Archive for the ‘Thoughts on moving forward’ Category

July 27

The alarm is going off, and yet I’m still fast asleep, rising from the depths of a dream to cancel the sound. It’s not like it was on tour where I would wake just prior to the clock going off. Now there is no need to hurry. I lie awake now blinking at the Florida sunlight filtering in through the window. Slowly my thoughts turn toward a final summary of the journey…

America, I have seen and touched your face. You are an enchanting country where beauty and resources abound. Through this bicycle quest I have come to know the land, the people, and most of all myself in a way I never could had I not taken the first important steps that ultimately led to our pushing off for the journey of a lifetime.

The land…

I was privileged to see this country from a unique perspective. I studied the land in an intimate way. Not through the bug splattered windows of a passing car, visiting roadside stops designed for gasoline and giant soda fountains with their yawning tubs awaiting a fill of ice and beverage. Not from 30,000 feet gazing down at irrigation circles dotting the landscape as so many scattered poker chips, or stopping at airports and conference centers with all the hasty meetings and empty handshakes.

I came to know the land, not from a cushioned hydraulic shock reinforced suspension, but from feeling my way across the face of this country, learning its punishing hills and thrilling valleys, living in the humid heat and numbing cold of its weather. I know of the wind and its fickle ways to frustrate and reward. I have been stung by the hard rains, refreshed by the soft, and worried by the destructive weather of the year. I refreshed myself in the lakes and was schooled on the rivers. The flooding of the lands was mine to behold, not only seeing the deluge, but smelling the resultant rot from the mix of mud and debris, the ruined crops. I witnessed the awesome power of tornadoes as described by the destruction of the innocent structures, towns, farmlands, and the broken hopes of man.

I’ve been warmed daily by the sun, cooled in the evening by its passing, and startled at night by the jeweled skies above. My tent has been both home and shelter, containing all that I need. I have chosen our sleeping places carefully and was educated by the unyielding ground upon which I lay.

The people…

Without hesitation I was invited to fish fries where people celebrated the bounty of their catch and openly discussed their secret places to go on their rivers. I spoke with proud farmers calmly explaining their sophisticated equipment and their spacious lands. I touched the lives of those wounded by life’s tragedies and losses when we met in the various corners of the country, and they told me of their aching hearts.

I caught the eyes of strangers with our bicycles and gear, striking up lively conversations and watched their jaws drop when I told them of our plans. As brother and sister undertaking such a journey, we saw the wistful eyes of those who knew their own family members were not close enough for such a venture. I came to know the tender hearts of those affected by our quest. I sent notes to everyone who donated to our ambitious goal thanking them for their generosity and admiring their loyalty to, and interest in our quest.

The responses we received from the people supporting us on this ride were surprisingly vibrant, generous, and loyal. The web site was constantly referred to by readers as something they looked forward to everyday. E-mails were pouring in. Donations were mounting. In many ways, all of us were on this ride and then some. The journal took on a life of its own, and the followers were legion.


Over the course of this journey, at times I pushed myself beyond limits I did not know I had. Limits measured more than in the miles of the road. I pushed beyond boundaries of health sustaining rest, hydration, food, and shelter. My emotions rose to a thin and fragile surface. I exceeded limits in patience in both myself and others that I will forever regret.

I used the time riding to explore the history of my life, sorting out priorities, and reviewing my achievements, my valued relationships, my restless wanderings, and I examined my many failures.

My life is a set of journeys, laced together by common threads and themes written in a script that I now know is not my own. To think otherwise is the foolishness of youth. There is a chapter that continues writ bold in the death of my daughter Carlie. The long road I have been on since that time has been at once, one of trial, pain, suffering, learning, and redemption. I have survived thus far. In this crucible, I have learned much.

This journey across the country is not unlike revisiting the days of my grief at its fullest. To exhaust myself in an effort, gain little rest, and then continue the next day when the will is weak, and the spirit dimmed, and be rewarded by the effort in some unforeseen way…this has been mirrored in my journey. 

I first envisioned this epic ride across our country associated with my retirement from law enforcement. I did not know what my next steps would be, and I wanted to use the time to contemplate the rest of my life. As life often does, opportunities presented themselves in an alternative I did not expect, and I found myself in a second career working for MADD.

Despite the change in circumstance, the dream of a cross-country ride never died. Ultimately, I was graced with a leave to perform this journey and it is done, the trip is complete…it is more than that; it is achieved. It was both my privilege and honor to see it through. It will remain so always as a sacred moment in my heart.  As I move forward now, I do so always knowing there is value in seeing the distance we have come.

Thank you for following

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Neskowin, OR to Manzanita, OR

Friendly horn taps: 1

Miles: 64

Total miles so far: 4,723

Ride Update:  We are about 51 miles from our finish line at Astoria. There is one more day until completion!  Please consider a donation now, as we complete this journey!

The Pacific shoreline at Neskowin, Oregon

We reached the coast yesterday.  And as that resulted in some small celebration, we have not finished;  We came out of the coastal range just down the road from Neskowin at the end of the day.  Neskowin is about 115 miles south of Astoria.  We completed 64 of those miles today, and barring any problems, we will finish in Astoria, Oregon tomorrow.

Today we got an old fashion drubbing from the Northern Pacific weather.  We got rained on until we were thoroughly soaked and then it rained some more.  All morning long actually.  The air was cool enough to chill us through to our bones after a couple of descents on the coastal ridges, so when we broke for lunch we were digging for dryer clothes and questioning the value of those “waterproof, but breathable” membrane rain jackets.  It seems they won’t breathe enough to keep up with us when we are exerting ourselves on the climbs, and they don’t really keep water out after a day in the rain like we had anyway.  I had my best luck with a wool jersey once the rain slackened some.  The wool blend would still insulate some when wet, and the fabric dried fairly fast in the wind.

All things considered, we have been extremely fortunate with weather on this entire trip, so we are not complaining.  The rain just makes for good memories after one is warm and dry anyway.  Right?

We were told a long time ago by a couple who had completed the Trans-Am some years before, that the days would turn into weeks and the weeks would turn into months for us while on this journey.  That is an apt description.  The experience is full immersion.  So much so, that I am just now surfacing enough to recognize it.  I recall when we approached two weeks from a projected finish, and in a blink, we were down to four days remaining.

In the middle of the ride, when we would seem to make little progress because normal measures were impossible to use, it was a bit like I was riding with my teeth clenched because it was difficult work and the daily efforts seemed like all I could muster.  Now I am wondering where it all went.  Somehow from that mid-point on, a new energy took us along and before we knew it, we are here.

Normal measures.  Now there’s an interesting topic.  I recall year two after Carlie was killed as being considerably more difficult than year one.  In year one I would think, “It’s been 123 days, and I feel like this…”  It was easy to measure and compare when I’ve never experienced 123 days after the death of my child before.  However, I found that day 437 was that much more difficult and one of the reasons is because I had no normal measure for day 437.  Who would have?  We usually count in months (only up to a year) and in anniversaries.  How do you relate to difficulties at day 437?  Who counts to 437 in the first place?  I know my teeth were clenched and I was all but hanging on.  And then..at some point I knew I’d make it.  It may have been after five years, it may have been nine.  I’m not sure, because the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months…  There were no normal measures, but it happened.

Not unlike this ride of ours.  Normal measures just don’t apply, but it happened.

Elephant Ear rock off the coast at Pacific City

The view from above Cape Lookout

Sunset tonight at Manzanita


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Brian Hood

Brian Hood

Brian Hood was killed by a drunk driver in September 1998 in Bend, Oregon.  Brian is pictured here in the great outdoors, definitely in his element and the place he loved best.  Brian always saw life as an adventure.  His family loves and misses Brian.  They say, “Our lives have not been, and will never be the same without him….there will always be the empty chair.”  Brian was 23 years old.

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Corvallis, OR to Neskowin, OR

Friendly horn taps: 2

Miles: 82

Total miles so far: 4,659

The inland farmland of Oregon, soon to give way to the Pacific coast

Upon close examination of this journal, it will become apparent that there are no references to offenders in my writings, or in any of the dedications.  This is very much intentional.

There is a time and a place for addressing the wrongs committed by another.  In my situation, I was able to speak freely with the investigators, and the prosecutor.  Sometimes I spoke too freely, but that goes with the territory and they understand.  I had the opportunity to address the court by way of a victim impact statement, and spoke again at a hearing requesting early release from prison (notice I did not say I spoke to the defendant, because the defendant, though present, probably never heard a word I said).  I was able to speak to the media upon sentencing.

The system functioned, and there was a sentence of less than one sixth of what the state requested of the judge.  But then it was over.  There was nothing more to do in that context.

A long time ago I knew had to resolve the understandable anger I had for the person who killed my daughter.  I guess, in all honesty, I really didn’t have to, but I chose to.   The alternative — to hang on to the anger and allow it to become part of my life is the equivalent of me taking a poison every day with the intention of making someone else ill.

Letting go of that took some hard work, but I do not live my life governed by what someone else did.  I have a terribly shattered heart from my daughter being killed.  That is quite enough to fill my plate, and I do not have much more room anyway.  I am not a hero.  I am no angel.  I am merely a struggling weakling who made these decisions for the sake of my own survival.  When I speak of moving forward, I can choose to take with me what I need.  I’ll take my daughter along, but leave my offender behind.

I raise this point because many of the dedications that were submitted to me for this journal spent a lot of time addressing the offender.  Some of them barely spoke of the son or daughter, father or wife.  I was quite saddened to read of the energy devoted to an offender when what we were trying to do is honor the loved ones.  I reserved the need to edit those too.  This journal is not the place for offenders, this is for our loved ones.

There is a time and a place for addressing the behavior of our offenders.  One of the benefits of MADD Victim Advocacy is that we help people work through some of those issues.  We assist people in preparing their victim impact statements for the court.  We help people prepare and present their stories for Victim Impact Panels.  We work with our volunteers structuring their energy in positive ways, like advocating for ignition interlock devices on the cars of all offenders.  There is a lot of work to be done, and MADD is in the front leading those efforts.

Please consider supporting MADD with a donation today.  There are two more days remaining in this cross-country ride.

A cloting adjustment as we leave Corvallis in the rain

Now...that's a log deck!

A coastal forest. Heavy on the green.

"How do you capture these huge trees on film?"


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Dupre’ Benning

Dupre' Benning

Dupre’ Benning of Bridgeport, Connecticut was killed by an underage drunk driver on June 16, 2004.  Dupre’ was an active citizen in the community and was active in the student body at Sacred heart University.  Dupre’ was 29 yeas old.

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Vida, OR to Corvallis, OR

Friendly horn taps: 4

Miles: 74

Total miles so far: 4,577

Ride Update:  We have moved the schedule up and we anticipate we will finish in Astoria, Oregon on Monday afternoon, July 18.  Please consider a donation to help us reach our goal.  Thank you.

Morning on the McKenzie River

As part of my association with MADD, I do some public speaking.  I’ve had the honor to be invited for some keynote speeches and I’ve addressed various groups for a number of years.  When I speak, I have to talk a little about myself, as that is usually directly tied in with why I would be at the podium in the first place.  However, those who know me well know that I would prefer not to use the terms “I” or “You” at all.  I prefer using “We”.   So whenever I get to the real point of what I want to say, I am using the inclusive term “we”.  As an example, I naturally bristle at a pastor addressing his congregation and talking about our behaviors and shortcomings and overusing the term “you”.  If “we” are going to talk shortcomings of the human condition, “we” better expresses those who fall short of grace than “you”.  The bottom line:  When it comes to taking action, the term “we” is more effective than lecturing to “you”.

All this is to say, that in this blog, I have had to consciously force myself into a first-person context.  When speaking of my grief and my reactions to the death of my daughter, I would prefer to talk in a more general sense, but I know that’s not fair to everyone, as not everyone reacts the same way.  My decision to do this ride and my reactions to the feelings and events that take place are my own personal observations, and for that purpose, I have been writing in first-person.

I have been speaking a lot of my moving forward as a theme for this journal.  Not everyone can move forward in the same way, because we are all different people, our losses are different, and our reactions to those losses vary.  This is as it should be.  Not everyone can get on a bicycle and do what we have done (although I highly recommend it).

However there is that collective “we” out there.  The “we” I refer to include those who read this blog, they include those who have contributed to the fundraising efforts, and they include those who one day will do either or both.  So yes, I have been keeping a first-person journal, but I am ever conscious of the vast and growing audience, the supporters, and those whose lives and losses we are trying to honor with our efforts in this ride.  We want to thank all of you,  for your generous contributions, your thoughtful comments, your supportive e-mails, and your hearty endorsement because it is about all of us.  It is not about me.

With three days left to ride, there is so little time remaining to say thanks.  We know we are greatly blessed by all the support, prayers, well-wishes, and the generosity of our donors.  Thank you.

-Sallie and Carl

Speaking of support, this was discovered along the road today...

And then a surprise greeting from MADD Oregon (from left, Anne Pratt, Carl, Lois Harvick, Nate Wheeler, Sallie, and Barbara Stoeffler in front)

A news crew from an NBC affiliate in Eugene shooting background for an interview with us today


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Judith Ann Jones

Judith Ann Jones

Judith Ann Jones, of Powell, OH was killed in a collision with a drunk driver who crossed the center line on August 7, 2008.  Judy was the mother of four, she was an ordained minister, an accomplished gardener, painter and seamstress.  She was 54 years old.

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Ochoco Lake, OR to Sisters, OR

Friendly horn taps: 1

Miles: 50

Total miles so far: 4,436

Early morning, leaving Lake Ochoco

When I was very young, maybe in the third or fourth grade, I was exposed to a multiple choice question regarding a boy that was scared of lightning.  The question pertained to how to best help the boy overcome his fear of lightning.  The correct answer was to give the boy a camera and have him take pictures of lightning.  I never agreed with, or understood, that answer, so much so, that I remember it even today.

In my life I’ve dealt with a lot of tragedy.  State troopers do that.   I’ve certainly had my own personal losses too.  There are those who say that trauma is cumulative and one can get to the point of overload.  I cannot argue with that.  I’ve certainly seen that happen enough times.

My function at MADD is complicated, but mainly summed up as one of liaison to law enforcement.  However, there isn’t anyone at the National Office that doesn’t occasionally encounter a victim support issue or experience.  I certainly encounter my share.

In my association with MADD, I’ve always monitored myself closely when it comes to other people and their traumas — I’ve asked myself to be careful.  Could it be that my ability to cope effectively with their trauma is diminished by my own?  Am I capable in the role of victim advocacy when called upon?  Read the dedication below and understand what it is like for me to write that out and not be overwhelmed by the traumas experienced by the woman who requested a dedication for her husband.  After experiencing so much of my own trauma, am I afraid of the lightning?

A while ago, I volunteered to help take calls on the Victim/Survivor Helpline (877-MADD-HELP or 877-623-3435).  To qualify for this, I had taken the appropriate Victim/Survivor Advocate training, but I was very tentative about my capacity for this.  What about that lightning thing?

I think I’ve been taking calls two nights a week for about a year and a half now.  I’ve lived with people’s trauma at all hours.  I reflect now that there may be something to that multiple choice question I didn’t agree with when I was so young.  The lightning is still there, it’s still frightening, but Victim Advocates play a role in diminishing other people’s fear and trauma, and maybe, just maybe, that helps me in my fears too.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving serves a victim or survivor of drunk driving every ten minutes.  Please support MADD in their lifesaving work.  Donate now in support of this cross-country journey.  Thank you.

The street scene at Sister, Oregon. A very popular place to visit.

Speaking of visitors, we had a visit from our new friends from Gainesville, Florida, Chuck and Judy Broward - see my post, "Gaining Gainesville" in April.


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Roy McConnell as submitted by his wife, AmyVolker:

Roy McConnell

This is Roy McConnell of Orlando, Florida.  He was killed August 1, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida by an underage drunk driver, at the age of 51.  Amy’s 19 yr old son and two stepsons – 24 & 28- were also killed.  Amy says, “We had a family weekend vacation and my guys had gone to a movie for fun.  They were killed on the way back from the movie.  My husband started triathlons a few years ago.  Here he is on his pink bike – his training friends called him the Pink Rocket.”

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