Hope for the human race was abundant Saturday morning downtown in Springfield, Massachusetts, where 240 cyclists of all ages, races, genders and professions lined up to cycle 106.7 miles to the State House in Boston. This was the second annual “Ride to Remember,” to honor fallen police officers and to raise money for their families. “Fallen but not Forgotten” was the slogan, printed on the back of the 240 riders' uniform shirts, colored police-blue.
|Laurie, mother Eileen Morrow, brother Tim|
I scanned the swelling crowd at 6:15 am: the riders’ adrenaline flowing; the air chilly and moist; the bikes being unloaded and tires pumped; the massive American flag unfurled from two cranes in the semi-dark; the dawn just breaking over what would be a perfect-weather day for an endurance ride; support buses queueing up and repair vehicle positioned in place.
I was riding with my younger brother Tim Morrow, a 30-year veteran of the Springfield Police Department, now a K-9 officer, his wife Lee, on her first “century” ride, and my boyfriend Doug, a marathoner and endurance athlete. The riders were police officers, fire fighters and family members from all over Massachusetts. 106.7 miles later we would be at the State House for a ceremony to honor the fallen.
|The ride begins!|
The Ride to Remember honors officers Kevin Ambrose and José Torres, both killed in the line of duty two years ago. Kevin was the first Springfield officer killed in action in 25 years; he was just about to retire, but was killed while helping with a domestic abuse case. It’s a chilling reminder to those of us who take the law enforcement for granted about how dangerous these jobs are.
Despite the nippy air and early time, I was grateful to see my sister-in-laws, Kathy and Polina Morrow, who came to hug us and wish us good luck. And my 82-year-old mother, Eileen Morrow! She probably should have been riding with us, as she has enough energy and willpower!
After pumping our tires up and joining the bulging street of riders, I looked down and saw bad news—my front tire was flat! I jumped off, ran to the far back of the crowd where the vehicles were, Doug following, searching for the repair vehicle. Meanwhile the clock was ticking as the riders were clipping in, ready to. I finally found Steve, the repair guy, and in 30 seconds he had me ready to go. Clip-clopping on my cleats, juggling my bike, sprinting back to the riders... but they were gone.
I hopped on my bike and Doug and I pumped hard to catch them. It was exciting, because we had to slice right between a parallel line of police motorcycle escorts until we became the last of the riders in the group. It was cold; by mile 10 our hands were stiff, noses running. I found that I couldn’t shift to the big gear because my left hand simply wouldn’t obey—too cold!
The first leg, to mile 18, was the hardest for me, incredibly. I had spent the last few days in Washington DC at the NHF event, and while I hit the gym once, I didn’t feel warmed up; the cold air wasn’t helping. After the first break in Palmer, MA, where the support staff served boxes of bananas, bagels, Clif bars and Gatorade, we fueled up (you must keep eating throughout the ride), stretched out and within 15 minutes were back on the road. We immediately hit a hill; there would be many tortuous hills on this long ride, which tested not only your aerobic capacity, but your quad strength, and your mental fortitude. Honestly, I kept hearing in my head, “I think I can, I think I can…” Tim and Lee were somewhere ahead of us; Doug stayed in the large gear (the hardest) the entire 106.7 miles, and powered up every hill. That. Is. Crazy.
Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use. ~ Charles M. Schulz
There would be five rest stops. But you must also drink a ton of fluids and these catch up with you eventually. At one forced stop in the middle of a narrow country road somewhere in mid-Massachusetts, to wait for the huge group of riders to catch up with each other, I decided, like a lot of riders, to use it to my advantage. We hopped off our bikes and headed for the woods. The men went one direction to the edge. I delved a bit deeper into a more remote spot, where I thought there were an awful lot of thick vines. Vines? I tried to pull them away and step over or through them---ouch! Rusty barbed wire. One sliced my knee a little; I thankfully didn’t get a piercing where none was desired and I headed back. A little drama is good for the story and the medical crew was delighted to have something to do.
When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking. ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Author of Sherlock Holmes
Back on the road and the rest of the ride was wonderful. I hit a little “wall” at mile 40, just feeling like I could easily nap, but oddly, by mile 60 I was revved up and flying. We took hills doing 15 mph at times, and flew at 32 mph downhill. We had a police escort the entire way, so were well protected from cars. All traffic was stopped as our entourage sped through intersections, town centers, crossed highways, thumped over railroad tracks. I took only one spill when, to avoid crashing into another cyclist, I couldn’t complete a sharp left turn to cross railroad tracks at a 90 degree angle. My tire went right into the track groove and I gracefully slid to the ground. No harm done. Doug and Tim had a crash—together! Other riders had several crashes and there were many chains that fell off.
By 5:30 pm, we rode into Boston, past the famous Citgo sign, with crowds along the way cheering us on. We swarmed together like bees as we pulled into the State House and congratulated each other. I was so proud of Lee, who had only taken up cycling this past spring. This goes to show what training and determination can do (though she seems to have some natural talent). And Doug was outstanding, and now hooked on cycling. We’re going to sign up for some classes this winter with a pro to learn how to improve our performance.
And I’m proud of my brother Tim, his K9 partner Cairo, and his brotherhood of police officers and firefighters (my older brother Tom Morrow is also a firefighter!): what wonderful public servants and what better way to tell them, to show them, how proud we all are: spending out day on a physically grueling ride, with such positive feelings, surrounded by some of the most honorable people you’d ever want to know.
|Laurie, Doug, Lee, Tim|
It's a lot like our hemophilia community, with so many of our brothers lost to us forever due to someone else’s negligence, there are so many fallen, but never forgotten. I think of Barry Haarde and his remarkable Ride Across America, doing an average of 120 miles a day—a day! Think of it! For 30 straight days. It seems humanly impossible, until you realize that when you have a passion, a cause, an injustice to fix, and some training and a goal, almost nothing is impossible.
Ever bike? Now that's something that makes life worth living!...Oh, to just grip your handlebars and lay down to it, and go ripping and tearing through streets and road, over railroad tracks and bridges, threading crowds, avoiding collisions, at twenty miles or more an hour, and wondering all the time when you're going to smash up. Well, now, that's something! And then go home again after three hours of it...and then to think that tomorrow I can do it all over again! ~ Jack London, Author