Wednesday, September 16th, I left Austin for Dulles Airport outside of Washington D.C., the ultimate destination being Culpeper, VA for the Mid-Atlantic Police Motorcycle Skills Competition and Rodeo. Travel can be a challenge at times, and this was certainly one of those times. Rain blanketed the northeast that evening which made things interesting. The last leg of the plane ride was less like your average plane ride and more like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, eventful to say the least.
The next morning, I made it to the location of the event in pretty steady rain. The course was already laid out and many of the participating departments were already unloaded from their trailers and were getting squared away. The Culpeper Sheriff’s Office had taken lead on organizing and laying out the event, using their mobile command center to anchor the field, provide announcements and generally keep things in line. The officers from Culpeper were the first to greet anyone who came in, offered help and assistance and also pancakes and coffee, which are always appreciated. Much thanks to the professionals from the Culpeper Sheriff’s Office and those supporting them, between a warm cup of coffee and shelter from the rain it was a nice way to start.
Because the rain never really let up on Thursday, the officers had to contend with not only the challenging course itself, but the rain coming down and the slickness it created. During the morning and early afternoon, I saw quite of few of the officers slide and fight with the conditions as they rode and became more familiar with the course. What was amazing about this, and continually impressed me that day and the next, was their ability to slide or skid but keep control and barrel through. To me, this translated to their abilities in the field. For these officers to be able to control the motors in the way they do, even in the inclement weather, means that they are able to protect the public and do their job consistently. This is a very important thing because while events like this are nice, there is the underlying fact that these riders competing and running this skills course are also officers of the law.
Departments from as far south as Baton Rouge, Louisiana were at the event, but all were dwarfed in size by the representative body from Fairfax County PD who had at least 25-30 officers or more in attendance. Many of the officers had their own style of riding, some worked through the course with a razor’s precision while others had a more fluid disposition. None was more fluid of a style than the officers from Baton Rouge Police Department. A couple of the officers reminded me more of bull riders than motorcycle riders. I later overheard a couple officers in the Setcom booth remark about one of the Baton Rouge riders and that he actually used to ride bulls for a living and that it influenced his riding style.
The vast majority of officers at the event use Setcom gear on their motors and have Super Seer helmets. I was able to give away quite a few windscreens to our officers! On Friday, the rain finally subsided around the time they planned to set up the challenge run. They reset the course with a large, metallic teeter-totter, a small, circular coned area, a ride through bales of hay and a golf cart positioned opposite a large Fairfax Country truck with a plastic hunting deer and hay bale in front of it. The idea was, the officers made a couple of turns, went up and over the teeter-totter, into the circular area (where you had to go around once without using the brake) and then exit, turn, go through the hay bales and then stop your motor, get it turned off, run and grab a paint ball gun and shoot an X on the deer. Thankfully there were no incidents on the teeter-totter. I was talking with Officer Alpy of Loudon County Sheriff about it and he joked that once you go, you just better go. There were a few officers that slightly overshot the golf cart to get in position to shoot the deer. There was an announcement made prior to starting the challenge ride to ‘please not use your sidearm to shoot the deer.’ Quite a few officers hit the Fairfax County vehicle (and took some good natured pride in that) when trying to shoot the deer with the provided paint ball gun.
Overall, the event was very enjoyable. It was a strong reminder that while each of the officers participating has their own lives, families, children etc, they are officers of the law and take great pride in their work. I appreciated the time I had to chat with many of the officers from the participating departments and watch them run the courses. The skill and practice it takes to get as good as they are is no small feat. Thank you to the Culpeper Sheriff’s Office for hosting the event, the County and all the participants. I’m glad Setcom was able to be there, both in the rain and out, for this enjoyable event.