We Ride For Those Who Died

A post from me on a Saturday normally means I have been to a football match and am doing a write up. This week however that is not the case. I did not go to any football today, despite there being a number of games locally.

No, I am not self isolating, nor am I ill. Instead of going to football today, I went out on my bike. Today was the 3rd of the 10 days over which the Virtual UK Police Unity Tour is taking place. Normally the last weekend in July the UK Police Unity Tour takes places and we ride from various locations across the UK to the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire to raise funds for UK COPS.

To quote from their website,

Care of Police Survivors (COPS) is a charity that supports the families of police officers and staff who have lost their lives on duty.

Having been luck to have taken part in every UK Police Unity Tour since its inception in 2013, and also in the US Police Unity Tour on 4 occasions prior to that, I have been privileged to see the fantastic work that UK COPS do.

It is a Charity run by survivors (relatives of police officers killed in the line of duty), providing help and support to other survivors. It is a club no one want to be a member of, but sadly every year additional families become members whether as a result of criminal acts or accidents. No one deserves to die doing their job.

However, what is easy to forget are the families left behind following the death of a serving police officer. Those families said goodbye to their loved one as he set off for work, but never got to speak to them again.

Those widows or widowers , parents, children have to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. It is not an easy task when you have lost suddenly without warning your loved one.

UK COPS provide vital help and support to deal with the emotional turmoil, whether it be someone to listen, offer advice or provide more practical help.

Sadly in the last year or so, we have lost a number of officers killed as a result of criminal acts. PC Andrew Harper was killed in Thames Valley by thieves trying to steal a Quad Bike. He had only been married 4 weeks before his death. He & his partner had not even had their honeymoon.

Then more recently there was the murder of Sgt Matt Ratana who was shot whilst acting as Custody Sergeant at Croydon Police Station by a prisoner. He was heading towards retirement in 2 months time and had volunteered to work as a Custody Sergeant because he felt it was a safer role than being out on the streets. Again, he leaves behind a partner and a son.

As I said, normally we have rides from across the UK to the National Memorial Arboretum in July to coincide with the UK COPS annual Survivors’ Weekend. Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Survivors’ Weekend was cancelled as was the Police Unity Tour. Instead the Organizing Committee agreed to my suggestion to run a Virtual Event with riders expected to complete 100 miles in a 10 day period whether out on the road ( as old fashioned cyclists like me have done), or using gym bikes, turbo trainers etc whether linked to Zwift or not. That is some form of computer game – or at least its what I say to wind up those who won’t venture out onto the road. Bloody soft southerners complaining its too cold or too wet to venture outside  on the road. Have they never heard of Rule 5 ? Every cyclist should remember that rule.


UK PUT

So, I headed out before work on Thursday and did 25.72 miles and after work, I did another 16.06 miles. Neither work in particularly good weather and both were at rush hour. Friday, I did another 28.42 miles before work and got a visit from the p*nct*re fairy for my troubles. That was 70 miles done, so today Saturday, I decided to sacrifice going to football to do another 30 mile ride to bring up the 100 miles. As it was such a nice day, that 30 mile ride turned into a 41 mile ride and would have been longer, but I had to return home to sort out the workmen repairing my house roof.

Today’s ride took me on a route I have ridden many times over the last 20 years, and one I used to ride most Sunday’s with my son when he was little. I only recently discovered that on the hill out of Stapleford Abbotts, there was a police officer George Gutteridge murdered in 1927. So today, I took a minute out of my ride to pay my respects to him.

So I have done 111 miles in the first 3 of the 10 days available for doing the Virtual UK Police Unity Tour. I think it may be too much of a challenge to me not to complete a total of 200 miles in this time.


If any of you kind folk wish to sponsor me, then follow the links below and donate online. Any amount will help this charity continue its fantastic work.

http://www.justgiving.com/owner-email/pleasesponsor/PeterBennett2020




Ground Hopping USA Style: Philadelphia Union v LA Galaxy 15th May 2013

This was a bonus game and a return to a ground I visited in May 2011. As I mentioned in my earlier blog post, I was visiting Philadelphia with my mother, sister and brother. As I was showing them the Commodore Barry Bridge next to the Philadelphia Union ground on Tuesday 14th May, I noticed a sign advertising a game between Philadelphia Union v LA Galaxy on 15th May. A chance to take in another Philadelphia Union game seemed to be too good an opportunity to miss.

So, after begging and pleading I got permission from my mummy to go to the game. Boy can I beg and plead with the best of them- well so Michelle says. Oh and no, I did not stamp my feet or pull my sulky face.

So 15th May saw my brother and I heading down to Chester, West Philadelphia to go to the PPL Park for the game. Martin, my brother had never been to a game in the USA before, so it was a new experience for him.

The first thing to note is the ground is around 20 miles from the centre of Philadelphia, but this is not unusual for US sporting teams. The ground is in one of the less salubrious parts of town and one I would not like to walk around at night alone. Parking at the ground is plentiful, and very profitable for the Union at $20 per vehicle. Put this into context, match tickets were only $25 each for excellent seats behind the goal.

After parking, we bought match tickets and then took a wander around the ground. Outside the ground there is what can only be designed as a fan zone, with a live band, lots of stalls advertising other events, and kids play areas as well as the obligatory food and alcohol stalls.

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Martin commented on the number of female fans there were at the fan zone. He was right, there were indeed far more females than you see at an English game. The atmosphere was very friendly. There was non of the edge that you get at games across Europe. It was indeed a real family atmosphere.

We then had a wander round to the Sons Of Ben BBQ area. This is an area reserved for the Union supporters club who make lots of noise and have exclusive use in the ground of the Riverside End. They spend the whole game making lots of noise and providing passionate support to their team. Two years ago, I managed to gatecrash their BBQ and got free food, beer etc and purchased a couple of t shirts. This time with it being a night game, the BBQ etc did not take place. This was slightly disappointing, but understandable.

Continuing around the outside of the ground, I was explaining to Martin how their would be no away fans as LA was some 2,500 or so miles from Philadelphia. Just as I aid this we bumped into a group of around 50 or so LA Galaxy Fans who had flown to Philadelphia especially for this game and were then heading to New York for the game there on the Sunday.

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These guys are amazing. We in England complain about a round trip of 500 miles. These guys are doing over 5000 miles for an away game, a midweek game at that. I had a few minutes chat with them. Inside the ground, this small band of fans gave fantastic support to their team for the whole 90 minutes despite being massively outnumbered. Its good to see such passion and loyalty amongst football fans has engulfed the USA.

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Once inside the ground, it was no surprise to find that the stadium had not changed in the last 2 years. The ground is a very new ground and as good facilities as you will find anywhere.

The prices inside the ground were as expensive as in the English Premiership, with a pint of beer being $9.50 and a small bottle of lager $5. Food was equally as expensive. Premiership values? Not sure about that that, but definitely premiership prices for food and drink.

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The teams come out behind the Stars and Stripes Flag and then the National Anthem is played before kick off. As always in the USA, the Anthem is respected.

The game itself saw LA Galaxy a goal up almost straight from the kick off. A route was looking likely. LA Galaxy had Robbie Keane upfront and Landon Donovan the USA captain and ex Chelsea keeper Carlo Cuddiccini playing. The next 10 or so minutes confirmed that it would be an LA Galaxy route, but slowly Union got back into the game and eventually equalised, but then just before half time conceded a 2nd goal.

The second half was largely even until Galaxy scored a 3rd and then a fourth goal. As back in England, the 3rd and 4th goals produced mass exoduses of home fans from the ground. This pleased me on a selfish level as it meant the car park was less busy when we left.

Despite the football, the Sons of Ben gave 90 minutes of loud raucous support.

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Leaving the ground after the game, it was good to see that Martin had enjoyed himself. It was nice to spend a rare evening with him. Perhaps I can get him to come and watch Spennymoor with me- got to try recruiting people. It was also nice that my mother and sister had been able to had a night to themselves. So it had been a good night all round.

My thoughts on the game were as follows:

1. The standard of football was certainly top end of Championship if not Premiership standard

2. There was far less cheating and diving than in professional games in England.

3. The lack of dissent from the players to the officials was very noticeable

4. The support from the Sons of Ben and the away fans was passionate and never ceased for the full 90 minutes of the game.

5. The atmosphere in the ground was very family friendly with lots of females present

6. The Americans seem to be more obsessed by statistics than we are in England. This is a feature of all American sports coverage of all sports

7. The Americans still have, in general, to develop an understanding of the game in the same was as found in Europe.

 

Would I go back again? Definitely. I thoroughly enjoyed my 3rd MLS game and my 2nd visit to Philadelphia.

We Remembered The Fallen

It’s Tuesday morning here in DC and its time to pack my bags and flee this beautiful city. I get nervous when the police are around and there are several thousand here at present! Seriously, I’m meeting my mother, sister and brother this morning and we are heading off to Philadelphia for a couple of days. It will be good to spend some time with them as the last 2 days have been manic and I’ve not seen them very much.

I see on my last post, I promised to write more about arriving in Dc etc.

Well when we arrive in DC, the survivors (relatives of deceased officers) are sent to the front of the ride and they lead us into the memorial. I was lucky and was in the line not far behind them. I had meticulously planned with my family where to stand and rode on the left side of the ride so as to ride past them. My sister texted me to tell me exactly where they were stood, which was where I had told them. Then the ride came down the street from the opposite direction! – damn American’s – first they drive on the wrong side of the street, now they have us cycling the wrong way. Anyway, I did manage to see my mother and vice versa. It  was a special moment riding into the memorial as ever, but even more so as a result of some of my family being there. If only Michelle had been able to make it out, then it would have been perfect.

Once we had ridden through the memorial, it was time to find friends, family and those in whose memory we had ridden. This year was a little chaotic as I had not made plans. I met my family, then I met the family of Preston Parnell, the US Postal Service Inspector I had ridden in memory of and handed over my bracelet to them. Then I met Barb’s mother who had surprised her by meeting her at the memorial. Finally, I got to say more than a few words to my family and introduced them to my Police Unity Tour family.

There is always a welcoming ceremony at the memorial. As it was about to start, I saw 2 Metropolitan Police officers in full uniform. I approached them and said words to the effect of “you should be riding with us next year not in uniform”. Immediately one officer said to me,”You’re Peter Bennett, we’ve been looking for you all week!” Sudden panic sets in and I am wondering if you can be extradicted for not paying a library book fine dating back 30 years?… It turned out they wanted to let me know about the ride being planned for the UK in July. Relief!

At the ceremony, Craig Floyd the CEO of the Memorial made a specific mention of me and a conversation we had. I was also mentioned by the President of Chapter 1 of the Police Unity Tour in his speech. It is nice to get recognition although I ride for those who died and for my pleasure, not recognition.

Sunday night was a few beers and a meal with our Ohio group and some of Lisa’s team from Ontario. Jeremy and I left after the meal to go to another restaurant – no, not for more food, but to get one of the Copper Ale Commemorative glasses from the Chop House. It is a tradition that the Chop House brews a special beer and provides glasses to mark Police Week. Whilst at the bar having a few beers, I was stood next to someone who was clearly unhappy or uncomfortable at being surrounded by police officers. He could have done better than coming out in the centre of DC on a night when there are in excess of 20,000 police officers in town and the Chop House is one of the most famous venues for police parties.

The one downside about Sunday was that I never got to speak to Michelle. We never managed to co-ordinate our schedules. It seemed like I was missing an important aspect of my day.

Monday 13th May is the date of the candlelight vigil. I spent part of the morning at the memorial. Foolishly, I looked at some of the tributes left to the fallen.

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Do you need to ask why I ride after reading that tribute. Even now some 24 hours on it is heartbreaking to read.

After leaving the memorial, Jeremy and I went to the Fraternal Order of Police’s “Tent City” which is a bar/ market. We then came back to the hotel as Jeremy was taking part in the vigil. He was escorting survivors from the coaches to their seats, so he had to be in full dress uniform. I used the time to chat to Michelle and then after that to sort out a little gift for Mike to thank him for all he has done for us all over the last 4 years. I managed 2 skype calls to Michelle today. Sadly neither were as long as I would have liked, but I have Friday to look forward to as Michelle is coming down to be with me. It seems so much harder when the distance is thousands of miles.

I had dinner with part of my group and a journalist from Cleveland, Ohio and then we all attended a ceremony at the US Postal Service Museum to honour their fallen officer, Preston Parnell one of 2 officer’s in whose memory I rode. The ceremony was a very nice ceremony and was hosted in a wonderful building. The US Postal Museum is worth visiting in DC. It is next to the Equally wonderful Union Station. It is a little bit more impressive than say London Euston!

The candlelight vigil provided me with the chance to meet Jeffrey Davies’ father and family and hand over my bracelet to them. It was a very difficult time for them, and seeing their hurt made me realise just how important the Police Unity Tour is and how it helps heal the grief. It is the coming together of the Law Enforcement family to support its own.

The Vigil is sad in so many ways, not least because it entails saying goodbye to so many friends.

Today is a new day, and its off to Philadelphia as I said before, before heading home on Thursday

Police Unity Tour 2013: Day 4 –

The final day of the 2013 tour is over. It was a day that has touched me more than I imagined possible. Where Do I start? Probably at the beginning is a good place.

Well, after yesterday’s abortive ride, the weather to day was much better. The sun was out, but there was a relatively strong headwind. however, this would merely sort out the men from the boys.

The ride as usual set out relatively slowly and along the way we picked up 2 other groups of riders. The first and only stop of the day was at a Target store after 19 miles. This was a relatively hilly 19 miles, but I am pleased to say that no one rode stronger than me as far as I am aware. I rode up the front and never had to get out of my saddle on the hills. I had my GPS programmed with last year’s ride, so I knew where all the hills were coming and how steep they were. This was a huge advantage. In 2010, I struggled up the first main hill of the day. This year, I rode past other riders up the hill (but still stayed behind the lead car). I put this down to losing weight. It is a good reason to lose more weight. I enjoyed the hills and actually wished there was more of them. This was no doubt helped by how slow we went up the hill

We made it to the RFK Stadium with no major mishaps and no problems, although we were the last ride to arrive. After a short break and a chat with a couple of English Police officers [ more to follow tomorrow on this], we were on our way to the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial.

We arrived at the memorial from the opposite direction to previous years, but this did not stop me from seeing my mother, sister and brother as we rode in. I was so proud they could see this event and share the emotion with me. The fact it was mother’s day in the USA made it more special

I  have to make a special mention for two people. Barb whom I have mentioned before completed the ride without being in the sag wagon at any time. This time last year, I and others rode in the memory of her father and step father who were both police officers who died in the course of their duty. Barb expressed the wish to complete the ride. I can say now that I never thought this was anything more than the fantasy wishes of someone carried away in the emotion of the day.

Well, Barb proved me wrong. She trained for the event and was a joy to have as part of our team. She rode all of the 3 days we rode and she should be as proud of herself as I am of her. She was not a cyclist before this event, but she most certainly is now. Barb, I hope you enjoyed riding with us as much as we enjoyed being with you. I would love it if you joined us again next year. Team Ohio International needs people like you.

The next person who I would like to mention is Jeremy Benedict, an officer from Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. He rode this year in memory of his good friend who died in a car accident caused by a drunken driver whilst responding to a 911 call. The hardest part for Jeremy is that his friend died 98 days after his twins were born – talk about mixed emotions.

I have already mentioned the fact my mother and brother and sister were able to be at the memorial today. I hope they experienced even a fraction of the emotion I feel in seeing the crowds welcoming us to the memorial. We do not deserve that adulation as all we are doing it riding our bikes.

Tonight I have been out for dinner with a group of brothers and comrades from across the USA and Canada. A very special occasion. I will write more tomorrow, but will end by saying:

1. This was a great event again

2. I’ll be back

3. There is to be a UK ride this summer

Police Unity Tour 2013: Day 3 Road to Nowhere

What a difference 24 hours make. Well 24 hours ago, Wigan had never won a major trophy and now they are FA Cup holders.

The last 24 hours also made a huge difference to my experience of the Police Unity Tour.

Last night we had some ferocious storms whilst we were asleep. Indeed, the wind, rain and thunder & lightning woke me up more than once in the night. However, on waking up this morning at 05:00, the rain had eased off and whilst it was damp outside, it did not seem too bad. The biggest decision to be made was what kit to wear. I settled on shorts, overshoes and a short sleeved top with my rain jacket in my pocket. At breakfast I decided to put on my cycling jacket as well. Then 2 minutes later I took it off as it was too warm, then put it back on again and repeated this several times. I then hit on the idea of getting Lisa to put my top in her rucksack. Job sorted. Time to head over to the car park opposite the hotel for the Grand Depart. The usual marshall’s meeting took place, then all the riders were told to gather behind the lead vehicle. There Pat Montuore the founder of the event, and still the police chief in Florham Park, addressed the crowd breaking the news that today’s ride had been cancelled. Pat was clearly devastated as he explained the reason for this bombshell.

Today’s ride was to be a 94 mile ride mainly through the open countryside in Maryland where there was no cover and we would be riding in thunderstorms. The organisers were not prepared to take the risk of a lightning strike perhaps sensible when there were 600 of us riding on carbon or steel lightning conductors. Pat’s speech was the speech of a true leader and he brought the whole Tour behind him and made people look at it positively.

Now we had the problem of transporting 600 cyclists and their bikes to Annapolis. This decision was announced at 07:00. We were told buses would arrive at 11:00 for us. Trucks would take the bikes and until 11:00 we could go back to our hotels. I rushed back to change out of my cycling kit only to find that our luggage had already gone. This meant I was left wearing my cycling shoes with the cleats protruding. These are not easy to walk in or very good for my knee. Jeremy & myself went on a wander to find a shop selling flip flops which we managed and ended up buying wet shoes for$10. These were comfortable & much better than cycling shoes. Then it was back to the hotel & free coffee/ tea and extra breakfast. The staff at the Inn at Wilmington looked after us well, happily providing unlimited drinks & breakfast.

I made use of the wi fi to have a bbm voice chat (like apple’s face time) with Tom. Then Jeremy & I went into Dave’s BBQ Pit for an early lunch before the buses arrived.

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The bus trip took a good couple of hours to get us here to Annapolis. We arrive here by around 2pm. It was warm and very close in Annapolis. After a quick shower and a chat with Michelle via Skype, it was time to head out for pizza and beers.

It was unusual to have the chance to see Annapolis by daylight. It is a beautiful harbour and home to the US Naval Academy. So all in all it was a bit of a non event today other than a sightseeing trip.

As I have been typing this tonight another heavy thunderstorm is overhead. The good news is that it is expected to have passed overnight and we should have a dry, albeit less warm ride tomorrow. The issue tomorrow is the wind with it forecast to be a 16-20mph headwind. The ride tomorrow is only 36 or so miles, but it is the hilliest day. The headwinds will make this even harder than it usually is, BUT…tomorrow we reach the Memorial & it will be great to see those families there who have turned out to remember loved ones. It will be especially good to see Barb ride into the monument to fulfil that dream she had last year after seeing us ride into the memorial in memory of her father and step father. Barb, I know you read this blog, and I want you to know the whole of Team Ohio International are so proud of your achievements and  the determination you have shown to overcome your problems and to honour your father (and stepfather). You have shown how a determined person can make their dream come true. We would love to see you come back again.

The Data for Today:

Miles Ridden 0.0

Breakfasts Eaten: 2 – huge calorific ones

Lunches Eaten: 1 mega calorific one

Dinner Eaten: 1 Mega Calorific pizza topped with extra calories

Beers Drunk: Numerous

Fun Had: Loads

The song for today goes something like this

The wheels on the bus go round and round
Round and round, round and round
The wheels on the bus go round and round
All day long!

The bell on the bus goes DING DING DING
DING DING DING, DING DING DING
The bell on the bus goes DING DING DING
All Day long!

The wipers on the bus go SWISH SWISH SWISH
SWISH SWISH SWISH, SWISH SWISH SWISH
The wipers on the bus go SWISH SWISH SWISH
All Day long.

The driver on the bus says
“Any more fares, any more fares, any more fares.”
The driver on the bus says: “any more fares”
All day long!

Police Unity Tour 2013: Day 2 Road to The Sun

Well day 2 is over and we are now over 1/2 way from East Hanover to DC. I’m pleased to confirm that the inner circle of riders for Team Ohio International made it safely to Wilmington today. There were a few spills along the way, but all are safe and well.

After the rain of yesterday, you may have thought it was cold, but looking in the mirror this morning I could see the start of a cyclist’s suntan. Well today was a very different day. It started off very hot and got hotter. At 09;30 it was already 80F and in the direct sunlight, temperatures of over 95F and above were recorded.

Distance: 93.36 mi

Time: 7:14:40

Avg Speed: 12.9 mph

Elevation Gain: 2,008 ft

Calories: 2,899 C

Avg Temperature: 83.0 °F

The data above gives the summary of the ride. For a lot of today, we were riding at a pace that far exceeded last year’s pace. We had a slightly longer ride today than last year as we went via the police headquarters in Chester to honour an officer who died in the last 12 months. A total ride of 93.36 miles was good fun, but the heat took its toll as did the increased pace. Many riders ended up in the Sag Wagons at some stage of the day.

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Jeremy and I rode at the front end of the ride and were rarely out of the leading 20 riders. It was good to have a familiar face, and team member able to keep up the pace with me. Jeremy is doing his 3rd Police Unity Tour and has grown massively in that time in terms of his bike skills.

I found today a very enjoyable ride for several reasons. The challenge is always to complete the ride and I did that today without getting sagged. In fact I was no where near the rear of the ride at anytime. I can safely say that I enjoyed the hills today. The fact I am 42lbs lighter than I was on 7th January this year was a major factor in this. I found that I was as fast on everyone on the hills. Even the 2 miles over the huge Commodore Barry Bridge was done without me getting out of my saddle or even changing out of the big ring on my bike. I have to say that I was rather proud of myself for how I managed today. The only downside is that I managed to get myself rather sun burned on the arms and legs. I must remember sunscreen in future.

Several riders commented on how much weight I had lost since last year. That is a huge boost to one’s confidence, and gives me an incentive to lose more weight.

I must mention another Ohio rider, Barb who despite being hard of hearing is riding her first Police Unity Tour and had 2 falls today, but despite this, she got back on here immediately and finished today’s stage without being near the sag wagon.

After the ride tonight I managed to get to chat with Michelle via Skype. its fantastic to be able to speak by video conference to someone thousands of mile away. Michelle I want you to know how much I enjoy knowing you are following me and making time to chat with me. I next weekend. can’t wait to see her when I am home

After dinner, Jeremy and I had a couple of beers at the local TGI Fridays. Then it was time for me to come back to my hotel room and type this blog before lights out. We have to be out of the hotel with our luggage by 05:30 in the morning, so there is no time for late night shenanigans.

Sadly, the weather forecast for tomorrow is for lots of rain. So it will be a fun ride of 90+ miles. Sadly the forecast is for rain all day.

 

The ride data for today is at http://connect.garmin.com/activity/310751300

The Pilgrimage Begins

Another Police unity Tour is underway and we have completed day 1. The ride today was from East Hanover to Edison both of which are in New Jersey.

The basic data of the ride are as follows:

Distance: 51.48 mi

Time: 4:26:49

Avg Speed: 11.6 mph

Elevation Gain: 1,696 ft

Calories: 1,754 C

Avg Temperature: 64.1 °F

Those basic details do not say much of what the ride is about though. This morning, an hour before the ride started, the heavens opened. Heavy rain and thunder and lightning put a dampner on the ride – literally.

By the time we lined up to start the ride, the rain had eased off until. Most rider had their helmets covered with shower caps distributed freely by the Ramada Hotel where we departed from. The words of the Pardre & the organisers at the blessing were very apt. Not the reference to liquid sunshine but the fact that we were the lucky ones to be setting off on this ride as those we were riding for do not have that luxury.

We set off in the rain, but it had eased off a bit. After 10 miles or so the rain had ceased and from then until after lunch we avoided more rain. The temperature was so much warmer than back in England, so it was not too bad.

After a morning break, we headed on to the lunch stop after 36 miles. Whilst here I was approached by Craig Floyd the CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial. He rides the first morning each year. He welcomed me back and commented on how I am Englishman was riding in memory of a Welshman in the USA! For those of you who sponsored me, this sponsorship has helped bring this about, so I thank you.

We rode on after lunch through more rain into Edison. Here we had a fantastic banquet meal provided by Albert, one of the sponsors of the Police Unity Tour. He runs a hotel and banqueting suite. The food was unlimited including the largest most succulent steaks I’ve seen for many years. The beer was also flowing freely.  Now it would have been rude to refuse such hospitality, so we had a few beers and vodkas. After returning to our hotel, I had a last beer with Jeremy, one of my fellow riders.

The data for today’s ride is online at http://connect.garmin.com/activity/310346588 and includes, maps pf the ride together with elevation data.

I found the ridee today a lot easier than last year. The hills did not cripple me like  have helped. My room mate Mike has lost 30ldid last year. The loss of 42lbs  or so since last year clearly has helped. My room mate mike has lost 30lbs. We should be team Ohio International – reduced!

Finally, I would like to mention one or two of our group this year. Barb met us at the memorial after last years ride as we had ridden in honour of her father who died in 1969 when she was 1. Barb said she would like to do the ride in 2013. It was a pipe dream, but today the dream came true and Barb rode strongly to complete the first day with ease. Well done Barb, you had a dream & made it come true.

Maggie rode last year and celebrated her 70th birthday on the ride. This year she is back again and on Saturday will celebrate her 71st birthday riding a 97 miles stage- truly remarkable at her age.

 

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Why We Ride

The Police Unity Tour is not about punishing yourself, its not a race or even a competition of any sorts. It is an event set up by police officers to honour the memories of their colleagues who have died.

I arrived in East Hanover NJ last night after being met by NJ officers at Newark Airport and was escorted for that scene. (Some of you will say that wouldn’t be the first time I have been escorted from premises). I was taken to our hotel in East Hanover, the Ramada Conference Centre and checked in, and headed straight for the bar. It was 8pm there, but 1am back in England. A couple of beers and a chance to chat with friends from previous Police Unity Tour’s. Two or three beers later and  a few late night texts to  and from Michelle to confirm I had arrived safely over here , then time for bed. Well it was until Tom texted me to tell me about Sir Alex Ferguson resigning and Wigan losing to Swansea which helps Newcastle’s position in the relegation fight. Quite why Tom was up at 02:30 am in England I’m not sure, especially as its a week night.

I had met with a couple of Colorado officers who had arranged for me to ride in memory of a fellow Englishman who died whilst serving in the Lakewood Police in Colorado. They handed me two items re  James Jeffery Davies, a card with details of his life and his date of death (aka End of Watch) and the bracelet I will wear all the way to Washington DC.

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The laminated card includes the Welsh Flag in the background as James was a Welshman by birth. This was a nice touch by his colleagues from Colorado.

However, the card and the bracelet are a reminder of the reason for this ride. James gave his life and his widow, children and parents are suffering everyday as a result. It is the thought of those people and their loss that keeps you going on the hard parts of the ride.

Wednesday morning brought torrential rain, and the forecast is for more rain each day on the ride. Not  ideal riding conditions, but I would rather be riding in such conditions than going through the same as James’s family are going through.

I should also mention the US Postal Service Inspector Preston Parnell whom I am also riding in memory of.

Wednesday morning after the rain, thunder and lightning had ceased, I took a walk out in East Hanover to the local bike shop to buy some cleats before returning to the hotel, registering for the ride and getting my welcome pack and details of my hotels for the rest of the week. Good news is we are staying in Washington DC and not Arlington this year.

I fixed my bike up after un boxing it after the fight, and sorted out the transportation of my bike box  to Washington. Then it was time to meet my room mate Mike. He is the inspiration to me to do this ride and also the inspiration for others. This could potentially be Mike’s last PUT as he retires from his job later this month.

I then was able to have an hour long chat with Michelle via Skype. It is incredible to think we can have a video chat for so long for no cost at all. It helps to make the distance seem less, only thing that is difficult is the time difference.

After the chat to Michelle, it was time to finish sorting out a present for Mike from Lisa and myself to say thanks for the last few years on the PUT. We had arranged a digital photo frame loaded with photos of Mike on the PUT with friends. This was accompanied by appropriate music. It was appreciated by Mike, even if he doesn’t admit that it brought a tear to his eye.

The rest of today was taken up with a meet and greet social session with fellow riders and a few beers. Its always nice to meet new riders and to discuss the ride to come and rides past.

Its time to head for bed now, and get a night’s sleep before the start of this year’s pilgrimage to DC and the heavy rain forecast for us to ride in.

2013 Police Unity Tour

Its that time of year again. Too late to do more training, too late to wish I had lost some more weight and too late to have bought a new bike/ travel box for the bike. These were all my intentions at the end of the 2010 Police Unity Tour and again at the end of the 2011 Police Unity Tour, and funnily enough at the end of the 2012 Police Unity Tour.

Too late, the bike is boxed up, the kit is washed and folded and I am almost on the start line. Just got to re assemble my bike, get my GPS used to the new location and psyche myself up. Some would suggest (perhaps a little unkindly) that the only type of psyche I need is a psychiatrist. Yes, Michelle I am looking at you!

Despite that fact I have three Police Unity Tour’s under my belt, it is always a little bit scary wondering how I will get on this time. Who will be the new young bucks and has everyone been doing more training than me?

The truth is in reality that it doesn’t matter as the camaraderie is such that everyone helps and encourages each other round the course. Some people have little idea on a bike and find themselves in the Sag Wagon frequently. Some people have not done any training at all. Some people are so determined to ride in memory of a fallen colleague that they do not let little things like a lack of fitness worry them.

Then there are those who are determined they must be at the front of the line all day everyday. They seem to take some pride in being at the front, even though the pace of the ride is slow and it is controlled by the lead car. Then there is me who is determined to win the sprint for the portaloo at each break/ rest stop. Why? Because I have a weak bladder and don’t want to be 250th in line for the loo.

[Loo? Better revise my vocabulary, its the bathroom or the porta -potty. Then I must remember they don’t have lorries here, they are trucks. Then of course chips are the US equivalent of what Walkers make and what we call chips, they call French Fries.]

Cycling 300 miles in 4 days along closed roads at a leisurely pace may seem like fun and a relaxing holiday, but 5am breakfasts are not my idea of a relaxing time!

Still, its 4 days of very different cycling. The first day is 60 miles through the rough streets of Newark and Elizabeth. When I say rough, I am talking about both the crime and the state of the street surface. Its true, everything in the USA is bigger than in England- especially the pot holes. Day 1 is often like a criterium race, with lots of speeding up and slowing down owing to the terrain and the fact that many new riders don’t appreciate it is not a race.

Day 2 is a long day and is around 100 miles in length. It is a long slog although it is  devoid of many hills. There is enough to make you realise it is not easy.

Day 3 is a long flat day through Maryland and in the afternoon we have a fast stage which at around 35 miles is the longest single stage.

Day 4 is a strange day. Everyone is relaxed as we only have 35 – 40 miles to ride and are so near to Washington DC and the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and the thousands of well wishers to see us home. However, it is also the day with the hardest hills. They are rolling and there is not time to recover from one hill before you hit the next one. Determination gets most people through to the RFK Stadium from where it is a 3 or so mile parade into the Memorial.

Then its time to meet the survivors of those you are riding for. It is always an emotional time. You have ridden in memory of someone who gave their live making the country a safer place and feel rather humble. however, the survivors are so grateful to you for having ridden and they want to thank you for  riding your bike. I always feel humbled. I have just had 4 days of great cycling with my friends and don’t need any thanks.

Once in DC, its time for a few beers and to remember forgotten colleagues. The last 2 years we have been out with survivors  of those we have ridden for.

To each and everyone of you that has donated anything at all to the cause, then I salute you and thank you on behalf of each and every survivor. Remember every death is that of someone’s parent/child/ brother or sister. Not only a life ended, but for many others a life destroyed.

 

It is not too late to make a donation