March 5th, 2020: Virginia died late last month. The health crisis that precipitated it was in January, and for a long while we were in reactive mode in a hospital that said "No pictures!". Virginia was super into Taji 100, so a consortium of her friends decided to launch her name into the stratosphere. That way when we visited her we could give her updates about how many miles we had gathered for her. The project was amazingly successful. In fact, it was so amazing that they had to change her name to "Team VPWalks" so people wouldn't ask "Who is that iron woman?"
Meanwhile, I got my own Taji miles by visiting her in the hospital. I'd walk there, stopping at the mailbox on the way. When I got there I'd read her any cards that were in the mailbox that day and tell her how many Taji miles people had donated to her. The last time I told her about it, she was already up to 930 miles. She died that night. I was still at about 94 miles then.
When I got to 105 miles I stopped recording them to my account. The rest were donated to Virginia. I had a tiny impact on her final number. Thank you Deepa and Shelly for making that project work out so well!
While Virginia was laying there dead in her hospital bed Silver said "No social media until after the service. Any kind of one on one discussion is okay." So this post was weeks in the making. The word leaked out bit by bit. People started liking highlights among the posts on our timelines. Stuff like the time we set the 49er game bike parking record.
I started getting notes from old friends.
The problem was stage four lung cancer. She had been complaining about a lump for a few months, but I couldn't get her to go to the doctor about it. When she finally went in it was a severe health crisis. She had a lump on her lung that was preventing her from breathing. She had hypoxia damage before they got her on oxygen. She was very weak when she got out of the hospital with a drainage tube in her chest. Maybe modern medicine could have saved her if she'd gotten diagnosed when she first noticed the lump, but after she got very weak it was too late for that. Less than a week later the lump had grown to a size that was inhibiting her breathing again. She had to go back into the hospital. After that her health went downhill steadily. It was simply too late for treatment to have much effect.
I asked the Doctor if her prognosis would have been better if she had gotten the lump checked out when she started noticing shortness of breath and a lump last Thanksgiving. He was like "Maybe." Maybe is a lot better than the odds she was dealing with when she went into the hospital the second time. Since then I've been telling people "If you notice a weird lump please have it looked at ASAP."
Jimmy told me "Remember the good times." With Virginia there were a lot of good times. Below are mentioned some of the more notable ones.
It was an honor to be part of the crew that accepted the Santa Clara County League of Conservation Voters "Organization of the Year" award on behalf of San Jose Bike Party!
Shiloh shared a pile of pictures someone had emailed to her. Jogged my memory about other good times.
That tandem was a thread that ran through a lot of the fun in Virginia's life. She got it when her kids were young so they could all do adventures together. When we had only been going out for a while we found it in the back of her garage. I got it running by oiling the chain and pumping the tires. We rode it a time or two. Then she got a real professional tune up for the thing. Did things like upgrade to road bike tires. We rode it a lot during the rest of the time we knew each other.
Our agreement worked out to "She navigates and I steer." She would take pictures of every sight that caught her eye back there. When we were going through unfamiliar territory she'd look up directions on google maps. When we were in situations that required coordinating she'd be back there on her phone making it happen. When we were riding in bike parties with loud music she'd be dancing back there. She was always finding another way to use her free hands and active presence to make the ride better. So many good times!
Riding in the 4th of July Parade was a definite highlight. She loved doing that kind of stuff. Just ate it up.
Virginia would ride her bike in any kind of clothes. Several times we went on dates in formal clothing. This picture was taken before I knew her, but I saw her ride in even more formal clothes than those in the picture.
She organized the Bike To Work Day energizer station with the SAP Cycling Team at Arastadero and Foothill for eight years. I helped out the last three of those. One feature of those events (and many others) was the bike blender. She'd fill the blender with strawberries, blueberries, banana and ice. She'd get some volunteer to "Blender up a smoothie!" Then she'd pass around sample sized cups of the stuff to everybody present that wanted some. Tasty and refreshing after pedaling! She took pride in telling people "We got the coffee and water to the station without using fossil fuels." True story. I woke up at five those mornings to ride the tandem and the trailer up there with her. We'd stop at Peet's in Los Altos on the way to get the coffee.
We rode in Bike the Limits in 2017 and 2018. Then in 2019 we organized the route. Virginia did all the test rides, but my knee was so bad I just couldn't do much. This was her showing up at the start of that ride. I took her car and a bunch of supplies to the regroup 2 spot. This picture was taken as she showed up at the start to ride it.
The two of us were route leaders for several bike parties. No way would I have volunteered to do that without her to help me make it work out right. She loved doing that kind of service. If she had lasted we would have done many more. Not shown are pictures from that Christmas ride we led. We were simply too busy to take pictures that time.
We met as fellow members of the bicycling community. Going through my website there are endless pages where bicycling with Virginia was involved. A high point was the time we rode up Mt. Hamilton.
She liked to travel a time or two every year, so we did some of that. My rule is "I'm not leaving the ground, because the carbon footprint involved with flying is too big." She honored that. We rode buses, trains, boats or some combination of those for most of our trips. The others we drove. We talked about bike riding to some distant destination, but we didn't get around to it. That kind of trip eats too much time when you have an important day job, which she did.
March 14th: Dora dropped off some condolences. Worked out to be very nice flowers.