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Former Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries and two sons riding bikes on bonding trip

From left, Ken Fries and his sons, Andrew and Ben, pose for photos for their wives before the trio heads out Saturday for Michigan. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)

Ken Fries spent 32 years with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, the last eight as sheriff, so he knows how fleeting life can be.

“Little tiny mistakes change lives forever,” Fries, 58, said Saturday.

It’s why he wants to spend as much time with his family as he can, so early Saturday he and two of his sons, Ben, 29, and Andrew, 27, headed off on a bike trip to Michigan.

The trio hoped to reach Traverse City by Wednesday, after which Andrew will have to return to his job as an architect in Indianapolis. Ken and Ben, who works for the sheriff’s department, might continue northward. Their wives planned to drive up to bring them back.

It’s the third bike trip for Ken and Ben, and Andrew’s first. It started in 2015 when Fries retired as sheriff because of a term limit. The family had always gone to Florida in June and visited Civil War battlefields, so Fries thought he’d like to ride his bike south.

“How soft we have gotten,” Fries said of people today.

Ben decided to go along, and they rode together again in 2016 to Gettysburg. Last year saw the birth of Ben’s son, Rone, with his wife, Mallory, so the bike trips went on hiatus.

This year Andrew, who’d heard his father’s and brother’s stories, decided to join them, so they needed to keep the trip within 400 miles because he needed to return to work, Fries said.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve done in my life,” Ben said. “And I’ve tried out for the SWAT team.”

Ken Fries’ third son, Lucas, recently got married and couldn’t take more time off from his job.

Ken Fries complained that the bike seat is a little too small for comfort, and he expected to get flat tires, but the real trouble will be the drivers passing them, some of whom are texting or making calls on cell phones. The group will take country roads as much as possible.

“One in Tennessee had moss growing on it,” Fries said of a past trip. “It’s never traveled.”

Big cities tend to have drivers going fast.

“A woman in Atlanta said, ‘Honey, what are you doing out here? We had a man hit in a wheelchair out here.'”

Andrew’s wife, Anita, a fourth-year medical student, made sure they knew the signs of heat stroke. And the riders packed a tourniquet. Even if they didn’t need it, someone else might.

“The worst part is the dogs,” Ben said.

Fries’ wife, Candy, spent those 32 years as a police officer’s wife and now is the mother of one.

“It’s scary,” she said of the thought of the trio out on the roads. “After all these years…”

“I’ll get injured somehow,” Fries said.

Riding gives them a chance to see things they might not in a car, like the stop Ken and Ben made at a Marietta, Ga., restaurant where they found “nice people, and a couple of guys out front smoking cigars,” Ken Fries said.

They’re putting their faith in the route that Ben has set in his Garmin, which they’ve started to put their faith into.

“Five miles out of the way is hard,” Andrew said.

“Fifteen miles is an hour and a half,” Ken Fries said. “My goal is to make sure they get home safe.”

By Sunday night they had gotten to Holland, Mich., 164 miles from Ken Fries’ home. They found lots of trails in Michigan, rode along Lake Michigan and even got in a swim. Every hour or so they’d stop to eat some of the protein bars they’d packed. They stopped for dinners at a Wendy’s in Goshen and an Arby’s in South Haven, Mich. Sunday night it was pizza in their motel.

Andrew was enjoying the trip.

“It’s easier than he expected,” Ken Fries said.

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