Yesterday one of Princeton's ambulances was responding to a call when a cement truck drifted into their lane, forcing them off the road. Both crew members are okay with bumps and bruises, but the ambulance had extensive damage. We never know when something is going to happen to us on the job or what it will be.
When we rode out today one of Princeton's ambulances escorted us all the way to Blacksburg. I want to thank David Farley, who came in on his day off to do this, and his partner Maitland Bailey III. Special thanks to their employer and company CEO Stacy Hicks for paying for dinner, providing the escort vehicle and making a good work environment for his staff.
We started off with the threat of rain in the forecast and ominous skies. The clouds were lower than yesterday, and the temperature was cool. As I was peddling hard up the hills, my breath was visible, puffing out like a steam locomotive.
We rode to Roanoke, VA, today. At the 20 mile mark, our other two riders, Dr. Ken Turner and his son Kenny from Bristol, VA, caught up with us. It was enjoyable to have someone alongside to talk to as we travel down the road.
We were met 10 miles outside of Blacksburg, VA, by two rescue units and two tow trucks from a local company. The company was owned by Randy Caldwell, who drove for the Blacksburg Rescue squad and helped take care of the trucks. Randy passed away this past year, which is the reason the tow trucks were there to escort us into town. The police department also played a big part in our arrival, with officers at every intersection and traffic lights holding traffic for us as we passed through. At the Blacksburg headquarters we met with Randy's family and wished them well.
We finished the day with the ride into Roanoke. Along the way we traveled in and out of showers, with one big downpour that lasted for about two miles. That can be a long time on a bicycle. Dinner tonight was hosted by Cave Springs Rescue Squad, who has hosted dinner for the ride every year that it has passed through Roanoke. Unfortunately, all the squads were busy on calls so we didn't get to visit with them. But the ladies from the auxiliary were there to provide one of their fantastic meals. Doing this ride does bring some benefits, and one of them is to sit down and break bread with some of the most wonderful people on earth. The ladies had fried chicken; cheesy mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, peas and tossed salad waiting for us. All this and a table full of different pies and cakes for dessert, and, if that wasn't enough, ice cream. What to choose, what to choose.
Waiting for me at Cave Springs was Bob Bruch, who tracked me online after finding an article I wrote several years ago about traditions and how this bike ride is the start of a new tradition that is truly EMS. In the article, I wrote about giving the dog tags I wore that year for Johnny Carson, Jr., to his mother and the effect it had on me. Bob was good friends with Johnny, and he contacted me to talk about the ride. Bob lives in the Roanoke area, so we made arrangements to meet each other tonight.
It was like meeting an old friend that you haven't seen for a long time. We shook hands, we hugged and we cried. It was quite a moment for both of us. Then we talked for the next three hours about our lives and our families, and told stories like all good EMS people do when they get together.
Speaking of stories, the ladies of the auxiliary had a few of their own that had us all in stitches. These ladies all started in the early days of Virginia EMS and have seen a lot of changes over the years.
All in all, it was a remarkable evening, with everyone sitting around the table, easily passing the time and stories like comfortable old friends. This was truly one of the most relaxing and enjoyable evenings of any of my past six rides.
The riders who started in Boston spent the night in New York and were able to take in a Mets game from luxury box seats. Way to go, Jules, for scoring those tickets.
Today, they also had rain to contend with, but it was worse than ours. Their start was delayed by an hour, but eventually they had to go in the rain, as they have a tight window to ride through the city. Thankfully, it was a short day of riding for them. Tomorrow they go through New Jersey and head into Pennsylvania, where they will stop at Gettysburg.