Police Unity Tour


Quick.  Name this recreational activity.  “On your left.”  “On your left.” (Hint: I am being passed by extremely fit (and not so fit) people wearing lycra shorts drinking out of adult sized baby bottles). Give up?

It is the 2010 Police Unity Bicycle Tour that took place this past Sunday in Pasco and Hernando counties north of Tampa. The ride – not a race – was a fundraiser for families of police officers who died in the line of duty.  Though the cause was serious, the mood was generally light.  There were three levels of rides: 1. A 9-mile family ride, 2. A 40-mile I’m in over my head ride, and 3. A 75-mile (I have way too much time to train) ride.  I participated in the 40-mile ride.  And yes, found myself in way over my head.

Because this was my first organized ride of any type, I didn’t know what to expect or how to act.  The first observation I made was that everyone was wearing his or her bike shoes long before the ride started.  For those of you who have never donned a pair of “road shoes”, they are akin to wearing a brand new pair of loafers.  You might as well be walking on ice. Next, I noticed a long line at the bathrooms. Must be those high carbohydrate/fiber diets coupled with protein shakes.  Finally, I saw a lot people working on their bicycles making last minute adjustments.

I don’t know my sprocket from a quick release hub.  But continuing on my quest to blend in, I flipped my bicycle upside down to rest it on its seat and handle bars and promptly knocked the chain off.  T-minus 10 minutes, and I am scrambling to get my chain back on.  After several frustrating minutes, a mountain bike riding kid comes over and puts my chain back on in less than 15 seconds.  Thanks dude.

Once the ride started, it was like several hundred folks winning a free 10- minute shopping spree at Macys.  Only all go at the same time.  In the first 60 seconds I heard, “On your left”, “On your right”, “Right behind you”, and “Get out of the way.”  It took me a minute or two to realize I was the person was referring to.

After several miles, the peloton (French for main group of cyclists) began to thin out.  I seemed to be surrounded by elderly women; I’m not sure what that meant.  During the ride three separate groups emerged: 1. Cyclists meandering along simply enjoying the beautiful weather and scenery, 2. Recreational riders with the sole intention of beating the “meanderers” to the finish line, and 3. Highly conditioned “roadies” traveling in packs maintaining speeds that would make a NASCAR driver envious. I flittered between meandering and recreational.

The weather was beautiful as was the scenery. But beauty turned into beast when the road decided to go uphill. Please don’t let anyone tell you there are no hills in the state of Florida.  The first mile of the ride was straight up hill.  Half way up my thighs were burning and crying, and lactic acid was searing through my shorts.

With Murphy’s Law solidly in my seat bag, at about the 15-mile mark, my chain popped off.  Just great. Where’s that mountain bike kid when I need him? Finally, a middle age woman stopped and asked me if everything was okay.  She helped me pop my chain back on.  I thanked her for her assistance and concern and thought she would make an excellent anecdote for Chicken Soup for the Incompetent Bicycle Riders Soul.

As I rolled back into Pasco Hernando Community College completing my 40-mile ride, I spotted my yellow Jeep that served as a beacon of hope; I actually made it!  As I munched on a burger, I sifted through the bag of free stuff I received I when I checked in.  At the bottom was a blue rubber bracelet with “Police Unity Tour” etched on it.  I took it out and pulled it on my wrist next to my Livestrong bracelet. A calm feeling enveloped me.  At that moment I knew I would be back here in one year ready to tackle the hills and help raise money for fallen police officers.

(photo courtesy of Elmar84/Dreamstime.com)