Well, it is now November, and I thank you for coming back once again to read about my journey to end suicide.
Now, for most articles, time is fairly irrelevant. But see, November is special for the Ride Out of the Darkness Journey… November is the planned month of completion of the miles!
As I sit here and type this out it is September 25. I am in a beautiful campground just southeast of Springfield, Illinois. The weather is perfect, the campground is almost empty allowing thoughts to flow, the birds are chirping, the sun is out, and the breeze sways the trees gently.
The only thing that would make this very moment better is if my beautiful girls were with me… and soon that shall happen!
So, check the Facebook and Instagram “Ride Out of the Darkness” pages to see what all has been going on in the last few weeks of the journey and to see if Trinity and I did indeed accomplish the 105,100 mile mark.
As for what has happened in the past few weeks, well, things have been busy and amazing.
I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural Suicide Prevention Ride at Taboo Harley-Davidson in Alexandria, Louisiana. Being in Louisiana, I had to watch how I rode because a second road coupon in the state would mean that both would in turn hit my record… there isn’t any money in the budget for that!
I showed up a bit early on September 8 and was eagerly greeted by Amanda Marcum, Taboo H-D’s marketing and events coordinator, and met Stacy Tucker, the Alexandria Veterans Affairs healthcare system suicide prevention coordinator. There were many other outstanding people from Taboo Harley-Davidson and the Alexandria VA that made this a remarkable stop that will indeed be a fond memory for me for life.
Setup was going on inside the used bike area since rain was forecasted for the morning. The general manager made the call to set everything up outside though, and luckily the rain never came to fruition. Even with threats of poor weather, 46 bikes showed up for the ride. Not bad at all for a first-year event!
After a few words from Stacy and other members of the VA, we all straddled our machines and with the help of Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Motor Deputy Campbel, we were escorted over to the Alexandria VA to visit with patients and staff members.
It was amazing to see the smiles on the veterans’ faces while all of the bikes pulled in. The veterans that were able to come out and take a closer look at the bikes did so, and the ones that were not able to venture out into the parking lot were greeted by the riders and passengers for an eagerly-awaited visit.
After about an hour-long visit with the vets, it was time to head back to the dealership for some music, food, and I needed to have Trinity’s 80,000-mile service performed. You could see in many of the patients’ faces that they were grateful for our visit, but sad that we were leaving. This has made a lasting impact on my life, and I will be making some time to visit my local VA inpatient facilities one I finish this journey. I encourage you to do the same, as it will improve the quality of life for our aging vets and for you as well.
Taboo Harley-Davidson is indeed an outstanding dealership and if you are in the area, be sure to swing by and say hello for me.
Later on in the month I attended the fourth annual Ride to Fight Suicide at East Orlando Harley-Davidson. The event was organized by Terry and Wayne Levesque, who are volunteers with the Central Florida AFSP chapter, and Crystal Jackson, Orlando Harley-Davidson’s social media director. This year’s ride was indeed a success with over 200 bikes showing up and in excess of $15,000 raised. This year had more than three times the turnout from the previous year! This is the kind of awareness that we need to build in order to be able to stop this nation’s suicide epidemic.
The ride was right at 50 miles and took us through some of the scenic areas surrounding Orlando. Upon returning to East Orlando Harley, the music was playing, barbecue was being handed out, raffle and door prizes were being awarded, and some great socializing with all of the riders and customers was happening.
East Orlando Harley-Davidson is yet another great dealer and I am thankful for their hospitality and hard work in hosting the Central Florida AFSP Ride to Fight Suicide. I’ll stop by next time I am in the area for sure.
As Trinity and I near the end of the journey on the road I have been asked often, “What’s next?” And I don’t yet have an answer for that. Hopefully I will by the December issue, so check back then to see what is going on.
Thank you all for the support and for following along with me, and remember that you are loved, you have value, and you have a purpose. Go find that purpose if you have not already!