Doug Gladstone clicked his shoes into position and pushed off on the first pedal of the day down the Pinellas Trail. It’s a journey he’s made many times since moving to Florida from Connecticut last year.
Today, in addition to his helmet, gloves and sunglasses, he’s also carrying dog tags.
“These are all the people I’ve ridden for,” he said, holding a chain of tags. “Some of them were close friends of mine.”
The Sunstar EMS paramedic is now an avid biker. But he wasn’t always so dedicated to the sport.
In 2011, he was a novice rider, occasionally hitting the streets. A friend and fellow paramedic died.
Doug wanted to honor his friend and the Muddy Angels 500-mile bike ride was suggested.
He jumped at the chance.
Now, seven years later, Doug has trekked over 3,500 miles around this country to honor fellow, fallen EMS workers, like his friends Linda Cohen, John Whitmore and Becky Bute. The dog tags he carries are engraved with the names of those fallen friends.
He's participated in seven National EMS Memorial Bike Ride events, riding for a different person each time.
“You can almost feel the spirit going up those crazy hills that last mile at the end of the day, like, 'I’m done, I’m done,' and get that extra push from them.”
It’s impressive to his current co-workers at Sunstar EMS.
“Some people are in it for the glory and some people are in it for the right reasons and that’s taking care of people,” said Charlene Cobb, the community outreach coordinator for Sunstar EMS. “He does take great care of people.”
More than 50 EMS workers each year die while on the job, according to Cobb. It sounds like a small number when you consider the size of the country, but those are 50 lost souls who were tasked with answering 9-1-1 calls. They were people who dedicated their lives to saving people.
Gladstone says he’d like to one day start a Southern ride, possibly in Florida, to honor fallen EMS workers like his friends.
“He has a passion for bike riding and also a passion to represent those who have died in the line of duty,” said Cobb.
The next Muddy Angels event is May 2018.