Kannapolis police officers cycling to D.C.
By Shelley Smith
KANNAPOLIS — This morning, two Kannapolis Police officers are beginning a 420-mile journey from Charlotte to Washington, D.C., and will arrive with at least 70 other cyclists from this area just in time for the 23rd Annual Candlelight Vigil at the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial.
Lt. Steve Belk and Sgt. Mike Carothers have been training for three months and have cycled more than 1,000 miles to prepare for the Law Enforcement Memorial Bike Ride with law enforcement officers from Charlotte-Mecklenburg and other departments.
Belk and Carothers say the ride will not be easy, but each town they pass through will remind them of home, and help push them along the way. The two will also be riding in memory of Kannapolis Police Officer Roger Dale Carter, who was killed in the line of duty Dec. 31, 1993.
Carothers first visited the memorial with Carter’s family in 1994, when Carter’s name was engraved on the memorial wall.
“It was very emotional,” Carothers said. “I was proud to represent the department and help his family out, but it also brought back a lot of memories.”
Carothers took his own family a few years ago to tour D.C. and view the memorial.
But the four-day ride starting today is in honor of Carter and other officers who have died in the line of duty.
“Roger Carter was a good friend of mine,” he said. “I just want him to be remembered.”
And that, Belk said, is what the ride is all about.
“To honor all officers who have passed away,” he said.
The two work different shifts, but both are members of the Central Carolina Cycling Club in Cabarrus County, and they get to cycle together every once in a while.
Belk enjoyed cycling the most when he did triathlons, so he decided to stick to it. Carothers injured his foot years back, and cycling was a good way for him to get exercise since he was no longer able to run. And they’re both pretty pumped about the ride.
“Sgt. Mike Carothers and I had talked about it years in the past, about how interesting it might be to do something like this,” Belk said. And last year, the two cycled a two-day trip to the beach for multiple sclerosis.
“When this came up this year, we decided to do it,” Belk said. “It’s something we’re kind of interested in, anyway.”
And although most of the cyclists are law enforcement officers, John Baker — a good friend of Belk and Carothers and member of the Central Carolina Cycling Club — will be riding along with them to show his support.
Carothers and Belk say they don’t really know what to expect.
“I’ve never ridden a bike that far before, so it’s going to be a learning experience as far as riding that many miles in that amount of time,” Carothers said. “I’ve been talking to riders who have done it previous years about what to expect.”
Although the wives of Belk and Carothers are worried, the pair hope the miles they’ve logged together in preparation, and the support from the Kannapolis Police Department and other cyclists, will make their trip enjoyable.
And they are also cycling to help raise money for future law enforcement officers. After the 80-plus crew raises $20,000 for funding the trip, the remaining donations will go to Charlotte’s Finest Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to students planning a career in law enforcement.
The number of cyclists for 2011 has doubled. However, expenses add up quickly, and the group still needs help in order to break even and give to Charlotte’s Finest Legacy Foundation.
If you’d like to donate, visit www.biketodc.com for more information.
You can also visit the website to track where the officers are at any given time of the day, or look at their mile-by-mile schedule of turns and stops.
Contact reporter Shelley Smith at 704-797-4246.
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