The Saddest Thing I’ve Ever Seen

There’s this sound when a group of cyclists rolls off together, a rapid, random “clickclickclickclick” as they lock into their pedals. That was the sound this morning in the bosque, down by the Rio Grande Nature Center, as a group of cyclists mounted up for a ceremonial ride at the end of Paula Higgins’ memorial service.

I went because Paula is part of my tribe. I didn’t know her well, but she was Rio Grande Racing Team from way back (that’s smalltribe) and a cyclist (that’s largetribe).

If you look on the Record Challenge web site, you’ll see this:

Tandem 40k 52:00.55 Carolyn Donnelley, Paula Higgins 9/3/95

That’s the national women’s record for a 40k tandem ride. That’s street cred.

A big bunch of folks – some in quiet black, some in shorts and Hawaiian shirts, some in spandex – gathered at the Nature Center for a memorial service this morning. It was deeply moving, by turns funny – like her brother’s story of the pun Paula built with a twinkle after making a pizza dough spiced with dill – and unbearably sad.

At the end of the service, the cyclists lined up at the Nature Center bridge, and Carolyn rode away from the bunch, alone on the tandem, up the riverside trail until she disappeared around a bend. Then the rest of the riders clicked in and slowly followed.

It was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.