R.I.P. Rod Armas: A letter from the LA Wheelmen

By Alex Thompson

The last photo of Rod and Christian Armas together:

Rod and Christian Armas

Follows is a letter from the LA Wheelmen about how Rod was killed on the final leg of the Wheelmen’s 200 mile Grand Tour on Sunday:

“The finish line is just the beginning of a whole new race.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience
We’re spiritual beings having a human experience”
Susan Saint James who lost her 14 year old son in a plane crash

Tragedy struck a father and his 14 Year Old son on the Grand Tour early Sunday morning.

Pam Leven, the President of the Los Angeles Wheelmen who organize the Grand Tour, wrote:

“Dear Grand Tour Riders, Volunteers and LA Wheelmen Members,

Our community and the greater cycling community is mourning the tragic death of Grand Tour rider Rod Armas who was killed by a drunk driver just a few miles from the end of the Double Century. Rod’s son Christian, 14, was seriously injured, but released from the hospital on Monday. Rod was 45. He had ridden a double century years earlier and wanted to share the exhilarating experience with his son.

The tragedy was a sad end to an otherwise terrific Grand Tour. The Wheelmen organizers know that all credit for success belongs to the volunteers. On behalf of the Wheelmen, I’d like to thank you all very much.

You created the rest stop havens for riders, providing equal measures of food, drink and enthusiastic encouragement. You riders, in turn, gave volunteers the boost we needed to take care of everyone who rode in after you. You especially cheer us when you pause to say thank you and chat a bit, making a personal contact that distinguishes you from the moving mass of riders. Rod and Chris, late in the evening, had a number of the rest stops almost all to themselves. Volunteers spent time with the two and got to know them just a bit more than with everyone else. They developed an emotional investment in the pair’s success – and felt Rod’s death and the family’s loss even more deeply.

On behalf of the Wheelmen and Grand Tour communities, I sent condolences to the Armas family. Many people have asked about a tangible gesture of sorrow. As soon as I get information about a memorial fund for Rod or a medical fund for Chris, I’ll send out the details.”

According to

http://www.venturacountystar.com/news/2009/jun/29/oxnard-driver-arrested-in-cyclists-death/

“MALIBU – An Oxnard man was arrested in a hit-and-run accident after his truck allegedly struck and killed a father and injured his son cycling along Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

The incident occurred about 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Cyclist Rodrigo “Rod” Armas, 45, of Kern County, died at the scene, while his 14-year-old son was taken to UCLA Medical Center and was in stable condition with numerous broken bones, Los Angeles County authorities reported.

The two were riding east on the shoulder of the 34000 block of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

Driver Robert Sam Sanchez, 30, drove about a mile south of the crash and ditched the truck, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported. He was found a short distance away and arrested, still displaying symptoms of alcohol intoxication, authorities said.

He was being held Sunday night on $100,000 bail.

Sanchez is a records clerk for the city of Malibu and lives in Oxnard, according to Lt. Scott Chew of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lost Hills station.

Authorities said the cyclists were on their way back to Malibu during the annual 200-mile Los Angeles Wheelmen “Grand Tour” event.

The bicycling event starts and ends in Malibu and wends through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Armas was a Los Angeles County deputy probation officer. He is survived by his wife, Shelly, his 14-year-old son and two daughters, ages 9 and 12.”

M.J. Grove works hard in making the Grand Tour so successful each year and she added her comment on that web page:

“The Los Angeles Wheelmen’s 51st Annual Grand Tour had almost 500 riders out on the road Saturday into early Sunday, riding 125, 200, or 300 miles. It is not a race, it is a recreational bike ride for people who want to enjoy the sport and challenge themselves to greater athletic achievement.

Thousands upon thousands of SOBER drivers passed them, safely and without incident. The riders were NOT anywhere they shouldn’t have been. They were experienced riders using a public highway, wearing helmets, lights, reflectors, and obeying all traffic laws.

The CAR was where it shouldn’t have been, driving on the already occupied shoulder, where the DRIVER steered it.”

The Grand Tour dates back to 1959 and many thousands of cyclists have enjoyed it’s beautiful scenery and great Southern California views over the past 51 years.

Lynn Katano supported so many riders at the Rincon Rest Stop Saturday and wrote last night: “I got this news this morning from various sources and I’ve been in shock all day. It was not even twenty-four hours ago that they were at Rincon swapping stories with us and resting up for the return ride to Malibu. They seemed like such nice, down-to-earth people…it’s such a tragedy.”

Lynn shared a photo of the Father and Son team at

http://www.CalTripleCrown.com/images/RodrigoChrisArmas.jpg

Ken Campbell helped to support the Grand Tour Saturday with Dan Crain and wrote: “We were sweeping the highland course and stopped a couple of times to offer the two encouragement, water, and whatever.  They were bringing up the rear and we thought the boy was doing better than the dad. Dad was on a hybrid bike the boy had a newer road bike with better lights and was in front.  It really touched my heart having always wanted my son to do long rides with me but to no avail.”

Jim Watrous was also helping to support the Grand Tour.  He did course sweep from Ojai to Rincon and helped Rodrigo and Chris Armas on that stretch.  Jim wrote: “A tragic reminder why alcohol abuse or any drug abuse and driving should be dealt with much earlier. Given the circumstances, fetching and reducing the size of these pictures is hard to do.  Here are the four pictures that I have.  Who could have believed that their future would have ended in tragedy.  I truly thought they were going to make it.  And they would have, if not for an [alleged] drunk driver.  In sadness, Jim Watrous.”

Jim shared his four beautiful photos which can be found at

http://www.CalTripleCrown.com/images/TeamArmas.jpg

Look at the joy in the eye of Rod and Chris as they were flying around the bend!!

http://www.CalTripleCrown.com/images/ChrisArmas.jpg

http://www.CalTripleCrown.com/images/RodArmas.jpg

http://www.CalTripleCrown.com/images/RodChrisArmasSoup.jpg

Paul Haussler was also driving SAG Support on the Grand Tour.  He wrote: “I had two bad feelings last night during the Grand Tour.  I heard about a father and son as the last riders on the Highland Route.  The next time was hours later when I saw an ambulance and paramedics racing north on PCH about 1:30 AM.  Video can be seen at

http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/video?id=6888079

Broad Beach, the location of the accident, is just north of Zuma.  It must have happened shortly after we went through sweeping the Lowland Course.

We feel terrible for the cyclists and family.  Our hearts go out to the Armas family.”

Sadly, the Armas family has been torn apart by another alleged drunk driver.

14 miles and Rod and Chris Armas would have finished an incredible achievement for a father and his son.

14 short miles.

Lynn Katano wrote: “I still get all choked up when I tell people about them.”

The family is in the process of setting up a College Fund Account for donations.  We’ll pass the account number and address onto you when it’s available.

The service will be held on Tuesday July 7, 2009 at 10:00am at the Country Oak Baptist Church, 20915 Schout Rd. Tehachapi, CA 93561, Telephone number (661) 822-1379.  Reception to follow.

Please help the Armas family with your donations and keep them in your thoughts and prayers at this most difficult time.

Chuck Bramwell
California Triple Crown Guy

Lynn Katano
California Triple Crown Social Director

Frank Neal
California Triple Crown Data Guy

Charlie Irwin
California Triple Crown Software Guy

“Yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future, and today is a gift.  That’s why they call it the present.
God is the author of the past and the future, and he’s the giver of the present gift.”
“Eternal Life is Now”
Mary B. Kirk

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11 Responses to “R.I.P. Rod Armas: A letter from the LA Wheelmen”

  1. About the “alleged” drunk driver who killed Rod and hurt his son Christian…the driver WAS NOT drunk. He nodded off behind the wheel. The driver’s blood alcohol level was 0.02 In California the legal limit is 0.08 This is just one of many inaccuracies about this accident.

    The driver nodded off and when he woke up he was miles away from the scene. He had not realized he hit anyone till he noticed his LEFT DRIVERS SIDE FRONT tire was loosing pressure. He then pulled over and noticed the blood on the bumper and realized he might have hit something. The driver turned himself in to the sheriffs who approached him where they found him. The driver was not told and did not realize he killed someone until he was in custody.

    What happened to the Armas family is a horrible tragedy. One no family deserves or should ever experience. My heart goes out to them as do my prayers.

    But for the life of me I cannot understand why a man would take his 14 year old son onto ONE OF THE DEADLIEST HIGHWAYS IN THE UNITED STATES…at 1:30 in the morning! There is NO LIGHT out there on PCH. It’s a deadly highway no one should be bycycling along at night. And shame on who ever organized this race….allowing ANY ONE to travel by bike on California’s deadliest highway in the middle of the night!

    It seems many factors contributed to this horrific accident. Not just the driver’s carelessness. No one should drive tired. No one should EVER drive drunk. And in my opinion, no one should EVER travel by bike on PCH at 1:30 in the morning.

    God Bless the Armas family. Rod, I hear you were a great man!
    May your family find peace and be blessed always.
    God bless the driver who has to live with what his carelessness has brought on him, his family as well as the Armas family.

    R.I.P. Rodrigo Armas.

  2. Wake up!!
    I often ride on that stretch on PCH late at night and was also participating in the LA Wheelmen’s Grand Tour when Mr. Armas was killed. In fact, I came across the crash site about 10 minutes after he and his son were run down and spoke with one of the LA County Sherrif’s Deputies on the scene the following afternoon at the same location. I’ll spare you and any other readers the horrible details of what I witnessed that night.

    To suggest in any way that anyone but Robert Sanchez is responsible for the damage he caused by his carelessness and criminal actions is closed minded and paranoid.
    Perhaps you should also avoid going to the afternoon Farmers Market in Santa Monica because you might be struck and killed by a senior motorist who could not pay attention to his driving responsibilities, as happened a few years ago. Maybe you should simply stay in your home permamently to avoid any accidents that might happen out in the world.
    The Grand Tour (not race!) organizers chose the route carefully. PCH itself is safe at night, more so than the more urban streets. There are lights and well painted lines on PCH. There is almost no traffic on PCH through North LA County at night. There are also some drunk drivers late out there late at night. If you simply can’t understand the factors that lead to this tragedy, that doesn’t make all of them them wrong or shameful. It just makes you naive to the rest of the world.
    Cyclists have the legal, social, and moral rights to be out riding on PCH at 1:30 in the morning. I will continue to do so. I will also commute by bicycle through the Sepulveda Pass every day during rush hour. I will ride through the Malibu canyons every Saturday as the racing motorcyclists come within inches of hitting me. I will also drive my car in a safe responsible manner.
    I hope you do the same because YOU are ALSO responsible for my safety…
    R.I.P. indeed!

  3. Two major corrections here:

    (1) PCH is -NOT- one of the most-dangerous highways in the United States. From the LA Times:

    “Despite the busy roads, law enforcement officials question the assertion that the highway (PCH) is unusually deadly.

    “Traffic Sgt. Philip Brooks at the sheriff’s Malibu/Lost Hills Station, said PCH is no more statistically unsafe than similar roadways throughout the state.

    “Collision data from the Sheriff’s Department and the state show fatal crashes on the 21-mile stretch of PCH within Malibu city limits have averaged about 2.5 per year for the last decade.

    “State data show that the number of collisions in Malibu — including property damage, injury and fatal collisions — did not change significantly from 1997 to 2008. And on a per-mile basis, the fatal crash rate was considerably higher in the two-mile stretch of PCH running through West Los Angeles.”

    Secondly, and far-more importantly:
    THERE IS NO SUCH THING as a “legal limit” for alcohol in the blood system to make a driver drunk.

    California law says that ANY alcohol in a blood stream, if it influences the driver’s ability, makes that driver guilty of driving under the influence.

    .02 BAC in a driver who “nods off” is conclusive evidence of “driving under the influence of alcohol.”

    California law DOES NOT SET .08 as the minimum level for driving under the influence of alcohol. It says that any driver with a BAC of .08 or above is legally presumed to be DUI.

    A person, driving late at night with a .02 BAC, who nods off, is just as guilty of DUI as someone who blows .085 BAC.

    There is no such thing as a safe level of alcohol in the bloodstream.

    urt his son Christian…the driver WAS NOT drunk. He nodded off behind the wheel. The driver’s blood alcohol level was 0.02 In California the legal limit is 0.08 This is just one of many inaccuracies about this accident.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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