Friday, December 26, 2014

Tragedy Before the Southern Tier

This story ought to be known among all cyclists across the United States of America since not all touring rides are happy stories.  The ride of my cousin, Mark Boyd, never started before two thugs lured him away from a bus station in Fayetteville, NC, stole all his belongings, and brutally murdered him in the street.

Although bicycle touring stories are generally positive and the communities cycled through greet riders with curiosity and often times with generous offerings such as food, and places to sleep, it ought not go un-noticed when a tragedy befalls our riding community.

No where, except for this story in the LI Newsday did we learn of my cousin's demise after traveling the world over by foot and by bicycle.  In a time when Fergusen, MO took to the streets and the media displayed support for a bad individual, a criminal, Michael Brown, little was known about Mark Boyd who hurt no one, and who lived a humble life and sought only to enjoy what each day could bring.

I write of this story knowing little about my cousin.  I am 14 years older than he.  I lived much of his childhood life in Florida. I missed many opportunities to actually know him.  When the family celebrated holidays in New York, I was in college or working in FL.  The one time I remember him most was when he was about 12 years old when he visited with his parents to my parents house outside Orlando.  He and his two brothers at the time swam with my oldest son.   Any other knowledge of Mark came from family members who discussed Mark in terms of being "somewhere" in the world.  He lived and worked in S. Korea for a time; he lived and traveled in the Middle East and even in Rochester, NY.  I guess you could say that Mark lived an adventure everyday.

Many of us "grow up".  We "settle down".  He lived where he traveled.  I would say he knew the people because he trusted them.  Some folks may say that his trust of strangers betrayed him at the outset of his southern tier bicycle tour while in Fayetteville, NC.  He had hoped to catch a bus from Fayetteville to St. Augustine and start his journey across America's southern tier to San Diego, CA.  Wow! What a ride that would be although he had completed a transcontinental ride several times before.

I read about cycling the southern tier across country on a few days after attending Mark's funeral on Long Island.  It takes a strong man to accomplish such a task.  Strong in character-- heart and mind-- not to mention in good health.  Mark had to be strong.  His entire family, parents, brothers, and sister are all athletic and well disciplined individuals.  I don't know any of them to be anything less than accomplished and talented in sport, song, or mind.

What is my point?  My point is threefold:
1.  The world lost a wonderful person, a free spirit who loved and trusted people enough to travel the world without fear.  Yet, he was stolen from us, from our family before we could actually know him as we should have.  It was a loss that no one, other than the LI Newsday mentioned while a criminal like Michael Brown is celebrated by the media through lies and misinformation. It's a shame. Mark, and the people like him, deserve a memorial reminding the world of how we should be; free and able to travel safely in what is surly supposed to be a nation upon a hill.

2.  Cyclists must know that there are bad folk out there on the road although violent crime is at its lowest points in decades.  Be careful. Choose to trust while discerning to stay put when being led astray. Nothing good can ever come of turning yourself over to thugs hoping to survive by doing as they say.  Unfortunately, appearances do speak volumes; after all, we must acknowledge the value of personal safety above offending someone we do not know.  Toss the false idea of racism out the window and hold tightly to the reality of the danger that can snuff the out the light of your soul.  Just be careful out there.  Don't fear others; be aware of bad intentions and take first impressions seriously.

3.  I wanted the world to know that Mark has inspired me to bicycle tour.  I was introduced to road cycling by Mark's dad, my uncle, a few years ago.  Cycling has replaced running as my best form of exercise and recreation.  Although I had always wondered about long distance cycling rides, Mark's story has pushed me to give it a whirl since life is so short.  I want my experience of learning how to bike tour to help me learn about my cousin and to try to see the world in a more positive light rather than through a skeptic's lens.  Ultimately, as a way to honor Mark's legacy of living each day as an adventure and to spread the love of cycling.

Mark's story will not end.  I will carry it every day of my life.  I think about him often.  I think about his adventure in India sitting on the top of a train like the regular folk, who cling on to the rails hoping to reach their destination.  I ponder what it he must have thought about as he rode passed the many natural wonders of the world.  He actually rode a camel and saw the ancient pyramids of Egypt.  I will not accomplish all that he did, many of us won't, but if we can only have a taste and spread that flavor for adventure and shared experiences, it may be possible to make an even safer world.

I will see you on the road.

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