2 county deputies trade their beats for cycling tour

July 26, 1992|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff Writer

County deputies Beryl Fleming and Gary Smith trade their beats for bikes this week.

The two veterans of the Harford County Sheriff's Department will set off with more than 1,000 other riders on the fourth annual Cycle Across Maryland Tour tomorrow morning.

The six-day, 300-mile ride winds through much of Western Maryland en route from Frostburg to College Park.

"Some people like to take vacation and sit. I like to take an active vacation," said Smith, 39. "It's good to just get out and get away from work."

"It's a great way to relieve pressure," said Fleming. "You get out there and make your own way. You can ride at your own pace, and they have a support team that rides up and down in a van to take care of any problems with your bike."

On the CAM-Tour, which will include more than 35 other riders from Harford County, cyclists ride up to 72 miles a day. They also have an option for a Friday "century ride," which would take them on a 100-mile route from Winfield in Carroll County to Olney in Montgomery County.

The tour concludes Saturday with a 45-mile ride from Olney to College Park. Along the way, riders will slip out of Maryland to pass the White House down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Fleming, 54, who works at the Harford County Detention Center, rode the CAM-Tour last year.

Smith, who patrols the streets, has never been on the tour, which changes its route each year.

Both said they look forward to seeing sights and meeting people they would miss behind the wheel of a car.

"You get off the interstates," said Fleming. "You're on your own even though you're in a group of people. I've seen a lot of places on a bike I would never have seen from a car.

"Last year, I saw a guy riding who had sleeping bags all over his bike. I didn't take much because you want to ride as light as possible. I thought, 'This guy -- why's he got all those sleeping bags?' Turns out he was going to Africa. He told me he was going to bike all over Africa, and he was going right after the CAM-Tour."

Fleming and Smith, who each ride about an hour before or after shift, prefer touring to racing.

Both have raced, but mostly in triathlons. Both would like to tour other areas of the United States or maybe even Europe by bike. As on the CAM-Tour, the bike breaks down communication barriers.

"It gives you something in common with people you never knew before," said Smith. "You can ride up alongside people and talk to them. You meet people from all walks of life, people you just never expected to meet."

Smith, the father of two boys, also conducts bicycle-safety programs for youngsters ages 3 and up. He gives them tips such as always wearing a helmet and always riding with traffic rather than against it.

The CAM-Tour also supports Smith's cause by using the $125 per-person sign-up fee to give away bike helmets.

Both deputies began biking full time after injuries forced them to cut back on running. Fleming began riding regularly six years ago after a foot injury interrupted his running schedule.

An avid runner for years, he had raced just about every distance from a mile to the marathon to 50 miles. He has run five 50-milers, including one last fall.

"That may be my last one forever," said Fleming, the father of three. "I used to run races all the time, but it takes a toll on your body."

Seven years ago, Smith had surgery to reconstruct a knee. He began riding in physical therapy and has never stopped.

But Smith first got hooked on touring during a three-day ride through Lancaster County back in high school.

"One day, it was supposed to rain, so an Amish farmer let us sleep in his barn," said Smith.

"They brought us breakfast and we helped them milk the cows. It was great. You get those kind of experiences all the time when you're biking."

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