As I sit in my tent in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and write this, I have the pleasure of listening to a giant American flag waving in the breeze. It overpowers the sounds of the trees being gently blown around and even drowns out the sound of my tent flapping occasionally.
It’s serene. Soothing. Calming. Eye opening, too.
Today is August 26, 2018. A Sunday. The previous Friday I arrived in Springville, Utah. Back in April a fellow veteran contacted me on the Facebook Ride Out of the Darkness page and asked if I could attend the fourth annual “Ride to Zero,” an event put on by the Salt Lake City Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, Chapter 49-2.
I looked at my schedule and realized that it is fully possible, even though it would make for a couple longer days after the event in order to make it to the Harley-Davidson 115th Anniversary party in Milwaukee.
See, veteran suicide rates are sky high. Statistics show that on average, 22 vets decide to take their own lives each day. That’s half of a school bus each and every day. We can, and need, to do better.
So, attending this event to help lessen that number is well worth it if you ask me, even if I have to ride a few longer days to make it work.
For the first time the ride would start and end at the same location this year, and personally I don’t think that there could be a better place for it than Legends Vintage Motorcycles. They provided their parking lot for use, which allowed for biker games, vendors, sponsors, a food truck with some great pulled pork, and a full size stage. What more could you ask for?
Well, some bikes would round it out pretty well, and those bikes would be ridden by some awesome people to be the cherry on top!
Since I was in town half a day before the ride started, I took the opportunity to check out some of the beautiful machines from Rick Salisbury’s rather large personal collection of vintage bikes. The night before they had just hosted a concert, so many of the bikes had yet to be moved back into their proper place. Travis Cordova, the parts manager, gave me a personal tour and the background of quite a few of the two-wheeled pleasure machines that were out and offered to take me upstairs and show me even more. The problem with that was I had not eaten in a while, so I took advantage of the cafe at the main building and had some great breakfast for lunch.
Needless to say, Legends is a “must stop” and I will be back!
After I stuffed my face with some bacon, eggs, and a waffle, I met two couples that were also in town for the Ride to Zero and they informed me about a meet and greet for the out-of-town folks like myself at the Tipsy Cow Bar and Grill.
It was here that I was able to meet Ryan Fleishman and Jo Oldroyd, two of the main orchestrators for Ride to Zero. This year had a couple unique challenges for the planning stages with one of them being that Jo’s husband, the gentleman who started Ride to Zero, was out of town for work on an extended trip doing what dedicated service members do best.
There were a couple of other challenges that, in the end, were not even noticeable by a first-timer like myself. Personally, I feel like the event went off without any issues, especially for some of the last-second changes and challenges that they mentioned to me at the meet and greet.
One of the things that I fully appreciated about the Ride to Zero is that the ride route was actually a ride! It was over 115 miles long with only one stop in the middle. A great mixture of state roads and U.S. highways through some of Utah’s most scenic canyons, the ride started at 2:00 p.m. and ended back at Legends by 5:30 for more food, beverages, and a concert at 6:00 with some great music from the American Hitmen.
218 bikes registered for the ride, with over $30,000 being raised for the Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah. Equally important, more people have had their eyes opened to the veteran suicide epidemic and more people understand that we all have our own battles going on inside. It is OK to not be OK.
I am thankful that Brian invited me to this event, and while I cannot attend the 2019 ride, I will do everything that I can to attend the 2020 ride. If you would like to learn more about upcoming events from Ryan, Jo, and the rest of the team, please check out RidetoZero.com
Kudos to Ryan, Jo, and everyone else who made the fourth annual Ride to Zero a success.
Now, as for Old Glory blowing in the wind tonight, well, it reminds me of the freedoms that we have due to those that have served, especially the ones lost in battle, even if that battle is at home.
Thank you again for taking the time to read about this journey, and please be sure to catch more frequent updates at facebook.com/rideoutofthedarkness.