Up at 7; breakfast at the cabin. Listened to the rain all night. Still raining this am. Deer on property eating berries.
Ralf getting ready to start his final trek to Tofino. I will leave in a few minutes and meet him after 20k.
Enjoyed my brother's company in the support vehicle. Made the time pass quickly. Warren is very entertaining. Every time we passed Ralf, Warren would put the window down, stick his head out the window and yell obscenities (lovingly from the heart ).
Had dinner at the Drinkwater last night and watched the baseball game on Warren's neighbour's TV (in their million dollar cottage).
FYI ...as the crow flies, the distance from from Courtenay to Port Alberni is about 40-45k. But it is a little over 100k going by highway. You have to travel south to drive over the “hump” (aka Arrowsmith Mt.) which is another challenging cycle.
Well time to say good bye to my brother and get in the support vehicle.
It is another miserable day. Grey skies, torrential rain – you can see rivers forming on the highway; meeting Ralf every 20k.
Due to the weather met Ralf only once at 20k then changed frequency to every 10k. Ralf asked that I meet him every 10k and keep a record of the time. Because there is no cell reception in the heart of Vancouver Island he was concerned that if he had a flat or bike issues I would not know he was in trouble. 50K from Tofino was our last meeting place. Ralf pulled up to the window, wet to the core. Gave him more coffee from my thermos. As he returned the thermos he commented that it was almost empty. I said I wouldn't know (as I was saving my coffee for him). I snapped a picture of Ralf, trying to capture the water dripping off his face.He was looking straight ahead and mumbled “I'll be glad to get this over”. We're almost there Ralf. The last thing Ralf said to me was “see you in 10”
Ralf cycled down the highway towards the hill known as Hydro Hill. I wrote down on a piece of paper the distance 10k from where we were and the time. Pulled out onto the highway, snapped another pic of Ralf through the windshield approaching Hydro Hill. It would drive Ralf crazy when I would drive and take pics at the same time. He didn't appreciate how adept at this I've become. When we had moments like this I thought to myself it will be good Ralf when you are back cycling and out of my (creative) space.
I trailed a minute behind Ralf. Went down the hill, hairpin turn and then I saw a lifeless body lying on the other side of the highway. There was a pickup truck there and young woman standing over what started to look like Ralf. I left the car running at the side of the highway and proceeded to run over to them. As I came closer I noticed his Giant bike was scattered in pieces near him. I dialed 911 on my cell phone hoping that there would be reception but I was hoping for a miracle. As cars slowed down I yelled for anyone to call for help. Returned to Ralf's side; he was conscious. An off duty paramedic showed up to offer what help he could; 2 retired physicians on vacation from Britain appeared. CPR was started before the ambulance arrived on site. Strangers surrounded Ralf and did what they could do before the ambulance arrived 45 minutes later. EMS workers transferred him to the Port Alberni hospital 100k away. A second EMS vehicle met us outside of Port Alberni to relieve the paramedics performing CPR. Shortly after arriving in emerge the attending physician came out to express his deepest sympathies.
I laid by Ralf's side until 10:30 pm. I wanted to lie with him forever. The nursing staff were so compassionate. They had gone on line to know more about Ralf. They were so moved. The attending police were visibly upset over this tragic turn of events. The coroner returned after he had reconstructed the accident scene. He said he knew exactly where the accident occurred because he's called there a lot. No autopsy was necessary as it was evident what happened. Because British Columbia had a dry summer it caused the oil to build up on the roads. With this recent downpour it made the roads slick. Ralf's front wheel slid out from under him causing him to slide across the highway. He could see where his pedal hit the concrete retaining wall as it had left a mark on the concrete.
The nurse gently encouraged me to allow them to move Ralf to the morgue to retain his dignity. With each passing hour the body would be breaking down. The kids were coming Friday and I wanted Ralf to look as good as was possible (they wouldn't see him til the following Tuesday). I kissed him goodbye and said "I'll see you in the morning”. Again I told him how much I loved him. As they were wheeling him to the morgue I kissed him one last time. The nurse (name escapes me) came into the waiting room and commented how peaceful he looked despite being on the floor for so long.
I camped overnite in the small waiting room as I wanted to remain near to Ralf. Friday September 25th at 0700 hrs I asked to go down to morgue. I sat with Ralf (and attendant in corner) held his hand for an hour just embracing these last few minutes. Left Ralf around 0830. Kissed him and thanked him for the adventure we've had for 35 plus years. “See you in 10”
My brother was coming down to Port Alberni and meeting his friend who was driving my car in from Ucluelet. Drove to the Comox Airport to pick up Robyn, Megan and Christian. Also present were Terry, Andrew and baby Lauryn. Appt at funeral home to arrange details involved with flying Ralf home. Unfortunately kids were not allowed to see Ralf in morgue. My son in law has been phenomenal in every way. He flew everyone out (West Jet) to Comox and flew us home Saturday. Arrived at 11:00 pm. One hour layover in Calgary. We all worked on putting together the best send off we could. Ralf would agree ... Go Big or Go Home. We are doing both hon as difficult as this is.
Everyone has been so kind, loving and supportive. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Letter to the editor of the Brampton Guardian
September 29, 2015
Last week, our community lost Ralf Jarchow, beloved husband, father, son, friend, colleague and community champion, to a tragic cycling accident. I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues on behalf of William Osler Health System and William Osler Health System Foundation. We are all in shock and saddened to have lost such a great friend. Brampton is poorer for his passing.
Ralf’s passing is made even more heart-breaking as he was on the last leg of his second epic cycling quest to raise funds for the new Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness. Before setting off on his journey, Ralf and his wife, Valerie, expressed their deep appreciation for the strong support they felt as they began the 11-day bike odyssey from Calgary, Alberta to Tofino, B.C. Armed with a desire to give back, Ralf undertook the ride to raise funds but also to help build a strong community-driven campaign for health care, a cause that was especially close to his heart.
Donations to Ralf’s Ride have been overwhelming, along with expressions of profound sadness in losing a wonderful person and a true champion for Brampton. His passion inspired others to follow in his lead. We are overcome by the outpouring of kindness and generosity, a testament to how much Ralf touched the lives of so many.
When Peel Memorial opens, we will be able to express our tremendous gratitude by honouring Ralf in a lasting way. Today, we extend our thoughts and prayers to those who knew and cared for him.
Ralf – you are deeply missed. Thank you for showing us what a champion looks like.
- Ken Mayhew, President and CEO, William Osler Health System Foundation, Brampton, Ontario.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
“Thanks for the adventure Ralf. I love you now and forever. See you in 10”
love Valerie xoxo