Monday, May 19, 2008

A Ride To Remember Bill

On June 1, I plan to bike 170 miles from the Atlantic Coast at Vero Beach to the Gulf Coast at Clearwater Beach to remember the inspiring bicycle life of the amazing Bill Fox.

Remarkably, I met Bill a single time -- in April 2001 when I was biking a crazy 115-mile route in the Hudson Valley in NY state as part of a goofy newspaper business story on the Stewart's convenience store chain. I had a chance meeting with Bill at a Stewart's store in Goshen. Bill was biking from Middletown, NY into New York City to catch a concert and I was on my zany bike Tour de Stewart's for the story for a daily newspaper called the Middletown, NY-based Times Herald-Record.

Bill and I were both long-distance marathon cyclists who used our bicycles as much as vehicles of meditation as we did as machines that carried us hundreds of miles. So he was a kindred spirit. We both loved sharing our infectious love of bicycling with anyone willing to listen. We were cycling evangelists. The un-saved people called us bicycle enthusiasts.

I included Bill in that Tour de Stewart's newspaper story in 2001.

The next time I wrote about Bill was when I wrote a newspaper story about his death in June 2002.

I saw an obit in my newspaper of a "Bill Fox" on the Times Herald-Record and the obit included a line about his love for bicycling.

Not knowing that this was the same Bill Fox I met a year earlier at that Stewart's store during our bike rides, I interviewed's Bill's wife and wrote a story about Bill. It was during the interview that Margaret Fox, Bill's wife, informed me that Bill enjoyed meeting me during the bike rides one year earlier and he actually kept the story after it ran in the Times Herald-Record.

Margaret had triggered my memory -- yes, her husband was Bill Fox, the amazing Bill Fox who I met a year earlier during that Stewart's store ride.

Three years after Bill's death, I did a personal memorial bicycle ride for Bill by biking 158 miles from the George Washington Bridge at New York City to the state capitol in Albany. Along the way, I phoned in messages to amazing blogger Jeff Houck, who posted live reports about the 158-mile Bill Fox ride on his Side Salad blog.

I also wrote a story about that 158-mile ride in Bill's memory for the Tampa Tribune. Jeff also had a hand in that, being that Jeff was the travel editor at the Tribune at the time. Jeff did a masterful job editing the story.

I had dinner with Margaret Fox while I was visiting the Hudson Valley for the bike ride in her husband's memory. A few weeks later, a package came in the mail. It was a former jersey of Bill's. I wear it only one time a year -- when I do my annual bike around Lake Okeechobee 120-mile ride. I was amazingly touched by Margaret's gesture.

So many people joined the ride in different ways. Take my Hudson Valley pal, Wayne Hall, who I met along the way.

Chris O'Connell, another Hudson Valley friend, rode 80 of the 158 miles with me.

And my Hudson Valley teacher-friend Rosemary Evans even had her second-grade class read 160 books for each of the 160 miles of the bike ride.

The support and love along the way for that Hudson Valley bike ride would have made Bill proud.

So this June 1 will be six years since the amazing Bill Fox died -- and I plan to remember Bill and his legacy of his love for cycling again with another bike ride.

I can't bike in New York in June. But I can bike in my adopted state of Florida. I plan to respect Bill's bicycling spirit by pedaling 170 miles from the Atlantic Ocean in Vero Beach to the Gulf of Mexico in Clearwater Beach. The route will be ultra-simple: State Road 60 coast-to-coast.

Until now, I've mentioned this to only a few people and already I have been touched by the offers of help. Steve Swiger, a fellow Seminole Heights Bicycle Club member, has already offered to sag, while another SHBC memner, Ken Sturrock, has offered to pick me up in Clearwater Beach.

I'm happy to share the ride in Bill's memory with anyone who wants to participate in any way. I'm biking SR 60 the whole way.

You'll know where to find me.

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