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.