Veterans Tribute Ride (And Family Festival)
Digger Dave, Photos: Digger
Up where I live in the northern part of Phoenix, Nov. 10th dawned a little on the cold side, yep.. cold.. in Arizona. Luckily with a KSU of 2:30pm I thought it would warm up enough to not have to gear up in leathers, so much for that thought. 11am and the temp was still in the high 40’s, maybe that’s not very cold for some of you but for a desert rat it’s downright chilly!! So, I break out the leathers justifying it by the fact that I wasn’t going to get home until after dark anyway. I headed towards the highway for the 30 mile trip south to the start point at Sanderson Ford in Glendale and I was glad I had taken the time to leather up! I pull in to the parking lot and someone turned the temps up, off came the leathers and all the other cold weather gear, it was beautiful out!
The parking lot was already fairly full, with other riders (like me) still trickling in and there was a steady line of people registering for the event. With over 200 riders pre-registered this was going to be a good sized pack rolling out with the Patriot Guard Riders leading the way for an escorted ride. Local radio celebrities Mike Broomhead (KFYI 550 News Talk); Tim and Willy with Jim Owen (KSLX); Fitz Madrid (KUPD); and “NeanderPaul” (KDKB) were keeping everybody in a lighthearted mood as we awaited the opening ceremonies.
The POW/MIA/KIA Honor Guard graced us with the presentation of the colors and Roger Clyne performed the National Anthem as the entire audience either saluted or had hand hands over their hearts. The Desert Rats Formation Flying Team flew overhead, smoke on, in the missing man formation as all 500+ of us let out a rousing cheer!! The band had started up again and it was time for the start point raffles, allowing time for some more late comers to join up for the fun. I didn’t feel so bad now, I wasn’t the only one who rolled in leathered up big time.
I stopped by the USO booth to chat a little bit with the volunteers, they and the Arizona National Guard were this years beneficiaries. I really wasn’t aware of how much they do (shame on me), but the USO Arizona programs include, travel support, United thru Reading, deployment kits, care packages and a heck of a lot of other things. They help out over 42,000 Active Duty, Guard, Reserve Military and their families on an ongoing basis with the help of over 140+ volunteers providing 7500+ hours of service, THAT’S a lot of hours! Thank you!!
Riders were starting to form up for the roll out, my bro Frank and I decided we’d get ahead of the pack so we could get some photos of everybody rolling in at the next stop Wesley Bolin Plaza in downtown Phoenix, home to over 29 military and law enforcement monuments, all of which are very impressive, and quite humbling. There weren’t any ceremonies scheduled here, everyone just took their time visiting the various memorials. Tears and hugs were everywhere as people reflected on what the price of freedom really is.
We looked up and there were some ominous clouds starting to form, the weatherdude didn’t say anything about rain! So what, that wasn’t keeping anyone from our next stop at the Arizona State Veterans Home. I’m not sure that they had ever had that many riders roll in for a visit before, the parking lot filled fast and overflowed in to adjacent parking lots. Many of the residents were outside eagerly awaiting our arrival, as we were just as eager to say howdy and thank them for their service! Dunkin Donuts had boxes and boxes of donuts on a table along with a table full of bottled water…thanks! I’m pretty sure that some of the Vets there were darn thankful for that vast variety of sweets also! Visiting with the Vets, listening to some of their stories and chatting with them about all the different kinds of bikes there are these days was a lot of fun. One Vet I was talking with, “John” decided right then and there that next years run should STOP at the VA Home and there should be BBQ and BEER! I’m with ya on that bro, let’s do it!
Alas, I think all of us kinda wore our Vets out and we needed to roll on to our next stop at Harley Davidson of Scottsdale (always great hosts!), where there was going to be food, entertainment and beer! Besides, those ominous clouds I mentioned brought some cold wind and it was starting to spit a little rain. Rolling up the freeway it was starting to look a little ugly in all directions, chutes of rain were on all sides and the wind was getting a little rude in spots also. The bands were troopers and played in that spitting rain and gusting wind at HD of Scottsdale, the line for the BBQ was substantial but the hot coffee got a lot more attention than the beer vendor. Raffles were starting up again, people huddled inside at the dealership lounge trying to not get their food wet. Then, I couldn’t figure out what was going on, all of a sudden the lounge started emptying out and people headed deeper into the dealership. Didn’t take long to find out, Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw had just sorta popped in!! Thanks guys!
It was a great ride, with great people, both Vets and civilians alike all showing their thanks and respect to everyone past and present who have served in the Armed Forces. I was certainly humbled on more than one occasion during the ride as I believe everyone was. Thanks to Amy Petrovsky and Sensation Events for putting this together again this year, and also to all the sponsors and volunteers who made this a memorable day. Plus…THANKS TO ALL OUR VETS!! “Freedom is not Free!!”
~~Ride Safe Ride Free~~