It’s been a few days since the ‘Tina-120’ ride on the Silver Comet Trail. Not knowing what to expect, after throwing details together in just a couple of days, I was still super pumped to make the trek from Lawrenceville at ‘dark-30’ and ready to ride 120 miles for Tina Waddell. I remember Kevin Avery, from Kevin and Taylor in the Morning show on 104.7 The Fish (the mastermind behind the idea of the ride), asking me how many I thought would be at the 0.00 mile marker to start the ride. My answer was about a dozen at best…especially with announcing the ride on a Friday afternoon and the ride being the upcoming Tuesday. We both were blown away at what we saw when we pulled into the Publix parking lot at 5:30am.
Channel 46 was already there and Fox5 was not too far behind. There were vehicles with bikes on the back and on the roofs all over the parking lot. When it was time to roll, we counted 30 riders. WOW!!
After a few interviews, with Channel 46 doing a ‘live’ interview, we were off and rolling about 6:45am. Our 1st stop was the red caboose at mile 14.6, where another 30 riders were waiting to join us. Better still, Jim Waddell (Tina’s husband) and Joey Waddell (her brother-in-law) were there waiting to meet us, too. To be able to personally meet them both and express, on behalf of the cycling community, our desire to take back the Trail for Tina, was a very special moment, indeed. After a few pictures, the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office has one of their smart car’s waiting to escort us all the way through Paulding County on the Trail. Let me tell you, that was pretty cool, especially when the Supervisor of the Trail, Mike Quinn, was not feeling well and probably had a case of bronchitis.
With this huge group of cyclists behind the cool smart car, we only rode about 4 miles until we came to the place where Tina was attacked and found. We all stopped, removed our helmets and took some serious ‘moments of silence’ to reflect on the horrific attack on Tina, and (at least for me) of how much I am and should be thankful for. It was a very moving time of silence for us all.
After identifying who was riding the entire Trail to the Alabama state line, we settled into a rhythm of a very steady effort for the long road ahead. The remaining riders who started with us and those who joined us along the way, they went as far as time permitted and turned back to ride in the buddy system back to their cars.
One thing I wanted to spotlight was Outback Bikes owner Pete Wicker’s son,
who is a boy scout, also was inspired about the ride and wanted to do something special. The idea of every cyclist wearing a solidarity ribbon soon followed, which was SO fitting for the occasion. After finding out that red is Tina’s favorite color, the Wicker family set out by cutting ribbons for 100 cyclists, pinning that to a safety pin, so that it could be easily worn on our jersey sleeves, as well as saddle bags and anything else they could pin them onto. They also grabbed two Arkansas Razorback car window flags along with the ribbons. One of those flags you can see mounted to the van that followed us and the other made the trip with the riders.
At several strategic points, Outback Bikes had their van meet us to help supply gels, bars, water, mechanical and any other support we needed.
After reaching our milestone of the Alabama state line, we met other cyclists there who were out of a day’s stroll, so we tagged them to grab photos of the group. After about a 10-minute stop, we turned our bikes headed east, and started to pedal back.
Lunch awaited only 12 miles from the state line at Pirkle’s Deli in Cedartown. If you need a reason to ride your bike that far on the SCT, then make your target to eat at Pirkle’s Deli. Just sayin…. BIG Thanks to owner Kimberly Pirkle for being such a great host and having our food on the table when we walked in.
The hard part was getting back on our bikes after a great lunch but we had no choice. We only had 51 miles left till we could unclip for the rest of the day. Like before, we settled into our even pace w/o all the drama of typical group rides where guys blow off the front to show off a bit. Today, it was all about camaraderie and thinking about Tina. At several points along the day, we had cars do the ‘toot toot’ on their horns in support, as if they knew what we were there for; same for many cyclists and walkers alike. I’ve never been in the military, but that whole day felt like we were on a mission; it was very specific, the goal was precise and the motivation was a no-brainer.
There were several times during the final leg of the ride (pun intended), where cramps in my toes was brutally painful. I even stopped and screamed at the top of my lungs from the pain. It was in moments like these, I kept reminding myself of why I was riding and that there was no pain I could experience that could ever compare to what Tina was experiencing. It sure helped to put things in perspective. Rinding in very long stretches of pavement w/o much scenery at all, you could easily get zoned out or bored but the thoughts that rambled through my head all day, were about only only Tina, but what Jim, Joey and the rest of the family was feeling and dealing with.
One very cool story that didn’t make the news was the one that unfolded the night before the ride. Alex, a 16-yr old, heard about what we were planning and became very inspired, to the point of wanting to join us and do the whole thing. As I am getting my bike and me ready in the parking lot, Alex and his Dad come up and introduce themselves. His Dad told me Alex sprung his idea on them the night before and really wanted to ride. So, they got his Mom’s ‘old’ road bike, his Dad’s road shoes, both that didn’t fit him at all, and some cycling shorts that no one had a clue where they came from. He was there ready to ride…and ride he did. Alex rode the whole trip with us, until he met his parents at mile 20 on the way back. That means he rode 102 miles and he was not a cyclist. He WAS a long distance runner…and a good one at that. Needless to say, his cardio was great and so was his legs. What an inspiration to always look around during the ride and see Alex pedaling ride along side us. Way to go, Alex!!!!
That’s not the end. Because, later in the day, yet another group of cyclists gathered at the 0.00 mile marker to ride for Tina. This was an opportunity for those who couldn’t get off work but still wanted to participate…which was spearheaded by Sorella Cycling Club, an all-women club. When they heard about our ride, most couldn’t make the am start but could easily do one at 6pm.
As ladies, it was a no-brainer to come support Tina. About 30 riders showed up for that ride, making the total for the day almost 100 riders, taking back the Trail on behalf of Tina.
Just announced, Paulding County is going to install
video cameras along their section of the SCT, increasing the number of cameras from their current 3 to a whopping 21 cameras. Also discussed is hopefully extending the fiber optic cable into the Cobb County section of the Trail to further expand the video coverage. Needless to say, this is a HUGE step in the right direction by both counties. The SCT is wildly popular and is used by all walks of like. Knowing that this type of video surveillance will be a reality soon, is surely to help create a better sense of security. With that said, it should never replace us all using common sense and not be out there alone….especially women. Surveillance cameras cannot stop a crime, so my hope is everyone stay vigilant in their own safety and just be smart about it. There will always be bad people in this world who do very bad things.
Remember, the whole reason we did this ride was to raise awareness on behalf of Tina Waddell, to show that the Trail is safe (w/proper steps we should personally take) and to help motivate folks to donate to the TAKE BACK THE TRAIL FOR TINA Fund. Just go to any Suntrust Bank and tell them you want to make a donation. Your dollars will help offset Tina’s growing medical bills, as well as establish a reward that leads to the capture of the folks who attacked Tina.
In closing, being a part of events like these….the ones where the cause, etc. is much bigger than any one individual, are the points of time in my life that mean the most to me. These are the ones that touch me the most, motivate me the most, and keep me humble and thankful for all the Lord has blessed me with. In other words, there are no better words than the famous ones from English reformer John Bradford…
“There, but the grace of God, go I”
See ya on the road,