Messenger Archive: Spring/Summer 1999
Penalty Minimal for Death in Mount Dora Incident
by Carol Wilson
"Herbert Stoothoff!" Judge Donna Miller summarily announced the next case on her traffic court docket. It was Thursday morning, April 1, 1999 about 11:45 a.m.
Accompanied by his attorney, the man walked toward the podium facing the judge, head down and shoulders rounded.
Judge Miller began by saying that she had received "over a half dozen letters over the last week" expressing concern about this case.
She also commented that she had wanted to visit the site of the crash, but had been too busy to do so.
She asked Stoothoff if he and his attorney would like to review the letters, but since he entered a plea of "no contest" to the charges of careless driving he declined the offer. The judge, nevertheless, attempted to summarize the gist of the letters, stating that they were from bike enthusiasts, and generally made the point that "dozens of people are killed through out the country" by careless motorists (nationwide, over 700 bicyclists are killed in crashes with motorists each year).
She went on to say that the letters expressed concern that "above average carelessness" was involved in this case, and that maximum penalties should be assessed.
This much said, Judge Miller then went on to say that Stoothoff had "the best [driving] record I've seen all day"—22 years with no tickets, not even a parking ticket."
Noting that Ray Howland was a well loved family man, she asked Stoothoff to describe his own family and vocation.
Stoothoff described in a halting voice that he is married, has a 3-year old child, is a member of the First Baptist Church and is employed by the City of Apopka Fire Department. Prior to that he was a volunteer firefighter with the Mount Dora Fire Department.
Judge Miller commented that only by reading the letters sent to her was she alerted to the fact that this case had been reviewed by the State Attorney's office.
The Mount Dora Police Department completed its investigation of the October 18, 1998, crash that took Ray Howland's life and referred it to the State Attorney where the case was reviewed and investigated further.
Hugh Bass, Assistant State Attorney for the 5th Judicial Circuit, subsequently filed a "decline to prosecute" because he said he could not show that Stoothoff, demonstrated the "willful and wanton recklessness" required for a criminal conviction on vehicular homicide.
The Florida Highway Patrol (Corporal Templeton) reviewed the state attorney's findings and concurred with the conclusion not to prosecute.
The case then reverted to the Mount Dora Police Department, which issued a careless driving citation to Stoothoff.
Stoothoff's Day in Court
Judge Miller asked Stoothoff if he had any suggestions about how to begin the healing process. She alluded to the possibility of community service to benefit cyclists, musing that such work could "establish an understanding on both sides." She then asked Stoothoff to describe his current work in the community, and he briefly described his work with the City of Apopka Fire Department.
The Judge apparently was impressed that Stoothoff appeared genuinely remorseful, was a family man and had been a valuable contributor to societal good in his life.
Combining this with his spotless traffic record, she quickly concluded the case: "$80 fine and 4 points for careless driving."
After leaving the courthouse, Frank Bostwick, Bill Kalani and I drove to the intersection of S.R. 46 and U.S. 441 where Ray Howland was killed. Standing on the now faintly painted "P.O.I." (point of impact) spray painted onto the road, we watched the cars making the left hand turn off of the U.S. 441 exit ramp onto S.R. 46, just as they would have been turning that fateful morning.
The cars had ample time to straighten their path after the turn before passing the point where Ray Howland stood.
We also walked to the spray painted circle under the U.S. 441 overpass that marked the site where Ray's body landed after being hit. Had Judge Miller taken the time to physically stand in those places she may have envisioned the magnitude of Stoothoff's error. We wondered if it would have changed the minimal penalty she assessed.
Frank Bostwick and the West Palm Beach Bicycle Club plan to make arrangements for the planting of wildflowers to mark the site where Ray Howland was killed. Plans are also underway for a memorial ride to be held at the Mount Dora Bicycle Festival this October.
Mike Howland, Ray Howland's son, said in his eulogy to his father, "My Dad died doing what he loved most. I pray that his tragic death might somehow save lives by making cycling safer for others."
We hope so, too.
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FBA and FORBA Become One
At the Florida Off Road Bicycle Association (FORBA) board of directors' meeting in Palm Bayon February 27, 1999, another historic chapter of FBA's history was written. The FORBA board unanimously agreed to finalize the union of FORBA with FBA. Now FORBA will stand for Florida Off Road Bicycle Advocates and will operate as a committee of FBA.
The board had agreed in principle to accomplish the union in a meeting held last December, but it was decided that a poll needed to be taken of the active FORBA members.
Approximately half of the members were reached, and the response was unanimously in favor of going ahead with FBA if the board believed it was in FORBA's best interest.
FBA and FORBA agree that the benefits to having one statewide organization addressing the needs of all cyclists are many:
- Two organizations will not be in competition for scarce funding and volunteer resources.
- A combined effort can improve chances for receiving funding from certain grant-making organizations and agencies.
- Many cyclists ride both on-road and off, and their contributions will go farther—more into programs and less into administration—by going to a single organization
- Understanding between those who ride off-road and those who ride on-road will be improved
- Fundamental issues that underlie our respective agendas can be addressed more effectively. Such issues include land use and transportation policies, growth management and responsible stewardship of our natural resources.
- The media can be reached more effectively. Media professionals will know to call one organization for all of their bicycling-oriented questions.
FORBA's mission: to promote off-road bicycling opportunities through environmentally and socially responsible use of the land—and its purposes will not change.
The FBA board is eager and optimistic about working with FORBA to expand off-road recreational cycling in Florida.
FBA also realizes how much FORBA brings to the table that can help contribute to the achievement of FBA's goals of education and advocacy for all cyclists in Florida.
Together we will be able to accomplish a great deal more!
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Ididaride and It Was Fine
by Mighk Wilson
Momma always said that "Mountain biking was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."
With apologies to Forrest Gump, that could be the motto of the Suwannee Bicycle Association's (SBA) annual Ididaride in White Springs.
Two years ago a huge thunderstorm dumped at least two inches on the course the night before the ride, turning it into a 40-mile slog, coating participants (especially the faster ones) with plenty of Suwannee slop.
In 1998, the record winter rains brought the Suwannee River well above her banks, covering many trails with as much as ten feet of water.
Not staffed with a very large number of lifeguards and not expecting many participants to be skilled at mountain bike snorkeling, SBA wisely cancelled the event for the year.
So what would the 1999 Ididaride bring? Nearly bone-dry conditions greeted riders this January, as did temperatures down in the frost range.
I rode this year's 40+ mile event (it's billed as 50 miles, but usually comes in around 46 to 48, depending on conditions) in perfect slacker-mountain-biker style: I didn't train and started late.
My wife Carol and I rode together the first few mellow miles through Carter Camp. Carol, the sensible one, had no aspirations to complete the entire ride and kept an easy pace in the chilly air.
She waved me on ahead to play with the other boys so I wouldn't finish after sun down. The course is a mixture of singletrack, doubletrack and some pavement—I'm guessing about 50%, 35% and 15% respectively—around the town of White Springs in north Florida. The trails here are undoubtedly some of the best in the state, running through a combination of State Park, State Forest and Suwannee River Water Management District lands.
By the time I finished the twisting, swooping Bridge-to-Bridge trail the mercury was up to shorts-and-T-shirt levels and I was in that singletrack groove that we dirt lovers all strive for.
At the end of the Gar Pond singletrack SBA had set up one its first-class snack and recovery stops; a chance to schmooze with the many folks you don't get to see while negotiating the narrow trails.
The Little Shoals doubletrack also lets you ride side-by-side for a while for a nice change of pace. In order to get in a few more miles of singletrack, the route planners brought us back through Bridge-to-Bridge a second time.
The idea that both the trail and its name work just as well in reverse seems to be an especially witty bit of humor by this section in the ride.
It didn't take much to make me laugh by this point.
Will ride for soup...
A rejuvenating bowl of chicken soup awaited at Chez Tony's lunch stop in a warm sunny field in town. This is critical sustenance if one is to take on the final 20-mile leg of the event through Big Shoals State Forest.
Once in the forest, bailout points are few and unadvised unless you know the place well. I found myself surprisingly alone during this section of the ride. The faster riders were well ahead and I was among the stragglers.
Even with nearly 200 participants it was possible to be alone on a beautiful trail and enjoy the peace and quiet of the woods.
The Big Shoals that the forest is named for are a set of rapids on the Suwannee River. These are serious enough that most canoeists portage around them.
The river was the lowest I've seen it and the roar one usually hears on approach of the shoals was very diminished.
I've seen rain and I've seen fire...
After leaving the overlook for the shoals, I dropped into a smoke-filled gully, with logs and palmettos smoldering along both sides of the trail.
Sunlight created smoky beams through the canopy. Forest managers, concerned about the dry conditions and not wanting to see a repeat of last year's infernos, had set controlled fires the day before the event.
The smoke and flames went on for about a mile. I don't recall the Surgeon General saying anything about mountain biking... Smoking, of course, fits naturally with drinking and swing music, and that's what I found at the Wine & Cheese rest stop.
The wine was tempting, but I still had to negotiate the Long Branch loop at the north end of the forest. Besides, I'd be back through there after Long Branch.
Long Branch is the most technically challenging trail on the route, so naturally they saved it for near the end. Cypress knees, steep climbs, tight sections twisting between roots and trees—Long Branch is a kick when you're fresh. And a hard kick in the pants when you're not.
Back at the rest stop the wine was welcome. It was either that or Ibuprofen.
The last eight miles went by quickly as I rode and conversed with event-organizer Bob Michaels' sister Marcia. (What a natural. Marcia rides only occasionally—and on a totally rigid bike at that—and she made it look effortless.)
Delicious grub awaited famished riders at the end, at SBA Headquarters, an old storefront on White Springs' main street.
Sofas to crash on, campfires to gather and share stories around, sore muscles, friendly folks, more food and drink...
Ididaride is more than a bike ride, it's a community and a happening.
And you never know what you're gonna get.
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Bicycle Touring and Well Being of Small Towns
by Herb Hiller
Twenty years ago an open letter of mine found its way to Linda Crider, then director of the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness. This letter was addressed to registrants at the folklife conference which annually took place at the Stephen Foster Center in White Springs. The letter observed a connection between bicycle touring and the preservation of small towns.
Bicycle touring, I argued, introduces tourism appropriately to rural communities. Small towns can provide food, lodgings, and insights into traditional culture for cyclists out for a few days or weeks, thereby generating income and helping sustain rural life.
In short order I began offering year-round tours based in White Springs and Linda made the moves which led to the Florida state bicycle program.
In 1980, when Dan Burden became Florida's first bicycle coordinator, he focused on cycling for transportation. He won everyone over to the transportation priority. Government was prepared to fund cycling initiatives that focused on energy conservation, pollution control and safety. A network of regional government coordinators formed across the state. Paved curb lanes became standard features of road retrofits and new construction. Highway engineers learned how to integrate cycling needs (and eventually pedestrian needs) into road design.
Two decades later I believe the time has come again to attend to the connection between touring and preserving small-town Florida. By helping strengthen local economies bicycle touring can help curb suburban sprawl. Touring can help familiarize urban Floridians with back-roads Florida, and by putting us in touch with parts of the state unvisited by so many (especially newcomers), help the 14-and-a-half-million of us living in Florida begin thinking of ourselves as Floridians.
I have thoughts about how a motivated group of cyclists might proceed. If the prospect interests you, please e-mail an expression of interest to me at email@example.com.
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A TRIBUTE TO RAY HOWLAND
From His Son Mike
I want to begin by thanking each of you for being here today...and, especially, for your love and your prayers for Edie and all of our family. I am certain that my father is gazing upon us, and his face is beaming with that infectious Ray Howland smile. We also know that he would conclude that, with this many people gathered in one place, he probably should call the meeting to order.
I know he wants us not to mourn his death, but to celebrate his life, a life he maximized from start to finish.
Dad loved people, all people. He always looked for the good in others. He held in esteem those who tried to do good for others, and he was a living example of those who did. He made friends easily, and worked hard to maintain those friendships. Just a few weeks ago, he sweated out the Hurricane Georges watch and got on one of the last flights out to New York for his 50th reunion at Port Washington High School, then came home to call his best friends who couldn't make it to tell them all about it.
My Dad and his two sisters, Barbara and Elaine, who are here today, were raised in a strong Catholic family, and his faith helped him to overcome some of the major challenges he faced. He loved attending mass at St. Claire's, and thought the world of Father O'Shea. Of course, it's easy to see why.
He served in the Army during the Korean War and, in fact, was stationed in Okinawa when I was born. He was proud of having served his country.
He started out working for General Motors, but his penchant for community voluntarism and civic affairs led ultimately to a career in city management. His management style was fairly straightforward:
"Love `em and lead `em." He genuinely loved his employees and the towns he managed. He took the job seriously, himself less seriously.
One Christmas I came home to a town he managed in the Catskills to find he was out operating a snow plow. I asked him why. ``Several guys are out sick, and we've got two feet of snow to plow."
He just did whatever it took to get the job done. He made each of the communities he managed a better place to live, and took pride in creating more activities, and a safer environment, for children. While he managed all four of the communities he served with integrity, an incredible work ethic and boundless enthusiasm, his favorite community by far was North Palm Beach...and I know he's honored and humbled to see those flags at half mast in front of the Village Hall.
Dad also loved chairing the Seacoast Utilities Authority, which he felt was doing great things not only for North Palm Beach, but for surrounding communities as well.
Regardless of where we lived, my Dad always volunteered. He's patterned crippled children, been an Optimist, a Jaycee, a volunteer fireman, served on numerous church and chamber of commerce committees and, even now, recruited South Florida high school seniors to attend his alma mater, Alfred University. All that is on top of his voluntarism in the world of sports.
In reflecting upon my Dad and his love of sports, it was a challenge to arrive at a starting point. He played sports, watched sports, coached sports, wrote sports, officiated sports, presided over youth sports leagues and collected baseball cards. He knew intimately the rules of sports I barely knew existed.
In his younger days, it was football, track and a real favorite, hockey, which he played at St. Michael's before transferring to Alfred. Later, he traded hockey states for figure skates and shared a figure skating pursuit with my sister, Vicky, that endured for 15 years. They skated together for many years in the Cornell University Figure Skating Club. Not surprisingly, Dad served on its Board.
He taught my brother Steve and I how to play tennis, a game he loved. He enjoyed golf, but it frustrated him like the rest of us. He taught Steve to ski and loved skiing with Edie.
He played softball for over 50 years. I loved playing with him when I came home from college in the summer. At 20, I thought I was pretty good but, at 45, he made the All Star teams. In fact, it was almost another 15 years before he graduated to senior softball leagues. His active playing career with the North Palm Beach Seniors ended when the prosthesis was planted in his knee two years ago, but he continued to coach, or would just stop by the field to root on the guys he enjoyed so much.
His love of swimming and cycling were a catalyst for his involvement first with triathlons, and then a passionate pursuit of biking. He loved the ride, the people he rode with, the West Palm Beach Bicycle Club he led as well as biked in, ad he loved going to biking festivals with Edie along to provide encouragement. He called on Saturday to say what a great time he was having in Mt. Dora.
When he was badly injured by a car that hit him in 1987, I thought he'd give up cycling. He didn't. He got back on his bike, became a strong advocate for bicycle safety, and his recent logs show he was riding 600-700 miles a month. His prosthesis was removed after Sunday's accident and shipped to the Orthopaedic
Research Laboratory--they're anxious to learn the impact such arduous cycling had on the prosthesis, and how it can be used to help people with knee injuries resume, not just an active lifestyle, but an athletic lifestyle. A lot of people have expressed disbelief over the last few days that my Dad was 69. He was in such phenomenal shape that most thought he was at least a decade younger.
My Dad coached his entire life. It was telling last night to have women in their twenties and man in their seventies tell me he coached their teams. He coached many of my teams, too. Unfortunately, any aspirations he had for me as an athlete were quickly dashed when he had to ask the umpire for time in my first T-ball game, go out to the marsh where I was picking cattails, and escort me back to right field. He advocated sportsmanship, team play and getting everyone in the game. He worked to improve
everyone's individual skills as they grew together as a team. That's not to say he was perfect when it came to umpires. We have it on good authority that Edie had to take over the girls softball team he coached in the 3rd or 4th inning a few times, but, somehow, the girls always rallied to win.
My Dad not only loved his family, but we know he was very proud of us--his kids, his grandchildren, his nephews and nieces.
We know that because he told us--and because so many of you have told us, too. He gave us so much. For me, it was a passion for public service, for helping others and an enjoyment of sports. With Vicky, my Dad shared a special bond that can only be shared between a wonderful father and an adoring daughter. For Steve, it was a love of sports and a never-ending stream of encouragement.
I'll let his grandchildren speak for themselves. Vicky will read a letter Jenny wrote, and my son Jim will open up his heart with a poem for his Grandpa.
My Dad had so much love to share, and he gave it freely...but the biggest piece of his heart belonged to Edie. She gave him strength through her total love. She made him the incredibly happy person he was when he died. She kept him healthy, waited on him hand and foot, applauded his fitness pursuits, and shared his voracious appetite for sports with him. They loved to travel together--to Colorado and Utah to ski, to the cottage in Canada, to biking festivals, and to visit us. They shared a love of the sea and the mountains.
Lest you miss the real picture, however, understand that a typical evening would find Edie securing for my Dad his back pillow, an ice bag for his knee and a cold drink, while he'd watch ESPN and she'd then slave over a hot, healthy dinner. He'd yell out, ``Hey, Wills, Togo Umala won the Seattle Marathon," and she'd yell back, ``Oh, Wootie, that's great!" like it was the most important thing in her day. I know he'll be with you everywhere you go, Edie, adoring you as he does.
My Dad died doing what he loved most. I pray that his tragic death might somehow save lives by making cycling safer for others.
My Dad always liked to have the last word. He didn't get a chance this time, but I'm confident he'll send back these messages upon his ascension into heaven:
To his cycling friends, he'd say, ``See you on the road. By the way, it's great here. No cars."
To his softball aficionados, he'd say, ``Run everything out...and when you get here, we'll play two."
To his friends in public service, he'd say, ``Keep up the great work you're doing. Good government needs good people."
To his kids and our spouses he revered, stepdaughters he picked along the way and his grandkids, he'd say, ``Do your best. Wear a jacket. Eat healthy. I love you!"
To Edie, he'd say, ``Thank you for making me the happiest man in the world. I love you with all my heart."
To all of us, he'd say, ``Please take care of Edie."
I ask all of you to join me in taking care of Edie...and I ask you to remember my Dad as a man who loved life, loved the God he's now with, and loved all of you.
St. Claire's Church
North Palm Beach
October 22, 1998
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