By Karen Kefauver
March 7, 2013
As I stood on Ocean Street yesterday, along with hundreds of others, watching the solemn motorcade head to San Jose for the memorial of Sgt. Loran “Butch” Baker and detective Elizabeth Butler, I felt profoundly sad about the loss of these two City of Santa Cruz police officers. I also felt grateful to be amongst people who care so much. As I reflected on this unique city and my personal history here, I wondered how each of us could help make this a better place to live.
When I moved to Santa Cruz in 1993 from my native Washington, D.C., at age 23, I had no idea it would become my home for the next 20 years. Nor did I envision that bicycling would become such an important part of my personal and professional life. I arrived at the downtown bus station wearing a backpack, stayed at the local youth hostel and quickly fell in love with the city after a visit to Bookshop Santa Cruz, a concert at the Catalyst and a walk along West Cliff Drive. Despite not knowing a soul in Santa Cruz, I decided to stay here because of the beauty of the place and the feeling that people were welcoming. Compared to the nation’s capital, Santa Cruz felt like a very safe and peaceful oasis.
At my first job as a calendar editor at a local weekly newspaper, I came into contact with so many people in Santa Cruz County that I really got to know the town and discovered what a special place it is. Since I didn’t own a car, I rode my purple bike to work and everywhere else daily. Thanks to being a regular bike commuter, I also discovered my passion for bike racing, learned about the local bike industry and made friends with fellow cyclists who are still dear friends today.
During the past two decades, I have considered moving to bigger cities to pursue jobs, romance and adventure. But my extensive network of friends, and the close-knit community, have kept me content here, feeling, for the most part, safe and welcome.
However, during the last year or so, I, like many others, have been shaken by crime and tragedies happening in our own backyards and neighborhoods. This most recent loss of life has profoundly impacted me. While we grapple collectively with what we can do to make changes, I appreciate that the bicycling community, like the city as a whole, has decided to show support of the fallen officers. Cyclists in Santa Cruz have created two upcoming events to bring people together in the way it knows best — bike riding.
Santa Cruz Police Memorial Bike Ride
“Let’s pedal in honor of two brave individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice for their community. They deserve our respect,” said Courtney Dimpel, a Santa Cruz County resident who quickly launched the idea for a ride by gaining support from both the bicycling and paramedic communities she belongs to. A member of Vanderkitten-Focus Women’s Cycling Team and a paramedic in training at WestMed College in San Jose, Dimpel has also worked at Bike Station Aptos and Bicycle Trip in Santa Cruz.
On Sunday, at 9 a.m. cyclists of all ages and skill levels are invited to participate in the Santa Cruz Police Memorial Bike Ride, designed by Dimpel to honor the two fallen officers of the City of Santa Cruz Police Department. The mellow-paced road bike ride will depart from Aptos/La Selva Fire District Station on Soquel Drive, proceed to Corralitos Fire Department, where it will regroup and then conclude at Pacific Coffee Roasting. The total length of the route is approximately 20 miles.
“I wanted to make this ride happen. I was really sad hearing about this,” said Dimpel, 30. “Being a paramedic, it hit very close to home when these officers were taken down. I was talking to the paramedics who were right there with the people being fired at and they were under fire, too. It hit me: It could have been any one of us out there. I wanted to do something for community.”
Dimpel has gained support from a number of businesses that want to pitch in, including Fleet Feet Aptos, which will sponsor refreshments for the riders in Corralitos.
“We are honored to participate in this bike ride and we wish peace and healing to all impacted by the passing of the officers,” said Sarah Melton, an assistant with the Aptos/La Selva Fire District.
“If something happened like that to me I would want someone to something like this for me,” said Dimpel. “Everyone has their own way of showing respect and this is my way. Why a bike ride? Because I am passionate about cycling and there are many people who share that same passion. If we can combine the two, cycling and honoring the officers, and do something positive, it’s a win-win for our community.”
Bike Dojo 3-Hour Spin for a Cause
Santa Cruz resident Jennifer Karno plans to participate in both the ride this Sunday in Aptos and to teach part of a different cycling event, the 3-Hour Spin for a Cause which will be held March 15, 5-8 p.m. at the Bike Dojo, a cycling gym located in downtown Santa Cruz. The Bike Dojo will raise funds for the families of the two deceased officers by inviting guests to ride any amount of time from one to three hours for a fee of $25/hour. Proceeds will benefit the families of the victims.
“This was a way that we could give back,” said Bike Dojo owner Rob Mylls. “The Santa Cruz Police have always been supportive and responsive. Owning a business downtown has some challenges and it is nice to know that we can count on the police.”
“We know many people want to do something and just don’t know what to do. We thought this would give them a chance to contribute,” added Bike Dojo co-owner Kimberly Mylls.
Jennifer Karno, a cycling instructor at Bike Dojo, agrees with the Mylls and wants to show community support for the officers through cycling at both the Bike Dojo event, and the ride on Sunday in Aptos, “It would be great to have a huge turn-out at both the Aptos ride and at the Bike Dojo next week.”
Memorial Bike Ride organizer Dimpel has a similar vision: “I would love to see a ton of people show up. Whether people want to latch to part or all of the ride, they can do whatever they can, share their stories and meet new people at this memorial ride.”
And that’s one way that bicycling can help a community start to heal.
For more information and route details for the Santa Cruz Police Memorial Bike Ride, visit: www.facebook.com/events/342551122528365. For more info on the Bike Dojo 3-Hour Spin for a Cause and to make bike reservations (required), call: 831-713-5475 or visit http://thebikedojo.com.
Karen Kefauver (www.karenkefauver.com) is a freelance writer who covers sports and travel and is based in Santa Cruz. Also view her stories on the Sentinel’s Out and About blog at www.santacruzsentinelcom/blogs.