I have a real
problem with authority, and this guy, this cop, had me up against
the wall. No amount of excuses on my part was going to make things
better. He had a job to do and he was doing it.
I was giving
my best effort to keep up, but this guy was on his game and
unbeatable. My visor did little to shield against the hazy sun.
Little flares of light reflected off my glasses as I scanned the
pulsating horizon for more riders coming down the hill. It was
endless. One then another, then a group, then another.
For a time
water was being delivered to us, but that had ended. What water I
had left was hotter than I like my tea. One of the last things I
remember was Danny (The Don) Izon drifting by in his car. I was
hunched over trying to stretch my back in order to get just enough
relief to keep this guy from dropping me. I heard Dan say, "Bob,
you've had enough. You've got to quit. Go get out of the sun."
I looked up
into a face I'd never seen on Dan before. It was his professional
face. A face steeled from years of having to give good people bad
news. Dan's a doctor, an oncologist, and this was the first time I'd
seen that hard edge of necessity projecting from his eyes. "Really
Bob, I'm serious. This is dangerous. You've got to let it go and get
out of the sun."
This was the
third time Dan had passed by and warned me. Each time he was a
little more insistent until, in this last icy demand, I could hear
the echoes of all the times he had to tell someone, "Go home, live
your life and get your things in order."
despite the heat but looked back up the road and saw another eight
year old, followed by their parents, just finishing up the Country
Roads Tour. I couldn't leave. This was deadly serious business.
I was sure
the parents didn't fully understand the danger: the cars coming from
all angles, the inability of the OCBC to totally control road
traffic, the mounting frustration of the motorists around them who'd
been held up for miles behind the meandering bikes. For the parents
it was just a nice day in the country, part of a "Big" event with
every protection. If I lost my concentration for just a moment, who
knows what could happen.
another body block into oncoming traffic to stop a car whose driver
was only half-aware that a wobbling kid on a little knobby tired
mountain bike was just off their bumper and about to cross in front
actions were pitiful compared to my nemesis the traffic cop's ever
increasing command of the situation. I was in my barest survival
mode trying not to get dropped, trying not to leave the impression
that OCBC'ers are just a bunch of worthless poseurs. I bike for
miles and miles and miles. I go up hill after hill after mountain. I
should be able to keep pace with a doughnut sloshing traffic cop!
However often enough I've been surrounded by superior cyclists on a
ride and know for a certainty when greater skill and ability is
about to do me in. This was one of those times. Not to mention this
cop didn't look so doughnut laden.
We were at
the entrance to the Community Campus directing traffic. It was the
end of the Country Roads Tour, and Officer Paul Besser was going
through his paces like a skilled cyclist moves through the gears,
applies just the perfect amount of spin, responds with just the
right quickness, stands at just the right moment. Besser was taking
care of business, and I was fast becoming a spectator.
controlling cars coming from four directions while bikes and foot
traffic, peppered throughout, came from directions all their own. He
kept a strong steady pace of continuous hand and voice signals: a
motion here, a slight wave there, a step back with a turn slightly
left and a hand thrown up to stop cars while calling, "Bikes come on
through," as his other hand held the cars behind him at bay.
Constantly scanning the area around, he quickly memorized dozens of
positions and kept inventory of developing situations that, from
necessity, would continually slip out of his view as he tended to
the most immediate threats to safety. It was traffic triage and
potentially just as deadly. I gaped in awe.
He knew just
the moment to bring the line of cars on his left up to speed, knew
the exact time and gesture to back off the line from the right so
they'd be stopped when the approaching pedestrians arrived to walk
his sheltered path to safety. His flow had become as smooth as
Lance's stride up the Pyrenees, and this went on
for hours without a break. It had gone on for hours before I got
there, because I only took over in the afternoon from (Totally
Tubular) Louie who had helped Officer Besser throughout the morning.
Still I couldn't hope to keep up with this cop's focus and pace. It
only made matters worse to realize that he was handling a job that
took four of us to do year before, and not nearly as well.
Besser showed incredible sensitivity toward the bicyclists, so it's
not surprising when I stopped to get his card that he talked about
how he also liked to bike and hoped someday to establish a bicycle
patrol. I also shouldn't have been surprised that his card stated
Accident Investigation. No wonder he was so good at keeping cars
back and so careful about giving the bicyclists plenty of room. This
guy is accustomed to figuring out a car's speed just by looking at
the thickness and length of the rubber laid down in the skid, while
carefully observing the life and death seriousness of the aftermath.
I'm sure his head is full of chilling pictures of bent metal,
shattered glass and broken bodies.
So I don't
care if I do get profoundly dropped once again and need a doctor's
advice; let's make sure to do whatever it takes to get this level of
professional help for all future Country Roads Tours. Also somebody
ought to go out of their way and thank Officer Besser and the Town
of Walkill Police Department. Very, very impressive!