Most of a decade ago I was purposefully wandering around at Interbike, looking for sponsors with low expectations and deep pockets. I didn't find any, but I did meet some extraordinary people at the Zipp booth. We inhabited hugely different worlds--their niche was the international road and tri scene, mine was, well, too small to be called a niche. They wowed me with gee-whiz-enginerd-geekspeak blended with good old midwestern hospitality; I tried to relate what I did through past results and future plans. We struck up a sort of offhand relationship whereby they'd send me preproduction rims to build and ride. I was a mileage machine in those days and I'd do what I could to grind them into dust, always unsuccessfully. Through the years we kept in touch as best we could: I'd send pics from my travels and races, they'd send encouragement and occasionally new product.
As the years went on I met many of those that made up Zipp, both at trade shows and during a visit to the factory in Indianapolis. Jim Douglas started low on the Zipp totem pole but his enthusiasm and work ethic allowed him to climb quickly. When I called in to Zipp I usually spoke with Jim, and we developed a friendship as well as a camaraderie. Jim was always game to answer my questions and help out with tech stuff, but he was waaaaay more interested in talking about epic rides in the mountains, singlespeeding, dogs, fishing, skiing, what have you. When we couldn't talk we'd exchange pictures from our travels and adventures, me from around the western US and Jim from all over the world.
What seemed to push his buttons most were the pictures--he just couldn't get enough. You could hear the enthusiasm in his voice jump a few levels as he asked about the locations and all of the details. It became a sort of theme; we might go months without speaking but the pics would be flying back and forth every few weeks. It was great, and it continued right up until a few days ago when I took some of the shots in the vid below.
Unfortunately, I can't send Jim any of these pics, because Jim was killed in an accident last weekend.
I can't pretend to make any sense of it, even though I've heard the story from several sources. Not that it really matters what sense I can or can't make. Jim is gone. Just...
I still have his last few emails in my inbox. One stands out above the others--where he calls his 9 month old daughter Annabelle 'So cute she can't be mine' and then proceeds to detail towing her around in a bike trailer all weekend long. An email is far from a tangible thing but it's hard to let go of the verbal visuals he shared and how proud he was to be a dad.
I can't send him these pics, but I can share them with you, his family and friends, and maybe somehow that'll help to ease the sting or fill the void. Probably not, but it's really all I have to offer.
I'm not a religious type, not one to pray. But I feel inclined to ask everyone that reads this to keep his family in your thoughts. Whether they need guidance, strength, or faith, it just might help if we all send some healing energy that way.
Godspeed, Jimmy D. You are missed.