I sent my rider application to the GEICO Florida Road Safety Bike Tour on September 19, 2012. Before doing so, I spoke to my husband Joe. I told him about the program, the four hundred miles I would be riding through, the five days away from home it would entail, the needed “sacrifice” on his end to make it happen. There is a reason why we are married, and there is a reason why I am able to dream so many of my dreams. His answer to this was “do it! We’ll figure something out.”
On December 21 I got the email stating I had made it into the team and since then the tour has been on my mind. Its purpose is to create awareness about drinking and driving, texting and driving, and bicycle safety amongst other road safety issues. We will stop and have press conferences at the University of Central Florida, University of South Florida, University of Florida and Florida State University. The tour is sponsored by GEICO and organized by the Dori Slosberg Foundation in collaboration with the Florida State University Police Department.
All details are taken care of for us. We have our hotel reservations secured, meals organized, uniforms purchased, police escorts established, and routes overly thought out. Riders have an amazing crew to help us get through this so that all we have to worry about is riding twenty miles to the next rest stop where a peanut butter and jelly sandwich will be waiting for me. And then I do it again … another twenty times over four days.
I wasn’t chosen because of my fitness, endurance or cycling skills though I certainly had to show I was capable. I was chosen because of my advocacy efforts with Bike Key Biscayne and cycling on the Rickenbacker Causeway. I know I was meant to do this. Describing it might sound strange but I know there is a major lesson for me here, one I have to remain open and attentive to learning regardless of what it turns out to be.
In February of 2013 there was the second hit and run fatal accident where a drunk driver killed a cyclist on the Rickenbacker. Aaron Cohen was a triathlete father of two young children, and he died as a result of his injuries on the top of the Powell Bridge on an early Wednesday morning. I used to ride that bridge, at that time, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It could’ve been me. I almost gave up triathlons all together. You can read about my constant battle with this here and here. I dove into fear.
On the other hand I was young and stupid once. And in my youth I thought things happened to other people and not to me. I was invincible and the finality of death was not something I really understood as no one close to me had ever died. Though I lived away I would return home to Key Biscayne where my family has lived for over twenty years. I would go to South Beach with my friends and we would drive home. I cannot say that I was never guilty of drinking and driving on the Rickenbacker Causeway, over the Powell Bridge, in the early morning hours. In fact, I would drive to the same building where the last two drunk drivers who killed cyclists on the Rickenbacker lived. Yep, both drivers are my parent’s neighbors. I could’ve been the one driving.
I read a quote from Paulo Coelho and it has become my mantra for this ride. It says:
A boat is safe at harbor, but it was built for the challenges of the ocean.
I could be afraid of leaving my boys for the first time ever as I have never travelled without them. I could be afraid of an accident on the bike; or of the hills I will have to ride over. I could be afraid of what emotions I will come across as I hear testimonials of victims or grieving families. Yet I was built to carry on, I was built to face these challenges. And so on April 7th I will say goodbye to all that I love and head north to Orlando to be one of the voices for this message that will hopefully save the lives of many.