SorryMate’s Liz has always dreamt of taking a Harley Davidson down route-66.
As far as ‘bucket-list’ activities go, riding a Harley-Davidson along Route 66 is every biker’s dream. For one SorryMate employee, this route was no exception. Liz, one of SorryMate’s best solicitors, fortunately, had the opportunity to visit the famous route. The trip was done through an organisation called Bike Tours for the Wounded, which SorryMate supports.
What is Bike Tours for the Wounded?
Bikes Tours are a not-for-profit community company which provides unique opportunities for wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans to ride pillion on motorcycle tours. Each pillion is offered a funded place, the money donated by the general public, supporters, and fundraising activities throughout the year.
Who went on the tour?
A total of nine beneficiaries flew out with us to Las Vegas on 17 August, together with the riders. At the time of the flight, only two of whom Liz already knew. It was fairly frantic for Liz getting to know them all at Gatwick Airport!
What motorcycle did Liz ride?
After a long flight from Gatwick to America, it was straight onto the motorcycles. Liz successfully managed to complete a few things off her bucket list. Including,
- Ridding a Harley Davidson for the first time
- Ridding a bike in a feet-forward position
- and using an open face helmet for riding
The motorcycle itself was a massive clunky 1600cc machine. It was quite a bit of a shock to the system for Liz to try something so different, especially after a long haul flight.
How long was Liz riding for each day?
Liz was riding for a total of ten days through a small part of the United States. During these ten days, she was riding an average of 200 miles per day. If that doesn’t sound gruelling enough, some of those days were spent travelling through the desert. Temperatures could reach up to 45 degrees. In addition to this, Liz also met America’s famous busy interstate roads, forests and violent thunderstorms.
However, there were, of course, some very beautiful spots. There were the iconic long straight seemingly never-ending roads, lovely long sweeping bends (particularly in the Angeles mountains, perhaps the best riding road ever) and some sharp twisties too.
What was Liz’s most memorial part of the trip?
Liz was riding between the two towns of Alpine and Blythe in California. The group decided to stop for lunch at a small place called Julian. The town had a population of about 1500, so it’s very small by American standards. During lunch, the group had been told the story of John Baca.
Who is John Baca?
As a young man, John Baca was in and out of trouble. Like so many others, he joined the US Army. John was in the Cavalry out in Vietnam in February 1970. Whilst leading his team through enemy territory, a grenade was thrown into the middle of the patrol.
Fully aware of the danger to his comrades, Baca covered the grenade with his steel helmet and then threw himself onto it. As the grenade exploded, the lethal fragments were absorbed by his body. Despite being able to see his own intestines through the wound, his first thought was that his mother would be cross with him. He had just spoken to her earlier that day called to tell her that he was fine and well.
John made a long and painful recovery and continues to give his time and energy to work with veterans and the homeless in the US and in Vietnam. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The whole group were given memorial coins to remember this story of bravery.
This wasn’t the only story which stuck with Liz
Whilst travelling along Route-66, Liz noted that a lot of sections of the interstates between Las Vegas and Victorville were donated to those who have served. The first interstate was“Dedicated to the veterans of World War I”. This went on right through to the final sign which relates to “the global war on terror”.
Bike Tours for the Wounded visited two different legions
Bike Tours were the guests of two different legion posts. The first, at Heber-Overgaard, was a large ramshackle building. It was very lively with music and dancing. Regular visitors include a WWII veteran in his mid-90’s, who has only very recently swapped his motorcycle for a trike. He did this because it is easier to carry his wife’s oxygen tanks that way….
The second legion post the group went to was at Holbrook. It is very different as it was dark with a cramped basement room. However, it was also lively and the group were treated with such respect and hospitality throughout our journey.
Bike Tours for the Wounded aims to kick-start recovery for ex-service veterans
After the tour, Liz asked one of the pillion passengers, for his summary of the event and its benefits. The veteran she spoke to is currently attending the Naval Service Recovery Centre due to hip and lower back injuries sustained in 2015. He is an artilleryman in 29 Commando Regiment.
He described the tour as a much-needed chance to take his mind off the daunting prospect of medical discharge from the Army. It was also a chance to challenge himself mentally. The trip is a high-adrenaline setting, but also within breathtaking scenery. and with great camaraderie with the whole group.
A much-needed break
Bike Tours for the wounded aims to help veterans and servicemen/women. The tour is intended to ease the veterans’ problems for at least a short while. The long term aim is that it will kick start their recovery. For many, it’s a much needed mental and physical break. Serving isn’t an easy task, nor is the transition back to being a civilian. Many veterans often feel isolated after serving. However, Bike Tours for the wounded gives veterans a chance to get out, make friends and enjoy life.