honor LA’s fallen heroes.
Rob Moorhead was a retired Marine, a retired Federal Law Enforcement Officer, a piper, a AirMed3 pilot, and a husband. Riding his bike on a highway didn’t negate all of that to make him a Cyclist. Every year more bikes are sold in this country than cars, and nearly every ‘Cyclist’ I know owns and uses a car. Why we as a society feel the need to use labels to differentiate ‘Drivers’ from ‘Cyclists’ and treat each other different based on these arbitrary transient brandings to justify poor behavior, I don’t know.
What I do know is a pretty extraordinary member of society was tragically lost before I got a chance to get to know him better. He served his country, served and protected us, and transported people with medical emergencies, and he paid the ultimate price for simply riding his bike.
I hope everyone will consider helping me honor him and thousands like him who have died or been injured at the hands of careless people who often focused too much on texting or making up time and not enough on the road. The 2011 Baton Rouge Ride of Silence will be May 18th beginning from the parking lot across from the Vet School. Before we ride we will honor Rob and others who have been killed or injured with a song by the Caledonian pipe and drum corps at 6:30 and other events as yet to be determined. The ride rolls at 7 PM and will be a silent funeral procession no faster than a rider on a cruiser bike can ride comfortably. For more information please contact RideOfSilence@teamgeauxrace.com or go to www.therideofsilence.org.