I had a tough choice last week. After the horrible killing that occurred in Kalamazoo, the cycling community was reeling in grief. As the designated PR guy for the local bike club, my phone was ringing off the hook. I looked back at the log on my phone and counted 52 calls during the first 24 hours. Most were from media, some from sympathizers from all over the country. Things happen, but tragedy reaches deep and consumes a lot of consciousness. This event made us all aware how vulnerable we are to other's choices.
I had planned to take a long weekend trip around the lake shore, thought I should stay and deal with all the media requests, but decided to take the ride while dealing with the media and phone calls.
Rambling my way through the gravel roads of SW Michigan I found a relaxing route through the phone calls and e-mails. I seemed to ride about 5 miles at a time, stopping in the midst of farm fields and forest to talk with a reporter or answer an e-mail. It didn't take long before I was connected to my solar battery pack to keep the phone going. The gravel roads were a blessing the first day, there was no traffic to preoccupy my thoughts with fear. One person stopped me at the grocery in Berrien Springs to talk about the killing. I was pleased to hear that 2nd degree murder charges were leveled against the driver. I slept a little better for it.
The ride on Friday was a leisurely trip from Berrien Springs to the Indiana Dunes. It was barely 50 miles with a gentle wind which quartered against me from the southwest. It helped cool me as the temps crawled into the eighties. The phone slowed a bit as the community digested public details of the killing. By the time the heat reminded me that summer is approaching, I reached the lake shore where cooler breezes were welcoming. The campgrounds in Berrien Springs and Indiana Dunes are what to look for when travelling. There are others around, but the space and density of the forest maintained the natural privacy one looks for while camping.
It's so much more appealing than the trailer parks that many modern facilities have become.
Honestly, people wonder why I travel to primitive grounds,
but I wonder why anybody would vacation in a trailer park.
Near Beverly Shores one can enjoy Bartlett's, an excellent restaurant around the corner from the Duneland campground. Not only do they have an outstanding menu with great prices, they have a good selection of regional craft brews and wines to compliment your dinner. Many of the people I met in the bar wanted to talk about the killing in Kalamazoo. It seemed to be on everybody's mind. Along the way north, the views can include a hazy glimpse
of the Chicago skyline peaking over the horizon.
I also had a view of two of our nearby nuclear electric plants. This one, near St. Joseph is constantly criticized for safety problems. I think most of it's an overreaction
I didn't notice any problems.
On Monday the winds had changed. It was invigorating. The phone started ringing again.
The Lance effect kicked in. Some of the calls were heart wrenching, there were fewer media and more cyclists calling. Many sincerely wanted to travel miles to participate in the tribute ride. At times I was glad to hear them break into tears, before I did.
A few questioned their own motives for wanting to go. I heard everything I had ever heard about Lance. Myself, I don't think good or ill of him. He and Mark McGuire are emblematic of the problem you and I created. They remind me of an interview I heard with Howard Cosell. Years ago, when he retired, he was asked what the public could do about the money, corruption, cheating and gambling affecting sports. He said: "Don't watch. That is the only control you have." He went on to say: "Don't get me wrong. I loved what I did, but there are better ways to spend your time and money than watching other people play games."
He's right, We created the problems. Money in the entertainment industry is driven by ratings. Our thirst for heroism has raised the temptations beyond dreams of avarice. Was Lance sincere about his reaction to the tragedy? He's the only one who really knows. I remember him, on several occasions, saying that he always wondered which day he would become a hood ornament while riding a country road in Texas. He, like us, saw his fear become a real nightmare.