Inside / Out of Jacquie and Charlie’s Place

“Today, under smoky skies, in 90-degree heat, I rode (alone) counterclockwise around the Nicasio reservoir. Eighteen years ago today (Saturday of Labor Day weekend) a habitually drunken driver killed Cece Krone. And I won’t forget how the judge dealt with it all (very low bail). The ‘murderist’ (whose ten-year-old boy was with her) was sloppily overtaking the weekly hammer ride, and in so doing rode up the stone embankment, crushing Cece and her bike. She’d been standing by her bike inside the white line, waiting for the group.” – Jacquie Phelan

Last weekend, on the anniversary weekend of Cece Krone’s death, we met up with Jacquie Phelan just outside of her hometown of Fairfax, California. We had just pedaled our way out of Samuel P Taylor, on a busier-than-average day in terms of traffic. Jacquie crested the hill wearing a tie-dye shirt and camel colored shorts. She rode a custom-decaled Specialized Ruby, with matching shoes and began riding next to each member of our touring posse, introducing herself and making small talk.

When she got to me, she immediately noticed my camera and told me the story of Cece Krone. Coincidentally, this was as we were nearing the site where Cece was struck by the drunk driver. This story really resonated with me, because Cece was a cycling photographer and she was riding that morning to document the peloton of the customary Saturday morning road ride out of Fairfax.

The way Jacquie told me the story was Cece wasn’t strong enough to keep up with the pack – she was carrying two 35mm SLR cameras after all – so she’d leave a bit earlier to shoot photos of them cresting the hill, high above the Nicasio reservoir. This is something I, as a cycling photographer, can identify with, and to be quite candid is one of my deepest fears; being killed while documenting cycling, by a car.

Now, people always say “they died doing what they loved” and that’s total bullshit, for no one loves to die.

After our very sobering conversation, Jacquie offered to take us into her and Charlie Cunningham’s home, which, as a photographer and a lifelong fan of cycling, is like a dream come true. Backstory: Jacquie Phelan and Charlie Cunningham are literal living legends of the mountain bike world. If you don’t know who they are, Google it. Charlie got in an accident last year while out on his daily mountain bike ride. No one knows what happened. A car could have hit him, or perhaps a deer ran in front of him, maybe he just washed out. All they know is Charlie was on the side of the road, badly injured. It’s now almost impossible for Charlie to ride a bike, due to his brain damage, but he can walk, which is what he’s doing for exercise and coincidentally, what he was doing while we were visiting Jacquie. Although he did arrive as we were leaving.

I’ve met Jacquie and Charlie both, at separate events in the past, yet, like most people of their celebrity, they didn’t remember me. This isn’t a bad thing because I like meeting people and getting to meet them twice was a unique experience. While we were in their home, Jacquie let us poke around Charlie’s workshop, before serving us smoothies, made from fruit trees that grow on their hilly property. She showed us around the house and their property, asking us questions in order to get a sense of who we were. Afterall, we were inside their home. Out of respect, I kept most of the photos to the detail level, opting out of showing the overall space, or the extent of their backyard and Charlie’s shop. While Jacquie and Charlie are both warm and welcoming people, I got the sense that they enjoy their privacy.

Jacquie’s introductory story has really resonated with me. As cyclists, we compete for space with vehicles that vastly overcome us, in terms of numbers and weight. We’re delicate animals, often wrapped up in the endorphin dose we receive while pedaling or focusing on our stroke or breathing, but in that one breathe, everything can change.

Be careful out there.

You can read more of Jacquie’s writing at her blog and you can support the Marin Museum of Bicycling by visiting their space and donating!

  • Mike Varley

    One of your best, John.

  • Jason

    Love our Fairfax legends. Great write up

  • James Walton

    Alice B. Toeclips!

  • Evan Robinson

    Living Legends. I had the most brief opportunity to work on Jacquie’s Cunningham road bike during the 42 below Vodka tour as they passed through Pittsburgh. It was such a bizarre morning, I rolled up to unlock the shop and there she was in polka dot tights. The post card she gave me hung in my house for the longest time, I can’t find it after moving.

    • AdamBike99

      At Pro Bikes?

      • Evan Robinson

        This was infact at P-bikes

  • abellyahknow

    LEGENDARY!

  • boomforeal

    gorgeous shots john, and your consideration of their privacy is commendable

    “Now, people always say “they died doing what they loved” and that’s total bullshit, for no one loves to die.”

    i encourage you reread that adage, as you seem to have misunderstood it

    • I understand the adage, all I’m doing is splitting hairs / picking it apart.

      • boomforeal

        interesting

        no one loves to die, but was far as i know, no one hates it either; the dead have no feelings. but the living do, and those who get to do what they love are generally better off and happier for it

        also, what i take from that adage is some consolation for those left behind. having a loved one die is never easy. but if i had the choice between watching them suffer, or knowing that their life was snuffed out in the blink of an eye while they were doing what they loved, for their sake and for mine, i think i’d choose the latter

        my $0.02

        • I gotcha. Makes sense. That’s the beauty of adages, they mean different things to different people. ✌🏻

  • Nathan Carballo

    That day was magic.

    • Saturday was too. Hell, the whole trip was!

  • Ashley Webber

    spirit animal

  • Nate-o

    grade-a people and the house really is something of a wonderland. I was lucky to get a tour through a few years back

  • pastafarian9

    Inspiring and really beautiful photographs :)

  • Pascal K

    beautiful

  • Dave Pelletier

    WOMBATS!

  • Ian Connelly

    I met her once at the tail end of a Grasshopper a few years ago – one that I had bonked and bailed on the last portion of. She mentioned that she had beat me up Willow Creek, even though she’d stopped for lunch at the bottom. And then she gave me one of her infamous mud-ad postcards. Funny and sweet and impressive.

  • Richard

    Wow. Crazy good. You guys had a greatest hits Labor Day weekend, didin’t you?

    • Even with the 100° weather, it was a cool trip!

  • Big Jänet Romance

    thanks for this!

  • DaymanDaryl

    “before serving us smoothies, made from fruit trees that grow on their hilly property.”

    Those must’ve been some high fiber smoothies!

    • Mostly pear trees, which you can see in photo #17

  • Stephen Bingham

    To all those for whom this story of Cece’s untimely death resonated, please join next year’s Marin Ride of Silence. Rides around the world in mid-May “honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways.” My wife and I have organized Marin’s RoS each year since 2009, the year our daughter was killed biking to work in Cleveland. The rides have always been quite small. We would like many more cyclists to join us on Marin’s ride. Marin with its incredible cycling reputation deserves a bigger ride! Check here in April to learn ride details: http://www.rideofsilence.org/locations-domestic.php?s=CA#CA. Our ride goes around the Tiburon Peninsula and is typically on a Saturday morning. You can see info and pictures of previous rides on the “Ride Reports” tab on the home page. If interested in helping grow the ride, please email me directly at [email protected].

  • Alex Ball

    I sat at Jacquie’s table at the Mountain Bike World Championship’s Dinner in Bromont, Canada back in 1992 – it was terrifying for this shy Brit! She had so much energy! Then the food fight started…

  • We are having the Cunningham-Phelans over for dinner this week.

  • Jonathan Neve

    one of my favorite galleries in a very long time. so much love.