Archive for the ‘Somber thoughts’ Category

Halfway, OR to Baker City, OR

Friendly horn taps: 1

Miles: 57

Total miles so far: 4,192

The view behind us as we move west near Flagstaff Hill, Oregon

I was once asked by a MADD volunteer preparing a “shoes” display (a shoes display is the assembling of a specific number of shoes to represent the number of people killed in drunk driving crashes) if I would like to place a pair of Carlie’s shoes in the display as it was going to be at the state capitol.  I declined.

I have her shoes.  I have the very shoes she was wearing the night of the crash. They are in my closet.  I see them everyday, but I won’t lend them out for fear of losing them.  I received them in a horribly awkward moment when Carlie’s clothes were unceremoniously handed to me in a paper evidence bag, months after the crash.  That’s another story for another time.  What matters is I have her shoes…I have so precious little.

One of the things people in my position face is what to do with the personal possessions of a loved one.  In a moment of bravery, I once gathered all her clothes from her room and called a friend who worked at a church charity to see if I could come by privately, after hours, and bring them in for some needy children.  It was way too early, but I didn’t know that.  Things were going well, it was sad, but we went through the donation and sorted everything.  I thought we were done, because I had asked to be able to come in, drop them off, and leave.

My friend pulled out a receipt book and with pen poised to write, asked what monetary value they had.  I was overcome by the question, lost all control, and began sobbing in that shocking way that I was familiar with, but very few people were witness to.   I said something about priceless, and left as quickly as I could.  I learned very painfully it was way too early for me to be doing something like that.

For some people, for some items, there never will be a time when something like that can or should be done.  That’s OK.  A comment came into this journal and the writer moved and reconstructed her child’s bedroom in the new house. There are a lot of examples.  What was I  to do with the little hearts Carlie drew on a book shelf in the dust of my lax housekeeping?  I wouldn’t close the front blind to my house because that was the window through which I last saw her leave.  My porch light stayed on for two years until I moved.  I could go on…

I have her shoes, and I won’t lend them out.

The Powder River during a quiet stretch

The view ahead as we approach Baker City, Oregon


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Jason Moffitt

Jason Moffitt image not available

Twelve years ago, Jason Moffitt, age 22  was killed on 7/10/99.  Jason was a rear-seat passenger in a collision involving a drunk driver.

Jason’s mother contacted me and asked if I could make a dedication to him as she approached this anniversary, but was unable to forward a picture.

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Saratoga, WY to Rawlins, WY

Friendly horn taps: 3

Miles: 51

Miles so far: 3,067

Yes, they do place these every five miles on I-80

I feel better now that I’ve showered. It’s been a rough day in many ways, some bittersweet, some just plain rough. The day started fine with a break in the weather, the forecast of blue skies and warmer temperatures was welcome, but there would be west wind going into Rawlins. This would double up the challenge as there is a thirteen mile stretch ahead of us on Interstate 80, dead into the wind – it’s the only way to get there from here.

Carlie is buried in Rawlins. We had been in Rawlins for the preceding three years. At the time of the crash, she was in kindergarten at the Rawlins Elementary School. I was a division supervisor with the highway patrol. Through the years as I thought of this trip, I knew the Trans-Am went through Rawlins, in fact, the riders go right by the cemetery.

I thought for a very long time that if I ever did this ride, I would pitch my tent by her grave. This is something not everyone can understand. I’m aware of that. Bereaved parents have such ideas – remember, we live in a “new normal” that is anything but normal.

I placed a request with the chief of police of the Rawlins Police Department five days ago and I called him again this morning, and finally got to speak with him. He denied my request. This was quite an unexpected blow. Trans Am riders are hosted by towns all across the country with invitations to stay in their city parks, and I had not anticipated being denied, particularly since this man knows me quite well and knows why I made this unusual request. I guess it was particularly tough because that phone call was placed first thing in the morning, and that did not contribute to a pleasant start to the day. As in all things, we’ll adapt to this and move forward.

Nonetheless, we started out and Sallie was struggling. She’s not been feeling well. The ride has us pushing ourselves physically right to the limits and we’ve both noticed that it’s quite easy to have added stress push us overthe red-line. We resolved to a slow ride that was not going to be very long, but would prove difficult – particularly pushing a head wind on Interstate 80.

On the positive side, I received word today that Ray LaHood, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation has recognized our efforts in this cross country bicycle attempt in his US DOT blog, Fastlane. This is quite an unexpected honor, and I continue to be surprised and humbled by the attention and support we are receiving.

We checked into a campground upon arriving in Rawlins. The young lady behind the desk asked me if I’d stayed there before as she said, “I looked very familiar.” I explained that I lived here several years ago and then mentioned I was a state trooper. That seemed to ring a bell with her and ultimately, she had a moment of recognition. She told me she recognized me from the documentary that was done about my daughter’s crash. She started crying and tried to apologize. I told her she was extremely brave to bring it up, as many people might not be willing to mention it. The two of us shared a few tears. She’s one year older than Carlie would have been.

The following are images from today. There are no captions.

Sometimes words fail me…

Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Gene Bucklin

My dad, Gene Bucklin, was “the rock” of our family—unbreakable and solid. He always had your back. You could count on Dad to be there through thick and thin.


At 7 a.m. on a Saturday, Dad was killed by a drunk driver less than 10 miles from our home.

Sarah Bucklin, Casper, WY

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Walden, Colorado to Saratoga, Wyoming

Friendly horn taps: 2

Miles: 69

Total so far: 3,016


The Sierra Madre Range as seen from above Riverside/Encampment (Carlie's Mountains)

Landmark of the beginning...

The North Platte River at Bridge Street in Saratoga - flood stage

Our remote camp in the mountains - looking for Michael

It’s 5:00am and the rain is becoming steady. The beat of it on my tent has me awake now. Fist it was the mountain birds, now the steady patter of the rain.

We’ve come to the mountains where our brother Michael’s ashes were laid to rest 21 years ago. I’ve always wanted to camp here, but with all the times I’ve come to visit this place, I’ve never managed to spend the night.

We couldn’t find him. We scattered his ashes under a large spruce tree in the Snowy Range Mountains east of Saratoga. This is an area where he loved to come. This place gave him hope. Someone has logged either side of the little trail and it has changed considerably.  My landmarks are gone.

Adding to our difficulties, the large spruce trees have been harvested. Some have been cut and left. A lot of trees are limbed and seemingly abandoned on the ground. A disturbing waste.

Somehow, we’ve found him though. His spirit is with us. I felt him in the bounding elk we saw in the sage south of Big Creek.  I can tell from the deer and the way they looked upon us not as intruders, but as curious visitors. He was  there when I saw the cinnamon rumps of the two black bears that scampered at my approach in the trees. Seeing bear here is not unknown, but highly unusual. There is a lot of sign of moose. All this would make him very happy.

It’s disappointing not to find the tree where we chose to place his remains. Another new normal to adapt to. Maybe that’s the point. We’ll go forward from here, knowing he’s close. Even if we can’t find him.


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Eric Robbins

Eric Robbins

Eric Robbins had just turned 23 when he was killed by a drunk driver on September 20,1997. He was an army veteran and a volunteer fireman. He left so many dreams unfulfilled….

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Sulphur Hot Springs, CO to Walden, CO

Friendly horn taps: 1

Continental Divide crossings: 2

Miles: 62

Total so far: 2,947

*Please note:  Tomorrow’s post may not be published until the following day, as Sallie and I are going to a remote area in the mountains of Wyoming.

The Colorado River west of Granby

We are ever closer to the Wyoming state line.  It’s a 22 mile ride from here, and we will enter Carbon County, Wyoming just west of North Gate Canyon and the Platte River Wilderness Area.  We’ll travel to Riverside/Encampment and then turn north towards Saratoga.  On the way north, we will pass by the Silver Spur Ranch.  I was conceived there.  That’s an odd fact that was revealed to me by mother who made that known to me after I moved to Saratoga in the mid 1970’s. I always felt at home in the North Platte Valley, and I will forever have a special place in my heart for the area and the people there.

Carlie and I lived in Carbon County when she was killed on that fateful New Year’s Day.  Up until that time,we lived in Rawlins for  three years, as I was stationed there as a division supervisor with the State Patrol.

Nearing the summit of Willow Creek Pass

As we ride into the valley tomorrow, in front of us will be the Sierra Madre Mountain Range.  We always referred to those mountains as “Carlie’s Mountains”, and we spent an unusual amount of time there for a child that young.  When Carlie was three and a half, we spent eight days up there in one stretch.  We always had a comfortable camp (including a large canvas wall tent complete with cots and a wood burning stove), we had some books, a few toys, and Carlie’s ever constant companion, Sadie – as faithful a black lab as they come.

Another crossing of the Continental Divide

There is a creek near where we’d set that camp, and Carlie loved to go to the banks of that stream and just watch the water swirling in the pools, teaming with brook trout.  We’d have a snack of a gorp mix I used to make with equal amounts of salted peanuts, raisins, and M&M’s.  Carlie used to pick through the bag of gorp and retrieve the M&M’s.  She used to tell me that I worked too hard, and I just should take some time and go sit by the creek and watch the fish.

I am working too hard, but this is a labor of love. Tomorrow will be eventful, as I’ve said.  Returning to a land I once loved on Father’s Day.

Beauty break...

Mountain run-off

It's not all beauty and wonder. We spent a good portion of the afternoon getting lashed by wind driven rain.


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Adam Michael Neyer

Adam Neyer

Adam Neyer, from Englewood, Colorado was killed at the age of 18, far too young.  The collision took place at the hands of a drunk driver on June 3, 2001. Adam was just a few days away from his high school graduation.

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Centerville, MO to Eminence, MO

Rude honks: 3 (two from trucks)

Friendly horn taps: 3

Miles: 43

Total so far: 1,746

I love these old barns - there must be rich stories in each one of them

Missouri - your hills are so numerous and our bikes are so few...

Current River - part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways


I’ve encountered lots of connections to this state through the years, but riding for the last two days has awakened memories of three year old Joshua. It was 1986 and little Joshua was one of those fatal crashes that will stay with me the rest of my life. I’d worked quite a few before him, countless too many after, but that was one that stays with me. Maybe that’s the way it is with the kind of work state troopers, deputy sheriffs, city police, EMT’s and others perform. May be there’s at least one that stays with all of us. There are others, but none so vividly in place.

Joshua’s aunt called about a year and a half after the collision and asked if I remembered it. I couldn’t tell her then that it was one I’d never forget. Every detail.

Joshua was with his mother, Teresa on their way back to Missouri. They didn’t make it. I’d ordered lemon meringue pie that day at Little America outside of Green River on I-80. I didn’t get to finish that pie. Now I think that I’ve never ordered it since.

I remember details as though I am seeing it now. I can tell you exactly what Joshua was wearing. Those little things never seem to gray out in the fog of memory. Not that one. Little Joshua tried so hard to hang onto life, but it slipped away from him in my arms and I could not bring him back.

The next time you see a trooper, EMT,or law enforcement officer, you can ask about such things. They won’t tell you. They can’t. But it’s there. It’s part of who they become.


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Adam Hosinski and Rory Weichbrod

Adam Hosinski and Rory Weichbrod

In the early hours of October 10, 2010, in Rockville, Maryland, good friends Adam Hosinski and Rory Weichbrod lost their lives after being struck by a drunk driver.  After making the responsible decision to metro home from a birthday party, a drunk driver with a blood alcohol content at nearly twice the legal limit sped into the two friends as they crossed the street to get home.  Adam and Rory lived and loved fiercely – spreading their infectious smiles and laughter to everyone they met.  The young men, their friends and family, and those whom they had yet to meet, were robbed of two outstanding people because of one person’s decision to drink and drive.

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