Yesterday, we attended a memorial for a friend up in Davis. It was a Quaker-style remembrance, where the three dozen or so people in attendance were invited to share their stories about the departed. Most of the stories were quite surprising to me — I learned a lot about this person’s life I really had no clue about, though we’d known each other since before high school. There was a lot to process.
I was really at loose ends afterward and just felt like a drive. So we set out. I have to say here that Kate, my wife and frequent exploration partner, did the greatest thing: She didn’t ask once where we were headed. We were just going, heading west, enjoying the light of a beautiful October afternoon.
I got to know the backroads in this part of the world — the western edge of the Central Valley, the hills and mountains on the way to the coast, Yolo and Napa counties, among others — while doing long-distance bike rides from the late ’80s through about 2010. So that led me toward Winters, a little valley town west of Davis, and up Highway 128 past Monticello Dam. This slice of countryside is much different from my riding days. Much of it has burned at least once in the past decade, with the greatest acreage by far incinerated during a series of lightning-sparked fires in the summer of 2020. Now, huge swaths of the landscape are marked by the skeletons of burned oaks and laurels and I don’t know what else. It is stark and sobering.
A few miles past the dam and a little resort called Markley Cove, we happened across this cross. There’s a good pullout a hundred yards or so down the road, so I stopped. But it’s at a tight spot on a curve with limited visibility for both drivers and anyone foolish enough to walk on the side of the road where the cross was erected. Kate was a little dubious of me going over to photograph it; she had a view around the curve and said she’d honk if cars were coming.
As it happened, after I took this shot, I could hear the sound of a car approaching … from somewhere. I didn’t hear the horn honk, so I started out into the road. Looking to my left, two or three cars were approaching. Not bearing down on me, exactly, but close enough that I felt I needed to hurry up across the road. I guess one of my ambitions in life is to not have one of these markers put up in my memory.
As to the person memorialized by this marker, here’s a snippet from the Napa Valley Register of March 21, 2021:
“A fatality was reported Sunday evening after a collision involving a motorcycle and another vehicle in the Lake Berryessa area, according to the California Highway Patrol. …
“A passenger on the motorcycle suffered minor injuries, as did the driver of the other vehicle. … The name of the motorcyclist was not immediately available.”
The CHP’s report includes a few more details: The motorcycle was headed west when it crossed the highway’s centerline and sideswiped on oncoming pickup truck. The motorcycle driver was 29 years old. It’s not lost on me that the date of the crash inscribed on the cross, March 21, was the birthday of the friend whose memorial we were attending.
As the cross in the picture says, “Descanza en paz.”