Police Unity Tour 2011: Reflections

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The Police Unity Tour is in its 15th year now. It started off with 18 riders. This year there were around 1500 riders riding from New Jersey, Virginia and on the Challenge Ride. There is also an army of volunteers, police motor cycle riders etc. contributing to this event.

On the chapter 1 ride alone there were around 650 cyclists plus helpers. Thus in each town we stopped accommodation had to be found for the best part of 1000 people. No mean undertaking.

The purpose of the ride?

According to the PUT website it is as follows:

  • The primary purpose of the PUT is to raise awareness of Law Enforcement Officers who have died in the line of duty
  • The secondary purpose of the PUT is to raise funds for the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and Museum.

There are in my personal view a number of other purposes of the ride including (this is not meant to be an exhaustive list):

  • Providing a place where officers from across the system, both county, state and federal officers as well as international officers can meet and share a common purpose. This in my view helps bring a better understanding of the whole legal system.
  • Helps provide support for those officers who have experienced the loss of colleagues.
  • Helps provide support for those relatives of fallen officers, who choose to ride the event. The fact that survivors come back to ride again proves this.
  • The ride raises the profile of law enforcement officers across the USA and reinforces that they are normal people doing an extra ordinary job.
  • The ride provides a challenge to the participants many if not most of whom are not regular cyclists. Riding 300 miles over 4 days is a challenge to the body.
  • Perhaps the most important thing it does is let the survivors know that they are not alone and that all us riders care for them and the loss they have suffered. The sight of so many PUT clad people at the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial during Police Week is an indication of this to the survivors and the thanks and gratitude of the survivors to the riders is humbling. We only ride  bikes, their spouses gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Thanks To The People Who Make It Happen

The planning of such a ride is a task that is beyond the imagination of me. The booking of the hotels in each town, the arranging of transportation of luggage, the arranging rest stops and the necessary food and drink as well as portaloos, the route planning, the obtaining permission for road closures etc.. Not to mention the first aid, mobile workshops, sag wagons etc. There is a whole army of people involved.  I don’t want to start to list people because I’d be bound to forget some and offend them. Every single support person raises funds to enable them to take part in this event. They are the real heroes.

The people who were handing out the sunscreen at the rest stop when we had forgotten ours. The people who managed to find spare kit when we had lost or damaged ours. The people who were there with words of encouragement when the going was hard. The people who somehow managed to find lost luggage. The people who managed to help arrange for friends and relatives to meet us in Washington.

The people who volunteered to pick us up at all times of day or night from Newark Airport and drive us to East Hanover for the hotel.

Great Riding Conditions and Route

The route followed a similar pattern to previous years except this year we were able to ride through the Holland Tunnel into NYC and past Ground Zero. The route is not flat, neither is it too difficult for an experienced rider.

Day 1 is mainly around Newark and Jersey City, the roads are very potholed, there are a lot of short steep ups and down. The pace is varying. It is a bit like riding a criterium racing, lots of speeding up and slowing down. It is relatively short however.

Day 2 was the longest day at just over 100 miles. There were several short steep inclines and at around the 85 mile stage was the Commodore Barry Bridge which is over 2 miles up and over. This is a toll road that is closed for us.

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THREE VIEWS OF THE COMMODORE BARRY BRIDGE

Day 3 was another relatively long day at around 90 miles. It is traditionally the fastest day. We are travelling a relatively flat route through the Maryland countryside. This year we reached the afternoon stop 1 hour ahead of last year.

Day 4 was a short hilly ride to DC and then the fantastic parade into the memorial. All 1400+ riders from the three rides.

The weather for the ride could not have been more perfect. We had four days of glorious sunshine with temperatures hitting the 80s. There was little or no wind. The only dangers were sunburn and dehydration. On day 2 I drank the best part of 6-8 litres of fluids.

Good Company

I must mention Team Ohio for their great company and support.

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Part of Team Ohio – Erik, Lisa Craig Floyd (CEO of the NLEOM), Myself, Michael T and Jeremy

Michael T – who talks to anyone and everyone and who invited me and also Lisa to ride in the PUT. I roomed with Michael T this year and he had the cheek to complain about MY snoring.

Dee & Michael – State troopers from Ohio. Dee I rode with for miles last year and Michael who had done the ride before, but wasn’t there last year

Erik – the most laid back of the Ohio riders. Again, he rode last year. This year we spent the day of the candle light vigil sight seeing. Erik took me to the restaurant that was the first President Obama was seen eating in in Washington after his election. The very unpretentious Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Jeremy – along with Lisa, He was a PUT virgin. He also tried to get the record for the most water bottles lost in a single event. I think by the end of the ride he understood that water bottles go into the bottle cages, not dropped onto the road. Jeremy shared his photos with Lisa and I, so some of the pictures on here belong to him. They were taken with his mobile phone- a Motorola Droid and are simply excellent quality pictures. A great lad and I hope to meet him and his charming wife again next year.

Lisa – like me, Lisa is an adopted Ohioan for the PUT. Again, like me Lisa is an employee of HM Queen Elizabeth II. Lisa is a Canadian and as I said above was a PUT virgin this year. Lisa who hadn’t ridden a bike until last October proved to be not only a good rider who completed the ride easily, but she was also a dab hand at massage, sewing, a provider of herbal potions and substances for easing aches and improving performance ( well maybe not performance enhancing).

Finally, I must just say thanks to everyone who sponsored me. The ride has raised over $1.5 million this year so far. Your sponsorship is much appreciated

 

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The National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial in Washington – the destination of our ride

Ground Hopping: Shankweilers Drive In Cinema: Orefield, PA 22nd May 2011

Ever since I first travelled on part of Route 66 and saw the outside of a Drive In Cinema, I have wanted to attend one. Unfortunately everytime I have been near a drive In, it has been closed or gone dark (closed for good).

This trip to the USA, I decided that I would try to plan my route so that I could get to an open cinema. At this time of year, most Drive Ins are only open on weekends. This would limit my options. I also knew that I would have to drive the 400 or so miles from Hudson Ohio to Newark and did not want to do all that on the day I was due to catch my flight. So, using the internet to find Drive In cinemas and Google maps to locate them, I came across several cinemas between Hudson and Newark. Take into account the fact Philadelphia Union were at home on 21st May and I set on the Shankweilers Drive In @ Orefield in Pennsylvania. This was apparently  the 2nd Drive In in the USA and is the oldest still in operation.

The hotel I booked was only 4 miles from the cinema and 80 miles from Newark Airport, so ideal location. Excited, you bet I was.

The first sign of the cinema was the classic neon road sign

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This pointed towards the entrance which again had the neon sign.

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As the weather was not so good, the cinema was not very busy- no more than around 30 vehicles. It cost $8 per person to get in. Cheaper than the UK for a normal cinema. There was a double bill, Pirates of the Caribbean : On Stranger Tides and Soul Surfer.

I parked up and took a wander around and got to meet Paul the owner of the site. He kindly told me about the history of the site. It originally started with someone showing film from a table onto a screen, all in the open. Nowadays there is a central projection hut that also serves as the toilets and the snack bar. The cinema and all drive ins face an uncertain future as films move from 35mm film to digital film. It will cost $85,000 to purchase the necessary equipment. Drive ins generally only open daily at the height of summer and weekends only in spring and autumn. I can understand Paul’s dilemma but it would be sad to see drive ins die out. They are an iconic part of the image of America. This cinema is now some approximately 80 years old.

The cars park next to poles, 4x$s and larger vehicles next to yellow poles and others next to white poles. I was surprised to see some vehicles parked facing away from the screen. Was that a reflection of the quality of the film? The truth soon became apparent. It was part of the American tradition of tailgating. People had food etc. at the back of their vehicle and some sat in the boot of their 4×4 to watch the film. Other people sat in fold away chairs in front of their vehicle.

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The latter picture shows the hut that is the projection hut,toilet block and refreshment hut.

The first film was not listed to start until 20:40, a bit late I thought, but of course they need to wait for it to be dark before they can show the film. No turning down the lights here.

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The sound for the films is obtained by tuning your vehicle stereo into the relevant FM frequency. Not sure how us cyclists would cope here!

One big issue is keeping all vehicle lights off, not just headlights. This is not as easy with modern vehicles where lights come on automatically when you open a door and stay on for 10 seconds or so after door is opened. On older cars it was easier to turn lights off, but I was not sure how to do this. So, I no doubt caused disruption to others when I went to the toilet.

What was the experience like? Well I can report that I did not fall asleep in this cinema, so it must have been a better experience than a normal cinema. Would I attend a drive in again – definitely. I’d rather go to a drive in than a normal cinema.

Here’s hoping that Paul and other drive in owners can find a solution to the cost of the new digital equipment.

 

Admission $8 – very reasonable in my opinion

Food – range of food and drinks including burgers, pop and of course buckets of popcorn – again very reasonably priced

Sound – via FM radio and excellent quality

Film Quality – As its my first time at a drive in, I didn’t know what to expect, but it was excellent