Gear Up & Locked

We all speak the same language, even if the dialects differ. It’s a language of cheerful suffering (aka “good training!”) and affected cynicism that papers over selfless service (e.g. “yeah, y’know, it’s all about me…”). Over dinner at the Burbank Marriott’s Daily Grill, the jokes leapt over each other like sportive otters, just the way you always do at a family reunion.

Most of us have never met, of course. At least three services are represented: army and, um… some other guys. Most everyone riding tomorrow sports a noticeable disability. Some of us have had enough of deserts; we’re riding across one to Vegas tomorrow. Some hate crowds; we’re plunging ourselves into an estimated million bikers we’ve never met, all squeezing into a town with a normal population of fewer than 7,000 souls.

None of that matters.

In that room, smiles came easy and unguarded. Trust was exchanged. The sponsorship of Indian Motorcycles is gratefully accepted, but this ride isn’t about selling motorcycles. It’s about forging stronger veteran communities.

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The whole point of this “Next Great Tradition” business is to build pathways for America’s military veterans to help ourselves and each other, rather than fall back on society’s assurances that help is imminent. While Congress dithers, American veterans kill ourselves at a rate of nearly two dozen a day.

“We’ve got to help each other, not wait for a handout,” explained Glenn, who since retiring from the USMC in April of this year has merely mastered his prosthetic leg, founded a suicide prevention program the DoD may emulate, and grown an epic beard. “It’s about connectivity.”

The ride itself has been phenomenally well organized by “Indian Dave” and his running buddy “Johnny Reno.” Among other indicators of high logistical refinement was a pair of wrap-around sunglasses that were waiting for me when I checked in. It’s not unusual to find small bits of nice swag at moto-industry events, but 1) this isn’t an industry event, and 2) the shades are ground in my prescription. That’s not just a pretty neat trick. That’s attention to detail of a very high order… and yes, I rock them.

Will 2015’s inaugural running of the Veterans Charity Ride connect veterans with their best pathways through life? Will it, in fact, become the Next Great Tradition? Will we cohere as a team by the time we reach Sturgis? Will we biff any of our shiny new Chieftains along the way?

We hit the road tomorrow to find out. You can ride along at www.veteranscharityride.org.

Saddle up!

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