Roadside Memorials

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I’ve been riding back and forth to Lawrence from Topeka on the Scenic River Road the past month pretty often.  Mainly this is because I love the ride, but also because when the wind is blowing from the south, which it has been, the route is kind of sheltered.

Around Topeka, more and more of these roadside memorials have been popping up along the roads I ride.  That isn’t a good thing.

A couple weeks ago I noticed a new memorial at the top of the pavement, right before the road turns to gravel.  I was riding with Bill and Kris and asked them what that was all about.  They said that a kid riding a 3 wheeler had crashed and died there.

That made me sad.  I’d seen those kids a couple times the previous two weeks while riding.  I remember even having a conversation with Bill about the last time we had seen a “three wheeled quad”.  Those things were pretty dangerous and I think they recalled all of them or something.  I don’t think it even had a front shock.

Anyway, I stopped at the shrine the next time I rode by it alone.  It is always a reflection of what the person’s friends feel that important to him for them.  There were lots of quarters, a cross, of course, a few teddy bears, flowers, etc.

I think the first time I’d ever seen a roadside shrine is when I was racing the Tour of Baja.  I was climbing the La Rumorosa, which is a long, barren, rocky climb, just south of the US border.  I was dying, barely able to breathe because of all the semis passing me, spewing out diesel fumes.

It was like another world.  I just looked off the edge as I was creeping up the climb and saw all the automobiles and buses that were down the cliffs, laying on the rocks below.  Most of these accidents were marked by a cross, or a make-shift shrine.  Some were elaborate, others just a couple sticks tied together.

I always wondered what the circumstances to each and every one was.  But here in Topeka, I can find out, but choose not to.  It would be so easy to just google search each of these roadside memorials to find of a little about them.  But I won’t.

I would just rather remember waving to those two kids as I rode by.  They seemed to be enjoying the day, as I was.  That is the memory I choose.

The new memorial along the Scenic River Road.

The new memorial along the Scenic River Road.

I saw two more the other day. This one.

I saw two more the other day. This one.

And this one.

And this one.

Tucker and the cats get along great.

Tucker and the cats get along great.

Pretty great finish of this race today.

6 thoughts on “Roadside Memorials

  1. James

    Lots of hrs riding 3 wheelers & still own one. They were not recalled, but phased out in favor of four-wheelers – aka quads – due to lawsuits. Obviously a 3 wheeler is more prone to rollover. They are more manuverable at speed than a quad, but the edge comes up quick & bam you flip it & the machine lands on you.

    Are quads safer? Maybe when they were smaller displacement. Now they are so much faster & plenty of people die riding them as well.

  2. The Cyclist

    Is that Rumorosa road one way only or is the idiot driving that buss completely nuts?

  3. paul

    Grew up in San Diego and and our family had a little place down in San Felipe. My buddies and I made a few late night (early morning) runs down to San Felipe through Tecate and dwon into Mexicali on that very Mexican highway back when we were young and EXTREMELY dumb. We probably should’ve ended up as one of those wrecks down at the bottom.

  4. Jeff

    There’s a whole cast of street/pop/folk type artists in my city. One of them who seems like a nice guy but is a bit of a kooky dude, had the idea to do a bunch of roadside memorials for his friends. His friends who are alive. Pretty funny. I know one of his friends forbid him to do it. I’m sure he’d say it’s some comment on the way we think differently about people after they are gone or something like that.

  5. Mark

    Last week a friend mine’s 8yr old little boy was killed while riding a side by side. He was by himself in an empty pasture. Somehow managed to roll it over and was crushed by the roll bar….He never should have been on the thing by himself to begin with. He was too small to be buckled in and still reach the pedals. Truly a sad and unfortunate outcome. Life is a gift for sure.

  6. Peter W. Polack

    What bothers me about roadside memorials is anonymous people “claim” a section of road for their beloved dead. Do they maintain it? For how long? Who cleans up the mess and when is the right time?

    The right place for a memorial is a cemetary, not a public place.


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