Ride of Silence



Crooked Tan Lines: July 8, 2013, 8pm, Sedro Woolley, WA

Opening day for anyone is always filled with nerves. That first game of the season, or the first time back after a lay-off. No one is immune to it. All of us go through it.

The first mile of even the most veteran of marathons is where the athlete finds his rhythm, and himself. Will his expectations be met today or will they fall like rocks off a cliff?

I was looking forward to today, our first ride (98 miles, Everett to Sedro Woolley, 5500’ of climbing), to shake things out. To get in the saddle and do what I do, what I’ve been focusing six months for, what I’ve been planning six years for, and what I’ve been dreaming about since before I was 6 years old. To quote Alice Cooper, from Hello Hooray, “I’ve been ready.”

The 30+ riders weren’t jocking for position as much as trying to find their comfort level, to learn who they should ride with and not ride with. Some are better and more experienced riders who’d prefer not to risk going down because of someone less experienced. Likewise, a less experienced rider doesn’t want to get sucked in over his head at a pace he can’t maintain. So it works both ways.

After crossing on a ferry to an island, we hit a bunch of different types of riding. Empty roads along the ocean with wide shoulders and crowded boulevards with no shoulder. (At one point, we went over Deception Pass Gorge. Beautiful view where the “jumpers” go the local policemen told us.) But in all cases, the drivers were considerate and the roads were a dream!

Lance and I educated the rest of the riders about riding with Dallas drivers and a chip sealed road surface that rattles fillings loose. And while they told us about hills and mountains (“We have overpasses,” we’d say.), we told them about the ever present wind and infernal heat of summer.

This morning, I wore my winter cycling clothes. Ear covering cap, gloves, tights, jacket, arm warmers, and two extra layers. It was cold and this is July. This hasn’t helped my sore throat and sniffles.

Tomorrow’s 128 miler is supposed to be cold at the start again, and then probably when we climb, too. (The climb is 40 mile climb over Rt. 20 that starts at Mile 60 on the way to Winthop, WA.) We may not feel the warmth of summer until Wisconsin or Michigan.

I met one of the crew after dinner last night who knew Larry Schwartz, one of my inspirations for doing this ride. Steve told me stories about Larry I hadn’t heard when they both rode the PAC Tour together.

Larry Schwartz was struck and killed by the mirror of a passing school bus while cycling outside of Dallas, May 4, 2003.

Two days later at the funeral, I suggested the cycling community do something to memorialize Larry, who had set national endurance records. There was not a lot of motivation by those I looked up to as movers and shakers. All were non-committal, probably for very good reasons. I was primarily a runner and therefore outside the cycling circle. Certainly being an outsider, I wasn’t the one who would band cyclists together.

But Larry was a friend. Very humble himself, he rode with anyone, at any time, including me, a pseudo runner and triathlete wannabe.

Frustrated after the funeral, I waited until 10 p.m., Sunday, May 11 for an announcement of a ride or meeting of some sort, anything. I felt someone would do something. Surely, somebody out there was as frustrated as I was. There was nothing. Angry that no one appeared to be doing anything to mark Larry’s senseless death, I sent out a few e-mails in defiance, stating I was going to ride around Dallas’ nine-mile rim of White Rock Lake in silence, 10 days later, on Wednesday, May 21. (Initially chose a Wednesday so as to not interfere with any of the cyclists’ weekend racing or training plans. Later I learned it’s a good news day.) “Hope you can join me,” I wrote half pleading and half with indignation.

White Rock Lake is where Larry used to train and enjoyed meeting up with other cyclists.

Someone wrote back and criticized me, saying the ride was useless and unsafe. I responded, in part, “If I am alone, or if a million people attend, I will be OK with either scenario.”
It was not about me, my friends, or my critics. It was about those who have been killed and who can’t speak for themselves. Believe it or not, I still get those e-mails every year.

As it was, my wife, Janalou, and a friend, Mike Keel, joined me to ride to my designated starting place. No doubt they came because they were worried no one would, and felt embarrassed for me, looking a little out of place at Dallas’ premier recreation spot for runners and cyclists, riding silently and slowly alone.

We drove over the final rise at T. P. (Texas Pacific) Hill on the west side, and, lo and behold, there were over 1,000 cyclists gathered, waiting to be led around the lake in a procession of silence. I was overwhelmed, not just emotionally, but logistically, as well. There were no plans, amenities, cones, or announcing system in place.

This could have turned ugly very fast, as traffic was grid locked. The local TV news stations and newspaper also got in the act trying their best to understand, then explain, what was happening. There were helicopters in the air. The police came by and wanted to know what the problem was. I explained, quickly.

Officer Perry Skidmore called for backup. He asked if we wanted an escort.

During the ride, one could hear a pin drop or, at least, sniffles and sobbing. I was choked up thinking about Larry and hearing the passion of these people I was riding along side.

The ride had no fees, registration, or disclaimer. It was totally grassroots. A bunch of people getting together to ride, that’s all. For the most part, it has remained so ever since. It is still run entirely by volunteers without any cash flow or budget.

I was so thankful the entire ride went off without a hitch. But, life changed immediately. Today, I wore my Ride Of Silence shirt and socks today for the ride, the same ride Larry once did.

I'm hoping to raise awareness of The Ride Of Silence and its cause by riding across the U.S. I hope to meet and talk about as I make my way to Williamsburg, VA. Stay tuned.