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April QuickThrottle Column

Well, here we are, into April and its starting to feel a little like spring.   I was actually able to get out on the bikes for a little riding time earlier this week and it was wonderful!  Hated going back to the office after, and now am back in Olympia dealing with Legislative stuff.  Below is my Road Signs column for  QuickThrottle Magazine's April issue -- now available at bike shops and biker bars in WA, OR, ID, and MT.
Well, so much for the Legislative session ending on time.  As I write this we are in another 30-day Special Session in Olympia.   Allegedly its getting close to spring and we’ve been teased with some nice days, but the “spring-forward” into Daylight Savings Time was also a spring forward into a wall of sideways rain.  Please Dear Lord, make this year a wee bit dryer than last!   

The other morning though as I was walking in the rain across the Capitol Campus, my shoes soaked from the falling slush in the sky, I ambled passed the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial.  It sits on the bluff above Capitol Lake with a gorgeous view (on a clear dry day) of the Olympic Mountains and Budd Inlet.  There were some fresh flowers left there, in honor of Washington State Patrol Trooper Tony Radulescu, a sixteen year veteran of the WSP who was gunned down after a traffic stop in Port Orchard a few days before.

I paused for a moment and walked through the memorial, and noticed the freshly inscribed names of other officers who had lost their lives in the line of duty in the years since the memorial opened in 2006.  The “Lakewood Four” – officers Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens, Mark Renninger and Gregory Richards – gunned down in 2009.  Officer Tim Breton of the Seattle PD, in who’s honor I had the privilege of leading a ride to his memorial by the Seattle HOG Chapter, who was shot in 2009 as well.   Officer Kent Mundell, in 2009; Officer John Bernard of Grant County, Officer Brian Walsh of Federal Way, in 2010, and just last year Corrections officer Jayme Biendl.   It made me sad that yet another name will be etched on this wall for Trooper Radulescu. 

Bikers have a very strong Love/Hate relationship with Law enforcement, dating back I expect to the first HD model to roll out of the shop in Milwaukee.  Cops are bikers themselves in many cases -- many cops love to ride and police motorcycle fleets have some of the best riders around.  We welcome them on the road, and enjoy them in our midst.  We also cuss them when they set up speed traps, or pull us over for violations.  And yes, we have had the rouge few that “profile” and harass bikers, and there are departments where a culture gets engrained that bikers are a criminal lot who should be closely watched.  The vast majority however I honestly believe are doing the job we hired them for – and putting their lives on the line every day to do so.  It’s what we expect them to do, and that they do gladly and without reservation.   And for that, they earn and are entitled to our respect and gratitude.

Our motorcycle community is one that is very good at stepping up to the plate and honoring those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. You see it in the countless rides we had to raise funds and to honor vets, and police and firemen and women in the years since 9-11. 

You see it in the Patriot Guard Riders who stand watch as an honor guard over the funerals of our veterans.  One of whom stood guard at my own Father’s (a veteran of the Korean war) funeral several years ago – a man I didn’t know and who didn’t know my father but who felt compelled to honor a veteran who put his life on the line.

You see it when an officer is killed like we had with the Lakewood Four and Officer Breton in Seattle back in 2009.  My own Seattle HOG chapter had a ride to honor officer Breton and we passed the boot to raise funds for his kids and rode to pay our token respects in flowers and silent tribute.  It was one of the most moving things I ever did as a HOG Road Captain – riding up to the place where he lost his life, and the mountain of flowers and cards left by a grieving community, and watching a couple of dozen leather clad bikers wipe tears from their grizzled faces. 


The next year after those tragedies there was the massive “Fallen Officers” ride up to Crystal Mountain that was coordinated by the local Harley Dealers and sponsored by this very magazine.  Some 2000 riders attended and raised funds for the Fallen Officers Foundation.  Unfortunately we didn’t repeat that ride last year, and as I understand it, there isn’t one planned for this year.

That is a shame.  As I stood there in the rain at the Memorial, I thought that the riding community should do an annual ride to honor and pay our respects to those who put their lives on the line every day – be they police, firemen, soldiers, or correctional officers.  People we pay very little to in salary and who’s sworn duty is to protect and to serve the citizens.

I’m not a planner by any means – but I know it can be done.  I’ve seen it done on short notice, and I can only imagine the wonderful and lasting tribute that the motorcycle community can pull together for in honor of those law enforcement officers, like trooper Raduslescu and Officer Breton and the Lakewood Four – and those we know who will die in the future as they most certainly will.   I hope someone takes up this challenge.  I’ll be there to help.  And I know where the first ride should end up – at the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial in Olympia.  It’s only fitting.  Like the memorial says – “Their duty was to serve.  Our duty is to remember.” 

Gary can be reached at roadsigns@comcast.net and you can read his blog at http://grgardner.livejournal.com  If you would like to donate to the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial, you can visit their web site:  http://www.wslemf.org 

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