Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: Diana's Final Memorial in the CA Redwoods (7/9/11)


Diana's Final Memorial in the CA Redwoods (7/9/11)

After hanging out with friends at the WOW Ride-In in San Jose, I spent an extra couple days in CA to attend the memorial service of Diana Thornton, one of my Columbus riders that passed away to cancer last August. Coincidentally, she lived in the San Jose area for 15 years while she worked for in the Bay Area and then transferred to Columbus, OH where I then met her. She was a long-time Women On Wheels® member that helped start both the LA Iron Angels and the Buckeye State Lady Riders, two chapters that  I've served as a director. She will be missed dearly, and I was very honored to be part of her final send-off in the California redwoods.

I met with Scott and Christian, Diana's husband and one of her sons, respectively, at a family friend's house in Vallejo. We then rode north on CA-37 and US-101 until we reached CA-128. After a spirited ride chasing Christian on his Honda Valkyrie through the twisties of CA-128 (peg-scraping fun!), we stopped at the Navarro Vineyards in Philo to meet up with a few more friends. This place was Diana's favorite winery, and I even had the chance to taste one her favorite selections, a sweet Gew├╝rztraminer. After that, we continued down CA-128 to the memorial grove of Redwood trees.

The Navarro Vineyards are a family-owned winery that's been in these hills for over 30 years. 
This memorial was a very unique one there at the Downing-Nilon family grove on CA-128. There was no church, no formal ceremonies, just us and the beauty of the California redwoods surrounding us. Also, this place can only be found using landmarks and some research. To add to its significance to Diana, CA-128 is a very popular motorcycle route where on any given point of the day you'll hear the roar of engines revving by as the motorcycles enter the next set of curves that eventually lead to the ocean on Pacific Coast Highway. After trodding through this hallowed place for a short time, I realized that this one part of the forest combined two things that she cherished very much, the beauty of nature and the freedom of motorcycles on the road. It was her final wish to have her ashes scattered in this area. Not a bad way to spend eternity if you ask me!

This is the final curve on CA-128 right before you have to pull over to enter the grove of Redwoods.
As part of the the memorial, we were each given a small bag of Diana's ashes and asked to walk around, enjoy the beauty of this place, and scatter them where we would feel be a place that she would have enjoyed visiting. Scott kicked things off by spreading a large amount of her ashes around her favorite tree along with a good sampling of a bottle of her other favorite wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon. We then wandered throughout the area to pay our respects as well.

Here's Scott, her husband and best friend of over 50 years, in front of Diana's tree, the place where the majority of her ashes are scattered. He also poured a serving of Diana's favorite wine from the Navarro Vineyards at the base of the tree as well.
I spent some time walking a ways from the grove reminiscing about the first time I had ever met her. When I had moved to Ohio from California almost a year and a half ago, one of my first projects here was to restart the Women On Wheels® chapter in Columbus that had folded almost two years prior to my arrival. Diana was one of the first people to respond to my inquiry e-mails, and after we had met in late November for the first of several organizational meetings, I knew I had someone who definitely was committed to seeing WOW return to Columbus. It was funny to think that it was another Californian that helped me find some purpose to being in Ohio, and I thank her immensely for that.

I walked this area and climbed down a small hill to get to this beautiful stream by the trees. Some of her ashes "rode" with the currents.
This new sapling in the grove will probably become a mighty tree in a few hundred years. Diana will be there to watch it grow. 
If you're ever in this part of the woods, find this plaque and you're in the right place.
A close-up of that bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. We all had a toast to her memory.
This is a shot is from the vantage point of Diana's redwood tree looking up. This area is just incredible.
Her son, Christian, sits atop the same tree stump where Diana sat many years ago.  Scott has a picture of her doing the same thing with a glass of wine in her hand!
Her story is a beautiful one, and I wish I had the opportunity to have gotten to know her better. Her charisma, enthusiasm for rebuilding my Columbus chapter, and her infectious smile was always remembered at our formation meetings. She got sick right after we signed charter so I never had the chance to ride with her, but the stories of her cross-country treks and long-distance journeys from Scott and her sons were amazing. Scott is currently working on a book that chronicles all their travels - that'll definitely be a must-read and I'm looking forward to seeing the final copy.

After we paid our respects, we returned to the Navarro Vineyards to have a picnic lunch and then traveled our separate ways, me toward Oregon en route back to Ohio and Scott and Christian back to Idaho. As I rode back through CA-128 past her redwood grove toward Pacific Coast Highway, I revved Eleanor's engine one more time, my farewell and send-off to a fellow rider and an inspirational friend.