In the summer of 2016, I asked who wanted to try riding the Morro Bay Lighthouse Century with me in October (100-mile bike ride up the Pacific Coast Highway) . Rowan raised his hand and told me that the ride would mark the anniversary of his double lung transplant, and that he liked to celebrate each anniversary by doing something physically difficult — it was his way of showing that not only had he stayed alive against the odds, but that he was fully embracing life, living every experience to the max.
Our kids had gone through elementary school together, but I’d never really gotten to know him. Over the next few months, we did a series of training rides together, all over the East Bay, plus an unforgettable climb to the top of Mt. Tamalpais in dense fog. In the course of those rides, through all kinds of weather, through intense sweat and crazy descents, I got to know Rowan and was blown away daily by his relentless joy and optimism, his profound appreciation for his lung donor, and for the second chance at life he’d been gifted. Rowan became a sort of role model for me, an example of how we all ought to be living.
That October, we traveled to Morro Bay together and shared a hotel, then rode with another friend the next morning. Rowan wasn’t the fastest guy on the course – he was riding with the lungs of a 16-year-old girl! – but he was steady and determined, and there was never any question that he’d finish. The minute his odometer rolled over to that 100-mile mark, we stopped and high-fived each other and he let out a huge whoop of joy.
When I heard the news today that Rowan had passed, I broke down in my wife’s arms. This cruel world has taken one of our brightest beacons. I’ll remember you forever Rowan – thanks for sharing that incredible adventure with me, and for sharing your bounty of optimism with all of us.