And though the beach block of New York Avenue may be no Champs-Elysees, the riders in the 25th annual Irish Pub Tour de Shore felt pretty triumphant. They had raised just shy of $500,000 to add to the $2.2 million amassed since 1987, when the ride was born with just a couple dozen cyclists.
This year's ride benefits the Philadelphia and Atlantic City Police Athletic Leagues, the Philadelphia FOP Survivors Fund, the South Jersey Fraternal Order of Police, the Art Sanctuary of Philadelphia, and other children's charities under the Irish Pub Foundation.
The Irish Pub Tour de Shore, one of the great trio of so-called city-to-Shore summer charity bike rides, rolled into Atlantic City for the 25th time with another distinction: Of the three rides, it is the only one that both starts in the city and ends at the Shore.
The 65-mile American Cancer Society Bike-A-Thon in early July starts at the Ben Franklin Bridge and currently ends in Buena, in deep Atlantic County, a finish that requires an additional 30 miles for a triumphant end at the ocean's edge. The Bike MS: City to Shore Ride in September ends nicely with cheering crowds in Ocean City but starts in Cherry Hill, not the city.
In any case, the pub-to-pub ride has become a required summer tradition for hundreds of police officers and their families, plus bicycle riders of all sorts – the zippy ones who finished in about three hours and had first dibs at the barbecue and trays of beer, and the stragglers who were treated to a thunder-and-lightning storm around 12:30 p.m. to add insult to injury.
About 40 percent of the riders are police officers, participants estimated. The ride goes over the Ben Franklin Bridge, heads for Route 561, and finishes down Route 30 into Atlantic City.
Many riders wore jerseys honoring the memories of slain police officers – from Philadelphia Officer Vincent P. Foley, who died in a struggle with youths in 1949, to Millville Police Officer Christopher Reeves and Philadelphia Police Officer Brian Lorenzo, both of whom died in vehicle crashes this month. There were teams of police officers, firefighters, Center City District officers, and a large contingent, Wheels of Justice, organized by Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman. Former Philadelphia Police Chief John Timoney, finishing deep in the center of the pack, was back for his 13th year.
Other police officers killed in the line of duty who were honored by teams of riders Sunday included: Charles Patrick O'Hanlon, Daniel Faulkner, Daniel Gleason, Stephen Dmytryk, James Ramp, Frank King, and John Pawlowski.
Pawlowski, who was killed Feb. 13, 2009, while responding to the robbery of a cab driver, was represented by a team of about 50 riders, all wearing J.P. Party bike jerseys. The group included Pawlowski's widow, Kimmy, who was doing the ride for the fourth time, and his father, John Sr.
Kimmy Pawlowski's first ride was six weeks after she delivered her son, Johnny, by C-section – and four months after her husband was killed, said her mother-in-law, Sharon Leigh, who waited at the finish with 3-year-old Johnny.
She said Kimmy was urged to do the ride by Faulkner's widow, Maureen, who has been involved with the ride since the beginning and whose daughter, Alexandra Palkovic, sang the national anthem at the 7 a.m. start.
"She pours her heart and soul into this," Leigh said. "It's the thing we wait for all year to do in John's memory."
Kimmy Pawlowski hosts a big pasta party the night before. Leigh was hoping her grandson would ride the final block with his mother on his little red Huffy bike, but when she rode by around 11:45 a.m., she gave a wave and kept on going. She said she knew her son didn't really want to get on his bike. (She was right.)
"The wind was a little tough going in," Pawlowski said after finishing the ride with her boyfriend, Rich McFillin, and reuniting with her son and family. "It's truly meaningful."
Finishing a bit later was John Pawlowski Sr., who said that the day was no different because he's always thinking of his son on any day, but that he appreciated the way his son and other slain officers were "revered and respected" by the event all day long by so many riders, volunteers, and family.
Inside the pub, where riders were at the bar by midmorning and were crowding in from the tent party when the weather turned a little rough, bartender Michael Melusky, 25, of Brigantine, said the event was one the employees of both Irish Pubs and owner Cathy Burke looked forward to all year.
"The riders are in early in the morning," he said. "They come in totally out of their minds, sweating. They all want a beer. It's a crazy, chaotic ride for a good cause. We're all about police officers here. To run this for the family of fallen officers, Cathy takes a lot of pride."
At the outside after-party, meanwhile, Philadelphia Firefighters Peter Crespo, 35, Jason Miles, 30, and Jesse Scott, 31, praised the Irish Pub for organizing a great ride and providing an unbeatable incentive for the 65 miles.
"That's the goal: cold beer at the end," Scott said. "And well deserved."
Contact Amy S. Rosenberg at 609-823-0453, email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @amysrosenberg.