When You Ride, Remember This Beautiful Life

I did not personally know Chris “Red” Vogts though I certainly know his friends and former co-workers at Budget Bicycle in Madison. Chris was loved by many, many people, and he loved his friends, his family and animals. Chris also loved to ride his bike.


Red was never far from a bicycle.

I attended his memorial service and witnessed a huge outpouring of grief, support and love for Red’s life and his family. Red was killed in Mississippi while on a solo bicycle trip from Wisconsin to meet a friend in New Orleans. Red leaves behind his parents Loretta and Scott and his sister Heather Vogts Dobbins.


Red with his sister Heather at her wedding last August

The crowd at the memorial service was very large and moved slowly through a long line to pay respects to Red’s family. The hall was filled with pictures of Chris’ life. The following letter was enlarged on a poster  board. Please take a moment to read.


Click letter to enlarge.

I cannot imagine a more powerful testament to Red’s kindness and to the legacy he leaves, not only to these Mississippi residents, but to all of Red’s family and friends.


Red with "future Red" Boden, the son of a dear family friend.

Red with his travel rig. He road in all weather.

Remember Chris’ beautiful life when you’re out there riding and remember how he left this world with kindness and joy. WE are all Chris “Red” Vogts. Our Wisconsin nature demands that we are friendly and gracious. We love our family and our friends. We love our state. We are people who love to ride.


Soaking in the Pacific during bike trip with friends from Vancouver to San Francisco.

We do not know who we will touch in life or what the next moment will bring. Like Red, we should Ride On.


Ride On

About Kevin Hardman, Former Executive Director

Kevin is the former Executive Director of the Wisconsin Bike Fed. He lives in Wauwatosa with his wife and three daughters. Kevin is happiest on a bike, any type of bike!

13 thoughts on “When You Ride, Remember This Beautiful Life

  1. Amen, I was at the service. I could not express how well Red embodied the joy of cycling. Like Bob Marley’s song, he was a “Positive Vibration.” I will keep the service card in my bike bag and he will help me climb hills. I feel blessed to have known him.

  2. Thanks for posting Kevin. It’s a great tribute and inspiration to us all. I bet if he survived the accident he would have continued to ride and carry a message of kindness and resilience to us all. His friends and family have lost an incredible presence in their lives and we’ve all lost a great ambassador. 🙁

  3. Thanks for posting, I never knew him but he sounded like a wonderful person and the letter exemplifies that very clearly and perfectly. More people should live this was, myself included, that will be my take away.

  4. Since I have never had a chance to meet Chris it was great to read about this. It would be nice if more people could “slow down and enjoy life”. Everyone is so busy that we forget “life is very precious” time is not always
    on our side.

  5. Red is someone who constantly inspires me to find joy in life, to do what makes me happy, and to ride my bike as much as possible. Red’s positive energy was a glow that continues to impact all of us who knew him – and so many who never had the pleasure of meeting him. There are dozens, maybe 100s, of people who decided to get a bike or who went on their first tour because Red shared with them the joy and freedom of cycling. His commitment to safety was ever vigilant over the 10s of 1000s of miles he put on his many bikes. Whether on a short cruise around the corner or biking to San Francisco from Madison, I never knew Red to ride without a helmet, many reflectors and lights flashing. As someone who has known Red for years and put in some miles riding together, his death has come as a complete shock. While I miss him every day, I keep the joy and positive energy that was his glow in the front of my mind. When I ride everyday, I ride for Red. Cold, wet, sunny, icy, warm, or dark – Red’s ability to travel by bicycle with confidence and grace is a lesson to do what we love and to be extremely good at what we do.

    Thank you so much for publishing this piece about Red, and I hope that we can come together as a community to insist that safety for cyclists and appropriate cycling routes are of primary concern to decision-makers and motorists alike. We share this world. I was blessed to share it with Red. And I hope that many more people find the courage and joy of living life to the fullest through his life.

  6. Beautiful. Yes.
    It’s the truth. It would be splendid if everyone reading this article (and thank you for publishing it) could somehow really recognize that this particular use of the word /beautiful/ matches up with what we’d all identify as “the real meaning of the word.” You know, when you wish a word like “beautiful” or “love” were reserved just for those special occasions when we really mean it? Red is one of those occasions. Really, beautiful.

    I don’t know if I can do more than echo the reasons why it is so apt to describe Red this way – I’m one of the many who still ride my bike all the time (for joy!) in part because I crossed paths with Red about 5 years ago. Not unrelated to the joy of bicycling, it seems to me he had a sense of wonder keener than most, a sensual side that let him see and hear things feelingly, fully. All sorts of things.

    I can say this. After knowing him for maybe a year, and not staying in touch since, when I think of him being gone I can’t stop crying. Why? How can I explain my deep sadness? Maybe it’s just that I can never hope to run into him again. And the impossibility of ever again having that particular occasion of beauty… is an enormous loss. I’m crying because Red was that kind of beautiful.

    To Mr. Hardman, thanks for sharing the message.

  7. Red was an amazing person. Kind, silly, honest and always down for adventure. He was there on my first bike trip, and on several rides after. I am ashamed to say that it took his death to make me realize the gift Red gave me, which was that of following your dreams, and doing what you love no matter what. E’rything real big. There is solace in the fact that everyone we spend time with becomes a part of us in some way, their ideas and thoughts and mannerisms are meshed with our own and their impact lives on. The realization of my own dreams will have Red written all over them, and though I would rather have my friend back I will be forever thankful he was a part of my life.

  8. Christopher Vogts, Red, was the type of guy who would drive you from LaCrosse to the state wrestling tournament in Madison on a school night so you could watch your younger brother compete, the type who would roll up to your place in Squaw Valley, CA 5 years later on his bicycle and wash all his clothes with Dr. Bronners in your bathroom sink and lay them on your balcony to dry, the type who would sleep in a cave in the middle of January with his friends, the person who would cook you vegan mac n cheese with nutritional yeast and teach you to love rutabagas, the person who would leave you lilacs and poems about bicycles in your bicycle basket so you would have something beautiful in the morning, the person who you could smoke all day with and listen to Bob Marley records while cuddling on a futon in his dorm room. Such good memories ♥

  9. Thoughts have been bouncing around in my brain for weeks and months now, trying to come up with the perfect words to write, to share the gratitude for Red’s life and heartache felt in his absence. There’s so much to say, it’s like walking through water with the weight of a thousand years in my heart.

    In a life filled with so many adventures and stories, one comes to mind that I feel explains the best way I can how much Red meant to me. When I decided to go back to school, I moved to a city I had known, but no longer felt comfortable in, as many of my friends had moved on. Red wouldn’t let me be lonely. He would ride his bike from Madison to La Crosse (around 140 miles!) on weekends to hang out, go for walks, explorations, and bike rides. Not many people would do that over and over for someone.

    My life was changed forever when he entered it. He would play that mandolin and guitar relentlessly banging on my door to sing me his newest songs (very loudly I might add…), teach me how to find the good in things, fix my bikes, travel cross country for my art shows, give long gangly hugs, write post cards and letters, help anyone who needed it, and listen to anything I had to say. He got me to slow down and look at things. See what beauty the world was blessing us with in a life filled with constant motion.

    Sometimes the kids I teach, paint and draw in red, gold, and green and I get chills thinking of you. Sometimes, my heart just aches. I recently read an essay discussing energy, and how it is neither created nor destroyed, and I think yours must still be out there, just not as together in one place as it once was. You are everywhere now.

    Do it Real Big.

  10. With a full heart, I am so thankful for this blog post, and for those who have shared their experience with our mutual friend, Red. To his family and friends, my sincerest of condolences. I was just so shocked and saddened when I heard the news, my body heavy with the weight of it. Now, it’s been more than two months and I’ve been thinking of Red – Earth Day and the best biking weather remind me of our times in college, where we met through our involvement with the Environmental Council and the Progressives.

    So many memories surfaced that I hadn’t thought of in years. It wasn’t long after I heard the sad news of Red’s abrupt release from this earthly experience, that I realized the extent of his impact on my life. My time spent with Red influenced me. It’s surreal to have this realization of a friend who hasn’t been in my life for five years, but it’s true. And I feel so blessed for everything that he shared with me. Including a bike. He definitely gave me a bike once.

    When I was hit by a car while riding my bike in La Crosse, Red and Carly were there in the hospital with me when I learned that I would have to stay overnight in the hospital. Not only that but my bicycle was wrecked! Overwhelmed and with tears welling up, Red assured me he would find a bicycle for me. And he did. He replaced my childhood purple huffy mountain bike with a 1976 Schwinn Varsity, color : red-orange, affectionately r’orange. I traded him the bike for $5 and a six pack of new glarus spotted cow. My first road bike. I absolutely loved that bike! After the accident and brief hiatus from riding, my love of biking only grew stronger. I loved biking with friends, would often turn to whichever sweet friend I happened to be with and ask, “Do you want to bike into the sunset with me?” to which their response was usually just a smile. Then we’d take off for the western horizon, biking until we reached the Mississippi River.

    I came to love our monthly community bike rides in La Crosse. We would ride the last Friday of each month – sometimes 30 people, sometimes just a few of us from Environmental Council. I found them to be liberating and invigorating moments with friends. It was a living and breathing celebration of freedom, riding together in the streets – just us and our bikes and the road before us as we rode with no particular route or destination. It was a beautiful thing. To this day some of my happiest memories involve me on a bicycle, riding with groups of people or alone. When Red’s sweet and generous soul found and fixed that Schwinn, he shared that with me. Red lives in those memories. His love and passion for riding is my own, and I hold it so dearly. I hold Red, his life, and his love, so dearly. It is impossible to separate my life from Red’s life – each time I ride, with my Wisconsin pride, and the spirit of adventure…

    With so much love, I am forever grateful for all Red shared with me.

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