Deputize the Capable (Day Thirty)
The course itself was very short; a mere 51 miles of relatively flat ground that endured from Garden City to Dodge City. So, of course it would be easy, right? Well…you probably know that it doesn’t work that way by now. When I think of Day Thirty’s ride, it’s divided into three parts: a) construction b) sadness/perspective and c) arrival.
Construction: for around 18 miles (it began at mile 14, just outside of GC and ended in Cimmaron, KS, just 20 miles or so from our end point of Dodge City) we had no choice but to travel through a very active construction zone. This long stretch was going through a significant upgrade, and to do so they had ripped up the shoulder and ‘raked’ what was left of the road, leaving it with deep, check marked grooves. To compound things, there were patches where there was just dirt and heavy gravel, so the trucks were constantly spinning up dust and grit and throwing them into the whipping air. I would describe this stretch as unpleasant. But, in the end, and looking back, it was a good experience in that it was unique. Maybe I’m just saying that because I’m not still out there, though! Lowlights of the trip was the numbness that gathered in hands, feet and…uh…anything else that would touch the bicycle while going over this ultra-bumpy golden road of devotion. It was jarring in every sense,and we were sore from the ordeal. Once, a small work crew was negotiating a 12 foot concrete barrier using a crane. I’m going to say that they didn’t do this on purpose, but while we were riding by, it swung out way past their grasp and almost clobbered us. That would not be ideal: hit by a swinging piece of heavy road-blocking construction material. One of us ducked, though and the other swerved and we avoided the calamity.
Sadness/Perspective: we stopped in Cimmaron to refill water bottles, use the restroom, wipe the grime from our faces and choke down an energy bar or banana. It was a scheduled SAG stop and we were off to a good start. I was in good spirits and had just gotten off of the phone with my friend Adam Messick, as he wanted to give me some encouragement (which was much appreciated). Then, the day took a sad turn. Mince and I got news that Ryan Sanderson, a lacrosse player that Kevin and I had played with and with whom we’d both become fast friends, had passed away in his sleep the night before. We had met Ryan the previous summer at The World Games in Manchester, UK. He was on our team, which was in the Master’s Division of the Games. Our contingent was Australian except for Mince, Ryan and me. It wasn’t because of the fact that he was from North America that we spent all of our off time with him and I’d kept in touch with him on a regular basis since then; it was because he had a lively personality and a coy sense of humor. It was fun playing with him as well. A stocky lefthander with around ten years of professional experience, he was one of our ‘go-to’ guys and a big reason that we stunned the Canadian team to win the play-in game and shocked the Americans to take the Bronze. He was bigger than life – he liked to have fun. I remember running into John Grant JR when the three of us were together. He said, “ah, you guys got to ‘look-out-for-Ryan’ assignment, eh?” It’s tough to put into words, but I was beyond sad to hear the news, and it really made me feel stupid for griping (even if on the inside only) about the construction zone or any of the other petty conflicts that enter our lives. Ryan, rest in peace, brother.
Arrival: with a heavy heart, I followed the crew into Dodge City. To say that the reception party was gracious would be a huge understatement. We were greeted by a police escort as well as a contingent of The Patriot Riders, an outfit that rides Harleys for escort and transit of veterans and interests. You have probably seen them escorting funeral processions as well as vets returning from overseas duty. The leather clad bikers and the sunglass-wearing police officers escorted us through the center of te town towards a memorial park. As we cruised, there were references to the lore of Dodge City everywhere. Doc Holliday had once been here to keep the peace through intimidation. He was asked to do so by Wyatt Earp and his brothers. In fact, we were cruising down Wyatt Earp Avenue. It was very cool.
When we got to the Memorial, I knew why this day would be different than any other. You see, we have made it a point to stop along the way at any and all parks/statues/tributes to Veterans. Both the survivors and those who paid the ultimate price were those that have felt appropriate to honor as we trek across the country seeing to raise money and awareness for the Families of the Fallen. But…this memorial was different. I would hear Kevin describe it as a tribute to the first casualties of the War on Terror. This was a tribute to the victims of 9/11. It was beautifully done; there were three unique artifacts that lined a path. On either sides of the path were two reflection pools; each pool had a replica of a one of the Trade Towers. They were built to scale so that every inch represented a floor of the building. Water seeped from the tops of the towers into the reflection pools, symbolizing the tears of the victims’ families. The artifacts were A) a piece of Limestone from the Pentagon, B) a rock from Shanksville, PA, where the heroes of Flight 93 infamously said, “Let’s Roll” and sacrificed themselves to prevent widespread destruction. Finally, there was C) a large chunk of twisted steel from one of the fallen towers. It was a striking and beautiful memorial, well designed and flawlessly maintained. It’s with good reason that I can recite the details of the place as well as the symbolisms; the designers were present, along with around 30 others that included reporters (TV as well as newspaper), City Council Members, police officers and the Marshal.
Everyone knew Kevin’s story, so he was given plenty of space as he walked the exhibit. It struck me that he’d seen that piece of twisted metal before; the last time that he saw it, he was drawn to make a major decision in his life, and one that not many would have made.
Next, Kevin and I were both sworn in as Deputies of Dodge City. It was a very legitimate ceremony, and it was carried out by Marshal Allen Bailey, who carried a huge moustache and a Ruger .45 caliber revolver with a gun-belt lined with polished bullets. Old-school, but not a costume by any means. You could tell. You probably didn’t want to trifle with Marshal Bailey. Before he gave us our heavy and authority-bearing badges, he told us that he was honored to do so, and that ‘there was nothing more American’ than what we were doing. He looked us each in the eye when he said it, and he was not smiling. He again told us that he was honored to be there, and I’ll never forget it.
Finally, we were asked to lay a wreath upon the Memorial, in particular, the piece that represented the World Trade Centers. With cameras rolling and the proud creators of this site watching, we walked together to lay it down. Again, I’ll never forget it. How could I?
That evening, we went to Casey’s Cowtown Club for dinner, where we were joined by many from the day’s events, and the entire media and SAG crew. It was a great time, and we were joined by the proprietor, Mike Casey, a veteran himself. His two-year old grandson was with him, and it felt like family.
I’ve always heard the phrase ‘let’s get outta Dodge’ and thought of it as a deliberate, planned escape. It was a phrase that those who said it were happy to utter. Now I think differently.
It’s just the unfortunate reality that we can’t spend more time here.
For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!
Care Creates Community,