Welcome to Rider Spotlight, a series of blogs to introduce you to some of the riders on the Rodman Ride Team TextLess Live More 2020
Emily Hammel, one of Merritt's bike trip leaders, is co-captaining a Ride team in Boston
Put simply, I ride with TextLess Live More for its community and shared connection. It’s a beautiful event spearheaded by courageous leaders, and it unifies people around a powerful mission. Yet, it’s so much more than that.
The TextLess Live More community feels like an extension of my family. We are bound together in a commitment to uphold Merritt’s legacy, and we strive together to create a safer world devoid of the perils of distracted driving.
Seven years ago when I was biking across the country with Merritt, the last conversation I remember having with her was about the delicious breakfast sandwiches we both savored at our favorite deli in Warren, VT. I can’t say why this conversation stands out in my mind, but there’s something special about the connection we shared with our love for the Valley. We both grew up skiing the same trees and bumps, and probably shared all the same secret runs and hideouts on the mountain as kids. I reflect on this coincidental connection often. I marvel that someone could share the same satisfaction in picking the melted cheese out of the crevices of tinfoil after devouring the never-quite-big-enough breakfast sandwich. How do total strangers share such specific (and peculiar) interests? What is the basis for the connections we make?
And yet, among the dozens of riders who join our team every year, many of them never met Merritt. Strangers, perhaps, to her selfless attitude and infectious laugh. But we all ride together because we believe in the mission of TLLM. We are connected in our understanding of the widespread impact of distracted driving. It touches everyone; every parent, every sibling, every friend. We are also connected in our understanding of the important role we play, individually, in advocating for safer roads. Talking to friends and family about texting and driving, supporting TLLM’s policy reform efforts, or showing up in person to a state hearing to promote hands free legislation, we are a community engaged.
Beyond riding my bike 50 miles and celebrating Merritt, I also love participating in the Rodman Ride for the opportunity it provides to reach out to friends and family for support. Picking up the phone and talking to people about distracted driving is the most direct way to raise awareness and bring the issue to the front of peoples’ minds. In an ever digitalized world with virtual campaigns and simple “1-click” petitions, I find more and more a need to maintain opportunities to engage people more personally. Sometimes a good old fashioned phone call is just what you need.
Above all, it’s a reminder that progress is possible, and good things can come from the worst imaginable circumstances. Love and hope can grow from pain, and the intentional connections we build with those around us are real and powerful. We can build a safer tomorrow if we are engaged today. TLLM is about being present and building those connections. It’s about Living More.