Every year, he thinks the same thing:
Am I ready for this?
He’ll put in training, riding mile after mile, road after road, hour after hour, getting his legs honed and upping his stamina. And every year, he thinks:
Did I do enough?
The reasons he’s doing this are never far from his mind. There have to be good reasons for someone to get on a bicycle and embark on a grueling journey throughout the state of Indiana, churning through anywhere from 80 to 100 miles a day.
For Dan Dudley, getting on his bike for the past eight years has never been an issue, and riding to honor law enforcement officers – and one in particular – is the easy part.
Gary and I had ridden a lot, Dudley says.
He and dozens of bike riders – most of whom are law enforcement officials themselves – made a stop in Fort Wayne at the Law Enforcement/Firefighters Memorial of Allen County during an 80-some-mile stretch between Bluffton and Angola on Wednesday.
Cops Cycling for Survivors is an organization that makes this journey throughout the state every year. Riders stop at various towns and cemeteries along the way to pay respects to those who have fallen in the line of duty. They also meet with the families of survivors along the way.
Dudley is not a police officer, but he’s been with the group since 2007, a year after his brother, Lt. Gary Dudley of the Indiana State Police, along with Lake County Sheriff’s Chief Gary Martin, were killed during the 2006 bike ride.
Many have credited Gary Dudley with the creation of the bicycle ride, which some say started with a trip to Washington, D.C., in 2001.
It became a passion for him, Dan Dudley said.
Gary Dudley was carrying a letter, written by a fallen trooper’s daughter, attached to the back of his jersey the day he died.
He had planned to drop the letter off at the trooper’s grave in Brookville Cemetery.
On his way, though, a box truck struck a support truck that was following the riders on Indiana 63.
The collision sent the support truck – which had a large banner warning motorists of the cyclists – into the cyclists, killing Martin and Dudley.
The next year, Dan Dudley, who is now set to retire as the director of medical engineering at Wishard Health Services, took up the trip in his brother’s place.
Gary always looked up to Dan, said Officer Steve Knight of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Knight has participated in the ride ever since Gary Dudley biked to D.C. in 2001.
So today, Dan Dudley will wake up at Trine University, where the riders will have eaten and slept Wednesday night.
He’s expected to hop on that bike and cycle 68 miles to Mishawaka.
Like always, he’ll think: Am I ready?
Can I do this?
And he’ll remember why he’s doing this, he’ll remember the reason he started these rides nearly eight years ago.
It’s family, he said.