Seeking one more summer ride? We may have the answer.
From a day trip to a weeklong (or longer) commitment, troops and veterans nationwide can share their passion for motorcycles with like-minded riders — all while raising money and awareness for causes or campaigns that are critical to the military community.
This trio of rides is by no means an exhaustive list of what’s available to service members and veterans seeking a day or more out on the open road. Check with installation-based riding groups or local veteran groups in your area for charity rides and other outings near you.
First time with a group? Most large rides will have “ride captains” in charge of keeping the pack together and providing any information you might need. Find your captain or an experienced rider, follow their lead and go.
What: The American Legion Legacy Run, Aug. 19-23.
Where: Leaving from Post 68 in Hutchinson, Kansas, the ride covers five states en route to Post 102 in Anoka, Minnesota.
Why: Proceeds from the 13th annual run go to the Legion’s Legacy Scholarship Fund, which gives money to the children of fallen and disabled service members. Last year’s ride raised $555,000, with total donations to the fund from the American Legion Riders and Legion departments topping $1.3 million. The Legion Riders are aiming at between $1.5 and $2 million this year, national chairman Bob Sussan said.
Stops and sights: Riders will visit the Indian Motorcycle factory, National World War I Museum and Memorial, Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota — about 150 million pounds of the canned meat accompanied U.S. troops into World War II.
Size: Sussan said he expects 350 to 400 riders to complete the full ride this year, with dozens more taking part for a day or two along the 1,100-mile route.
Want to go?: Head here for registration details. Can’t go, but want to support the scholarship fund? Register as a “supporter” for $20 and get a commemorative pin and patch set.
RIDE THE ROCKIES
What: The 31st annual Colorado POW/MIA Recognition Ride, on Aug. 18.
Where: Beginning in Woodland Park, Colorado (about 90 minutes northwest of Fort Carson), the ride ends in Cripple Creek, site of a three-day gathering known as the Salute to American Veterans Rally.
Why: The ride has been in place since the 1980s, raising awareness for missing and imprisoned soldiers.
Stops and sights: The ride itself covers just 26 miles, but Cripple Creek offers everything a rider could want from a frontier town — mine tours, campsites with views of Pikes Peak, and multiple casinos.
Size: Thousands of veterans and supporters participate in the three-day festival.
Want to go?: Head here for event details.
BULL RUN, REVISITED
What: Bull Run III, hosted by the Northern Virginia chapter of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, on July 28.
Where: An 85-mile ride through Shenandoah National Park and into the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, ending at the Shenandoah Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
Why: Even a low-level Civil War buff is aware of the two battles of Bull Run, but the third is a modern creation, coined by veterans seeking to raise funds for service members who suffered traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress after time in Iraq or Afghanistan. Money raised from the ride goes to the Virginia Veteran and Family Support program.
Stops and sights: The scenery of Shenandoah National Park should be enticing enough. If that’s not your speed, the end of the ride comes with a barbecue, bar and plenty of vendors to help with your next custom job.
Size: Between 400 and 500 bikes take part in the annual event, organizers said. It’s one of many rides sponsored by CVMA chapters across the country; the association launched in 2002 and has members in all 50 states, overseas in Europe and Asia, and in uniform, including those currently earning their “combat veteran” status in combat zones.
Want to go?: Registration information and details here.
Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.