A somber morning ceremony gives way to a glorious ride at the Code 3 for a Cause memorial bike ride


Editor’s note: Through Saturday, May 21, cyclists from Orange County are riding between Sacramento and Westminster, Ca., in the Code 3 for a Cause memorial ride to raise funds and commemorate fallen and injured law enforcement officers. This is the 10th annual ride, organized by the Westminster Police Department’s Cmdr. Kevin MacCormick and Sgt. Bill Drinnin. Behind the Badge is along for the ride and will file dispatches from the road.

WATSONVILLE – Sgt. Bill Drinnin’s voice halted as he struggled to maintain his composure. Ten years into a memorial ride for fallen and injured officers and the effect of standing and speaking at the Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial in Sacramento still hits him each time.

“It really hits home for me remembering these guys,” Drinnin said, as he stood before the 1988 memorial, which depicts an officer kneeling and presenting a folded American flag. Nearby, seated on a bench, is another statue of a woman hugging her crying daughter.

Continuing, Drinnin thanked all the participants and volunteers who were not in police or sheriff’s agencies that attended and will be riding or helping crew the Code 3 for a Cause ride between Sacramento and Westminster.

“For you not in law enforcement, I don’t have enough love in my heart,” said Drinnin, who with Westminster Police Commander Kevin MacCormick created the ride 10 years ago.

MacCormick was equally emotional and said, “You have no idea what it means to have you here.”

The trek, which can include temperatures near 100 degrees in the Central Valley and elevation gains of thousands of feet in a day, is not for the faint of heart and will test the will of even experienced riders.

“Remember, it’s going to hurt at times. It’s going to suck,” Drinnin said. “But these guys don’t get to feel that anymore.”

Riders head out of Morgan Hill in Code 3 for a Cause memorial ride for fallen and injured law enforcement officers.
Photo by Greg Mellen/Behind the Badge

MacCormick urged everyone involved to make the most of the trip.

“If you haven’t been before, enjoy your time, it’s going to go fast,” he said.

“These are my best friends. Be safe and think about why we’re doing what we do,” Drinnin said.

All the law enforcement personnel on the ride have firsthand experience with losing friends and colleagues.

Cyclists in the Code 3 group ride wear the names of three Westminster police officers who died while on the job: Lt. Ron Weber Sr., Officer Steve Phillips, and Sgt. Marcus Frank.

Cyclists Eric Murray (left) and Bert Mekpongsatern (center) take a break and a beverage after cresting the Hecker Pass overlooking Watsonville.
Photo by Greg Mellen/Behind the Badge

Chris Yuria, a Long Beach police officer, said one of his academy classmates is named on the memorial after he was killed by a barricaded man in Pomona.

Volunteers Heide and Dani Bush have been involved with the ride for eight years after reading a story about it online. Phil Bush, Dani’s father and Heide’s husband, died 10 years ago from cancer that doctors said was directly linked to his work as a narcotics detective.

Dani, who has been both a rider and volunteer, said each year it means more to her.

“The first year I was overwhelmed,” she said. “Now every year it has sunk in a little more, the sacrifice that fallen officers have made.”

Heide said of the event, “It helps me stay connected to law enforcement.”

She added, “It’s not about my husband, it’s about everyone and the support and love.”

Riders for Team No. 1 pull in for water before their assault on Hecker Pass, a 5-mile, 1,100-foot climb into the mountains overlooking Watsonville.
Photo by Greg Mellen/Behind the Badge

Hitting the streets

After a prayer by Westminster Chaplain John LaBelle, who is riding this year for the first time, and a moment of silence, the riders were ready to head into the wind.

This year the event has 22 riders spread across three teams of differing ages, health, and abilities, who ride different distances and routes. The most experienced group, Team No. 1, rides 100 miles per day for the four-day ride. This year’s top team has eight riders. The second team of intermediate riders averages 60 to 70 miles daily, and the “newbies” average 50 miles daily.

On the first day, Team No. 1 took on a tough test. From Sacramento, the team drove to San Ramon. Given the ride ahead, their starting point was appropriately named Diablo Vista Park.

The night before the ride, Team 1, which consists of cyclists who ride together with the OC Velo cycling club, were sharing good natured ribbing.

Elke Schragl sets the pace in the ride over Hecker Pass in the Code 3 for a Cause memorial bike ride from Sacramento to Westminster.
Photo by Tauli Anderson/Behind the Badge

Elke Schragl, the lone female on the team, is also its best climber. She is riding in Code 3 for the first time this year.

“They talked about (the ride) for years,” she said of several OC Velo members. “They talked about what an adventure it was.”

“Her only goal is to make us cry,” Bert Mekpongsatorn joked.

“Not make you cry, just show who’s boss,” Schragl jested. “I just try to keep up. Sometimes I finish first.”

Team No. 1’s Tuesday started with a long southwest jog through the hills of the East Bay and into the flat farmlands near Morgan Hill. Although the riders were pushed along by a nice tailwind and averaging 27 miles per hour in the valley, the temperature peaked at about 90 and was 108 coming off the pavement.

A Code 3 Cyclist takes on Morgan Hill during the memorial bike ride from Sacramento to Westminster, CA.
Photo by Greg Mellen/Behind the Badge

That led to several riders feeling overheated when they took a right turn toward Hecker Pass, a devilish five-mile hike with an 1,100-foot climb.

Schragl may not have left the boys crying, but she certainly left them far behind.

As Heide Bush drove by in the support van, she shouted out, “You go girl!” to which Schragl let out a whoop as she charged on.

Ever the good sport, after cresting the hill, Schragl turned around, went back down the hill and helped the stragglers finish the climb. It was the kind of camaraderie that organizers said has come to define the ride.

Elke Schragl emerged as a strong rider in the Code 3 for a Cause on Tuesday in Northern California.
Photo by Greg Mellen/Behind the Badge

After coming off the mountain and into Watsonville, as the riders got off their bikes the feeling was nearly universal.

“What a great, great ride,” one said. “I’m loving every minute.”

Summing up Code 3 for a Cause, Drinnin asked riders to “embrace everything that happens.”

“In my job, my career, this is one of the highlights,” he said.

Read more about the 2022 Memorial Ride: 

Solemnity returns on final night of Code 3 for a Cause bike ride

Volunteers play a vital role in the Code 3 for a Cause bicycle ride

A somber morning ceremony gives way to a glorious ride at the Code 3 for a Cause memorial bike ride

Bicyclists for 10th annual Code 3 for a Cause begin the ride from Sacramento to Westminster

10-year anniversary: Annual Memorial Bike Ride to honor the fallen

To read more about prior bike rides up north to the state capital, check out the links below.