'Richmond Rumble' Hundreds of bikers rally for safety ride
September 20, 2007
FORT MONROE, Va. (TRADOC News Service, Sept. 14, 2007) - More than 400 bikers rallied here Sept. 7 for the Fall Inter-service Motorcycle Safety Ride to Richmond.
Representing military installations throughout Hampton Roads and each of the military services in the area, the riders included a large contingent from the USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Carl Vinson, based at Naval Station Norfolk. A 30-member group from Fort Lee also beefed up the procession as it rolled into the state capital. About 20 motorcycle patrol officers from Tidewater-area police precincts also were on hand to serve as traffic control escorts during the 170-mile journey to the Virginia War Museum and back.
The day's events began with a welcome by Col. Jason T. Evans, Fort Monroe's Garrison Commander, and Maj. Gen. Abraham J. Turner, Deputy Chief of Staff for TRADOC G-3/5/7. Having participated in all four safety rides conducted by Fort Monroe since 2006, Turner is an avid motorcyclist who spends much of his time during the events casually chatting with various riders about safety issues and general biking knowledge.
In his welcoming remarks, Turner referred to the event as a "show of solidarity." He encouraged the riders to carefully consider those things that keep a motorcyclist safe like regular maintenance, proper safety gear and defensive driving habits. "The goal is to emphasize measures that reduce motorcycle accidents and deaths," the general said. "Events like this also increase visibility ... it reminds other drivers that we are out there sharing the same roads."
Not being seen is one of the biggest hazards on the highways of Hampton Roads, confirmed ride participant Daryl Perry, a retired Army sergeant first class who now works as a civilian at Fort Eustis. He too has participated in each of Fort Monroe's four safety rides.
"I think this is a great idea, especially when you consider all the young riders we have among our ranks," Perry said as he awaited the 9 a.m. departure. "Quite a few junior Soldiers are coming back from the dessert (Iraq or Afghanistan) with a bunch of money to spend; and they rush out and buy the biggest, baddest bike they can find. That can be a dangerous situation if they lack experience. Thankfully, events like this remind them to focus on the basics of safety ... that it's not all about going fast and loose."
Perry said he has been riding for 30 years, and he is still learning new tips and tricks. One example is the modulating headlight (approved by federal law CFR49) he recently added to his black Honda Sport. Using an alternating current, the system creates a flashing effect that is more visible than standard motorcycle headlights.
"I would recommend that every rider get one of these. I've definitely noticed the difference as far as other drivers seeing me on the road."
A short distance away, Petty Officer 2nd Class Daryll Lawrence from the Theodore Roosevelt was buffing up his yellow 1997 Honda CBR, a bike he has been riding for about nine months. "You really have to look good when there are this many bikes beside you," he joked.
"I think this idea is awesome; it's a team approach to safety," Lawrence commented. "The big thing is recognizing that I'm new at this and there's a lot to learn from the experienced riders. It's also my first real group ride. Learning that (how to travel safely with multiple bikes) and how riders communicate with each other on the road will be helpful."
Three-year rider Gerald Redd, an Air Force staff sergeant assigned to Langley, said he appreciated the day's opportunity to increase awareness. "With all these bikes, they're definitely going to see us."
About six months ago, Redd was involved in an accident that was the result of a motorist not checking behind him before he changed lanes. "I was heading down Denbigh and he just cut in front of me, so I had to lay the bike down like I was taught. Fortunately, I walked away from it with just a few minor scrapes and bruises. But I know that's not always the case."
Now riding a red 2008 Yamaha R-1, the staff sergeant said he just hopes other drivers will be more aware of motorcyclists and give them the same courtesies as any other vehicle on the road.
The time had come for the riders to fire up their engines and head out on the highway. Riding is a two-column formation, the bikes created a rumbling, snake-like chain that stretched nearly an eighth of a mile. The trip to Richmond took approximately two hours with a 20-minute fuel- and rest-stop along the way.
Upon arrival at the war museum, the riders took another short break for refreshments. Petty Officer 2nd Class Emmily Trolinger, another Roosevelt crewmember, stood under a shade tree talking with other drivers. At age 21, and only two and a half months of riding experience under her belt, she had earned the distinction of being the youngest participant.
"I think a day like this teaches you patience," she said. "You can't just jump on your bike and go; you need to think first and not be reckless."
Trolinger also echoed the sentiment about learning from experienced riders. Reciting one piece of advice from a fellow driver, she said: "You need to ride like everyone else is out to get you. Defensive driving is definitely important."
The day continued with a welcome by the director of the Virginia War Museum and a short video presentation about surviving POWs from World War II. That was followed by remarks from Lt. Gov. Bill Bowling, R-Va. He said he "applauded" the overall intent of the inter-service ride and the participation by so many active duty, retired and government civilian employees.
The governor also thanked the riders for their service to the nation, both past and present. He said he supports America's presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he sees only one option - "we win and they (terrorists) lose."
"Let there be no doubt; if we do not stop them over there, they will most assuredly follow us home."
At 1 p.m., the riders returned to their scoots and began the return trip to Monroe. That too included a mid-point rest stop at Tallysville (about 25 miles south of Richmond) where the Fort Lee riders departed for home and others refueled and grabbed refreshments.
Retired Air Force NCO Lou Demenge wore a proud smile as he casually observed the activity. At age 69 - "I'll be 70 in November," he boasted - and more than 40 years of riding experienced, he clearly owned the title of oldest participant that day.
"When you ride one of these," he said, patting his blue Suzuki M50, "you can never assume that you know and have done everything. Just this past April, my regular motorcycle group was out on a ride and someone lost control causing a few bikes to go down. These were experienced riders, but none of that mattered when the unexpected happened. So you learn from that and maybe give yourself a little more distance the next time.
"All in all, I think an event like this is the right idea. The (Fort Monroe) leaders said it best ... we can't afford to lose good troops because of careless accidents."
The safety event concluded at approximately 3:30 p.m. with closing remarks and door prizes presented by the Fort Monroe Directorate of Morale, Welfare and Recreation.