Entry 8: Riding for Those Who Can’t
Group hug! Five days ago, a group hug would have been just an excuse to stay warm. After all, we were just beginning to know one another up in Canada, and the act of embracing one another in mass spandex would have been considered a major violation of personal space encroachment for either culture.
Today as we began the second half of our journey, it was the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride’s (NEMSMBR) turn to take the reins from the Canadians who had organized the Capital-to-Capital Bike Ride for the first six days of cycling. Many of the cyclists will continue all the way to Washington, D.C., while others had to return home. I love the photo above, as it shows one of our support staff members bidding everyone goodbye, but not before we first embarrassed the hell out him with a group squeeze.
This morning, a new and even larger contingency of riders (100+) gathered at the Massachusetts State House for the opening ceremony. Boston is an important starting point for the NEMSMBR, as the ride was founded here some 16 years ago by six Boston paramedics who wanted to bring awareness of the National EMS Memorial service by riding to Roanoke, Va., where the ceremony was held.
One item we all carry close to our hearts are dog tags that bear the name of one of the 90 EMS providers who paid the ultimate sacrifice, 32 of which will be inducted at this year’s National EMS Memorial Service. Each rider carries two dog tags of an individual they will ride for, and at the conclusion of the ride we give one of the two tags to our honoree’s family members and keep the other one as a keepsake of remembrance.
Some of the dog tags cyclists wear are anonymous, while other bikers specifically request an honoree’s name for personal reasons, whether they be a co-worker, friend or family member. Along the route, we take opportunities to share the biography of those we carry around our neck and by the ride’s conclusion, none remain anonymous.
We had some tough hills to climb today during our 67-mile passage from Boston to Sturbridge, Mass. I felt a little sorry for some of the new riders, as those of us who began this journey in Ottawa already had the habituation of all-day-riding in place—specifically the hindquarter region. I emphasize a little sorry, as I still have to climb the same damn hill as they did regardless.
I cannot speak for everyone, but when the big hills and long days begin to wear me down, I try to dig a little deeper to endure without complaint by reminding myself whom I ride for. I am alive and there is such beauty around me, not only in the landscape, but in the camaraderie as well.
On Saturday I hope I will have the opportunity to pass on one of the dog tags I wear of Rick Hartley from Springfield, Co., to those who loved him. I’ve done it multiple times before and the hugs I received from the honorees’ survivors are the ones you reminisce and treasure for the rest of your life.