FREMONT -- Due to frosty weather early Saturday, John Pickens, 66, decided to put off leaving his Newark home on a road cycling trip by about three hours.
The seemingly minor change in plans set into motion a chain of events that ended with the husband, grandfather and Cisco Systems engineer being thrown from his bike and fatally striking his head. As he always did, Pickens wore a helmet when he rode away around 11 a.m., said his wife, Melinda Pickens. This time, however, he didn't make it home.
Police say he crashed around 12:45 p.m. near the intersection of Palomares and Niles Canyon roads, just north of the Fremont city limits.
California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Creel did not immediately respond to a request for information, but Pickens' wife said police told her it appears he pulled off the roadway to let a truck pass before the wreck. Once Pickens' bike wheels hit the gravel on the shoulder, the bike went down. He seems to have struck his head on a boulder, his wife said.
Pickens was a seasoned rider who had planned to ride out with a group of friends around 8 a.m. Saturday. But hoping for warmer weather -- it was in the low 40s early Saturday according to The Weather Channel -- Pickens changed his mind and opted to head out later on his own.
The suddenness of the loss of the quiet, family-loving man left his relatives stunned.
"I keep thinking he is just on a trip and that he'll be back," Melinda Pickens, 65, said. "I'm pretty much in shock."
John Pickens moved to the Bay Area as a teen about 1960 and then headed south for college at UC Santa Barbara. He and Melinda married in 1970 and moved to Newark in 1976. They have three children and four grandchildren.
In his roughly 45-year career in computer technology, which included work on the Internet precursor, ARPANET, Pickens was most recently a "distinguished engineer" for Cisco Systems, according to his LinkedIn profile. A colleague at Cisco, David Yates, wrote on the profile: "He is intelligent, precise, hardworking and great to work on a team with."
Pickens' wife said her husband's organs and tissues have been donated. The family has not set a date for a memorial service.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.