August 31, 2000: Remembrance
We arrived in Salt Lake City early this morning. By early afternoon, we had arrived at Perry Motorsports and were beginning the process of setting up the checkpoint. I was called away from the task to answer a waiting telephone call. Even now, hours later, I can scarcely believe the news that was then relayed to me.
Pauline Ralston was involved in a fatal traffic accident at approximately noon today near Panguitch, Utah. Witnesses reported that Pauline was apparently run off the road by an automobile while it was attempting to pass her. The automobile then left the scene. Other riders reported seeing Pauline and Richard Smith earlier this morning at Grand Canyon Village. The pair reported they had just awoken refreshed from a six-hour rest, and were looking forward to a pleasant ride to the checkpoint.
I hung up the phone and sat down, stunned. I felt my throat tighten and tears filled my eyes. How could this happen? Richard and Pauline were safe, conservative riders. They rode by the book, and always put fun and safety first. Hours later, I have no answers. I don’t know if there ever will be answers that can take away the hurt and pain and loss I feel when I remember Pauline’s smile, the kindness in her voice, the warmth of her personality. Pauline will be missed; there is no doubt of that.
I knew Pauline as someone who loved life, and loved people, and loved motorcycles. These things, certainly, are as good a basis for friendship as any, and I will always be proud to have made Pauline’s friendship. She was the kind of person that really cared about others, and wasn’t afraid to express that care. During rally check-in, I was running through the hotel on some presently unremembered mission when I bumped into Pauline. I was feeling stressed and harried, and it must have shown on my face. Pauline grabbed me, lit up one of her million-watt smiles, and gave me a quick hug. “It’ll be OK,” she said, “pretty soon we’ll all be out riding.” This small gesture was pure Pauline: she cared about me, she wanted everything to be OK, and she wanted me to know that, in the end, it would be.
And lets not forget motorcycles. Even in these allegedly progressive times, women on bikes are considered an exception, an oddity. This attitude seems so silly when I think of Pauline, who’s brand new Harley had over 20,000 miles at the start of the rally. She loved to ride, plain and simple. She didn’t ride for glory, or for bragging rights, or to see her name on the Internet. She rode her motorcycle like she lived her life, with joy and style, with smiles and class. It occurs to me that if I can make a part of my life even a small amount of these qualities that Pauline had in such great quantity, in a way she’ll still be with me.
Thanks, Pauline, for letting me be a very small part of your rich and worthy life. You will be missed, and you will be remembered.
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