The ride starts at CMPD headquarters in downtown Charlotte. A small set of instructions and then we are on our way. About 150 riders led out by a 10 motorcycle police escort. Riding out of Charlotte they closed all of the intersections just like they had done for President Obama a few weeks ago. In the picture above you can see the escort as well as the large American flag that the Charlotte Fire Department put out to show #respect for the event and police. Police and firemen may notoriously compete and fight when playing hockey or at other times but not on this day.
Officer Joe Scalise - in the right side picture - chose to ride all four days wearing his full CMPD uniform on a mountain bike that he uses patrolling downtown Charlotte. It was very hot and there was a 10-20 mph headwind - but Joe persisted rode through the day. I later picked up just his police belt and it weighed about 20 pounds with tasers, gun, and radio (more than my 16 pound bike) then add the vest and other clothing and I realized what a disadvantage he had in the same conditions that hurt me in my light spandex and on my aero-designed Italian racing bike.
During the first few miles we also had CMPD police helicopter flying about 100 feet over us also looking out. It was our first ever helicopter escort. I really enjoy rides that have police escorts closing intersections. You feel safe and special if only for a few moments - maybe because they go to that trouble for me, the regular person, in the same professional manner they do for a president. I get chills I have to admit. You keep saying to yourself - "boy I wish they had escorts on all of my training rides."
The day one ride itself was windy and covered 95 miles and 5,000 vertical feet to Asheboro NC with most of the climbing at the end. We found a great group of police officers and friends to cover the wind in rotating pace lines to make it bearable to each rest stop. The volunteers and people supporting this ride were exceptional and riders especially friendly. We lingered at each rest stop and took it all in while we waited for slower riders, riders with kids, and the tandem blind rider. Except for our muscles shutting down the rest stops were a great part of the day.
At the end of the ride I had the pleasure to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones. In particular - Trisha Norket shown in the picture above. Ms. Norket is the mother of John Burnette who was killed in an end of watch incident in 1993. Her chilling story of how a multiple felon bad guy, who has confessed to his crime, is still on death row 21 years later. On Mother's Day today it is particularly hard to contemplate the loss of her child in the manner he was taken. On that day in 1993 Officer John Burnette and Officer Andy Nobles were shot by a thug who was very much wanted for his long list of assault crimes. The story is well-known in the news so I won't get into the details. While hearing the story and then reflecting on it - it helped me realize that meeting Trisha was exactly why I was on this ride.
Unfortunately, There are other stories like hers and including more this month in New York and now Mississippi.
I have a lot of respect for the police and what they do. It is not easy. Taking the time yesterday to support a cause for them and reflect on these issues was very good. Riding our bikes and then drinking Unknown beer on a perfect Sping day made it even better.