They have continued the tradition every year since then, and this year, 41-year-old Hoboken resident Joan Zarodkiewicz joined the trek.
The 262-mile expedition - called the Tour de Force - is limited to police, fire, and emergency workers, and to family members of those in the professions. Zarodkiewicz's brother is a police officer in Connecticut.
In 2002, the group consisted of only about 10 riders. This year, 132 people two-wheeled it from the Pentagon to Ground Zero, starting Sept. 8 and finishing on Sept. 11.
"It was challenging, and not just physically," Zarodkiewicz said last week, calling the law enforcement riders "an intense bunch of people."
The donations made from the fundraiser are not limited to families affected by 9/11, but for any family who has lost a loved one in the line of duty.
Zarodkiewicz said, "It was an emotional experience."
Caravan of charity
The minimum entrance fee was $1,000, although the dedicated Hobokenite was able to raise $1,973.
She said the group of riders made a couple of stops along the way to give donations directly to affected families, like one woman from Perth Amboy. The woman, who is 6 months pregnant, recently lost her policeman husband when he was killed by a drunk driver while transporting suspects back to a police station.
Zarodkiewicz said moments like that one made it worth the ride.
Over $200,000 was raised, according to Event Director Mike Depaolis. The money will be distributed over the next year.
He said the race will continue each year in the foreseeable future.
Four days on two wheels
Zarodkiewicz, who moved to Hoboken in 1997 and is an avid biker, crashed on day 1. She blamed some fatigue, as well as a penchant for chatting with those around her. But she got back on the bike.
The rain didn't help on day 2, and some of the riders had to be bussed to a meeting point to avoid slick conditions on the Garden State Parkway.
Of the 75 miles scheduled for day 2, she was only able to ride 55 of them. She said some of the braver bikers endured the elements and completed that leg of the trek.
Day 3 was 60 miles of riding, and day 4 extended from Staten Island to the NYPD Police Memorial on Liberty Street.
Getting the riders there
Besides the challenges of weather and safety, there was also the hefty work of coordinating 132 bikers, a few dozen support personnel, and the many police escorts required to safeguard the riders.
Zarodkiewicz said the trip was a continuous "hurry-up-and-wait," not helped by the large-scale logistics and the strong personalities of those riding alongside of her.
Because of the logistical issues, the Tour de Force has varied its route over the years.
Last year they rode from Yankee Stadium to Fenway Park, catching a Yankee-Red Sox matchup on the final day.
Zarodkiewicz has since gone back to her job at an acting college in New York City and said she's not sure whether she would make the journey again.
"I'll do it again - if I'm invited," she said. "But maybe it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
"It took me a long time to get all the testosterone and endorphins out of my system," she added.
Donations to the fund can still be made at www.TourdeForceNY.com.
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