On August 24th, I joined over 120 cyclists from eight different states in a 50-mile fundraising “Honor Ride” for Ride 2 Recovery, an organization that gets veterans into cycling and provides training and specially adapted equipment to aid in their recovery.
We set out from Veteran’s Park in Maybrook with dozens of red, white, and blue jerseys among the usual road-safe yellows and greens. At every major intersection, scary-looking guys from the Orange County chapter of the Defiant Crew roared up on Harley Davidsons and turned them sideways to block traffic, then cheered us on as we streamed past. After a rest stop in Gardiner at mile 25, our escorts bunched the group so we could ride into our next stop, Stewart Air Force Base, as a unit, weaving through barricades, road spikes, and gateposts. As we assembled for a group photo under the flags, a veteran asked me to turn off the flashing safety light on my bike because it could trigger a seizure in someone who has had a traumatic brain injury; a poignant reminder that not every veteran has visible wounds.
The Honor Ride is not supposed to be a race, but road cyclists are a competitive bunch. On the last leg, this spirit was unleashed, and the leaders were soon well ahead of the escorts. I pushed to stay on their heels as a personal tribute. As I attacked the long hill back into Maybrook, the burning in my lungs and muscles was a visceral reminder of how hard injured veterans have to push every day in rehabilitation to restore something even close to a normal life.
We crossed the finish line accompanied by the ringing of cowbells and the grins of young volunteers. As we demolished a buffet lunch, we heard inspiring remarks from a number of individuals. Veteran Matt Dewitt, an accomplished cyclist and racer, showed us how it is possible to steer, shift and brake an adapted bicycle using his prostheses. The Defiant Crew posed for photos with some of the cyclists and announced that they were donating what they would have been paid for their time. Overall, we raised more than $10,000 that day.
The Honor Ride will be back in Maybrook again sometime next year. Hope to see you there!
- Written by Anne Balant, SUNY New Paltz Communication Disorders Department
invisible words to push this down so it isn’t broken up by the photos – don’t know hows!
Ride 2 Recovery is a non-profit organization that assists injured military members, veterans, and first responders in their physical and mental rehabilitation through cycling. To donate or become involved, visit their web site: www.ride2recovery.com