Between the ongoing battle with the JMA over the participation of the M25 Riders, the set-up on Parliament Hill, the need to tell Steve Stein NOT to forward private information to the world about what I was doing before agreements were signed, dealing with two Members of Parliament who set-up a Members Parliamentary R2R Committee, and whole days on the phone taking care of details, I still had to make a living and write my editorials.
What was supposed to be a part time endeavor to help out the R2R committee became a 6-month FULL TIME JOB with more stress than I can really describe.
The day didn’t go by when several phone calls were exchanged between Stein and myself, since I gave him my word that as things developed I would keep him in the loop, so he would have no surprises thrust upon him.
There were also no shortage of communications between YOW president Gadi Prager and myself, who I also kept up to date, since what was happening was so dynamic, that I wanted others to enjoy the thrill right along with me.
My involvement in this venture included at least a dozen trips to Ottawa to meet with Members of Parliament and their committees, plus City Officials, the Police, Sound System Suppliers and Hotels for accommodations.
My travels also included 4 trips to Toronto SPECIFICALLY to meet with the organizing committee, the Toronto Police, and Toronto City Councilor Doug Ford, who is the Brother of the Mayor of Toronto (Rob Ford), who officially speaks for the Mayor.
It became a non-stop merry-go-round where every call, email and text dealt with nothing but the R2R.
AND THEN I GOT A CALL FROM LOU DEVUONO:
Neither Lou nor I remember exactly how we came to get together, other than it somehow happened through a back-door connection from Member of Parliament Peter Goldring’s Office, even though MP Goldring didn’t know Lou DeVuono.
Lou, who was a Member of the Perfect Pigs Motorcycle Club (Toronto), was also the founder and organizer of the HHR (Heroes Highway Ride), which is in my opinion the Signature Canadian Ride of the year that pays REAL Homage to our Canadian Troops who have fallen in battle in Afghanistan.
THE HIGHWAY OF HEROES:
When a member of the Canadian military gives his or her life in Afghanistan, his or her remains are flown to CFB (Canadian Forces Base) Trenton, from where his or her body is traveled (about 70 miles) by an escorted military cortege along the Trans Canada Highway (401) to Toronto’s international airport (Pearson), from where his or her remains are flown to his or her home for a proper funeral.
And every time there is one of these Funeral Corteges, people by the THOUSANDS take to the overpasses along the 401 to wave Canadian flags, cheer, salute and cry.
Thus . . . this stretch of highway was officially named the Highway of Heroes.
Four years ago, Lou DeVuono with his close friend Graeme Hume, who is ex-military, decided that there should be an annual tribute to our Fallen Heroes, so Lou and Graeme established the HEROES HIGHWAY RIDE, which has morphed into a ride that attracts THOUSANDS of Bikers, many of whom come from across Canada to participate in this demonstration of respect for those who’ve sacrificed all, in the name of fighting for FREEDOM under the Canadian Flag.
It is indeed something to behold.
When Lou and I first connected, not remembering who contacted whom first, Lou said that he had heard of the NEVER AGAIN Pledge that was being planned for Parliament Hill, and asked how he could get involved.
After thinking about it for a split second, I said that you’re involved, now – let’s figure-out how. With a club-name like the Perfect Pigs, what could be better to add to the angst of those within the JMA who were so adamantly opposed to the M25 Riders? You just have to love the irony.
Within an extremely short amount of time, Lou, Graeme and I had become quite close in our mutual drive to work together for a common purpose. And what eventually came out of it was an invitation from me to Lou, for him to speak on Parliament Hill, and from him to me to invite all of the Jewish Riders and the M25 Riders to ride at the HEAD of the HHR, just behind the VIP’s.
When I told Lou how touched I was with this invitation, I also told him that between the Jewish Riders (JMA) and the Christian American Riders (M25), there will be a significant amount of Israeli and American Flags in addition to Canada’s Red Maple Leaf . . . And would that bother you?
To that he said: The MORE – The BIGGER – The BETTER.
For me, that sealed it between him, Graeme and myself, into a friendship that would last long after all of the events were done.
WHAT DO WE DO WITH HUNDREDS OF BIKERS?
As the event on Parliament Hill was developing, I realized that we might have Hundreds of Riders coming to Parliament Hill at the same time. So, it became imperative that we have a police escort of some kind, and an area very close to Parliament Hill to park the Bikes, because the Heritage Ministry that runs Parliament Hill will not allow any non-government vehicles on any part of the HILL.
So, while I was making all the hospitality arrangements for the Toronto organizing committee, I was also meeting in Ottawa with the City, the Special Events Committee, and the Ottawa Police who wanted $6000 for the escort.
In addition to that, I needed special permits and liability insurance, including a release for music that we might play from the City of Ottawa.
To these demands I said NO.
We had no money to pay for the Police Escort. And we had no intention of paying for liability when we would be traveling on public roads. And there was no way in HELL that I was going to get involved in music agreements.
So you could just imagine the stress and the goings-on.
YOU’VE GOT TO BE HEARD:
In addition to this – we needed a first rate sound system that could clearly carry voices over a large area, while playing more than passable music, especially when it came to the National Anthems of Canada, the USA, England, Australia and Israel.
Finding the sound system suppliers was easy. But, what they wanted in costs for an hour’s event was extraordinary – FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS, for which we simply did not have the money.
I tried with no luck to rent equipment and have our own sound people set it up, but that would have been as amateurish as it gets, so I scrubbed that idea. I went to Montreal sound companies owned by Jewish guys to see if I could get a break on the price from them, also with no luck. They all wanted a minimum of $4000.
So, I told Stein and the organizing committee that we might have to write a check for $4000 to cover the sound system, to which Stein said he would try to get it from the registration fees for the R2R being held in the USA by the JMA.
Knowing how negative the JMA was . . . didn’t give me much confidence or reason to be happy.
In the meantime – the phones, texts and emails just didn’t stop.
While all of this was going-on, I was attending meetings in Toronto on behalf of the organizing committee, where I brought up the need for us to raise our own money to cover our own costs in case the JMA stiffed-us.
The committee had from me a list of costs that had to be covered, mostly worst case scenario stuff, which no one had any objection to. Besides, what objections could they possibly have considering my verbal and WRITTEN agreement of no interference from the committee with Steve Stein, the Chairman of the organizing committee?
GOING BACK IN TIME A BIT:
After my experience with the Ottawa Police, I asked Stein if agreements were in place with the Toronto Police, for what was to be the ESCORTED Ride through Toronto, which was the SIGNATURE event of the R2R,
WHERE’S THE TORONTO POLICE?
Not yet Stein said, but we have a friend, who has a friend, who has a friend on the inside who will take care of it for us.
A few weeks later I asked the same question. And I got the same response.
Again – a few weeks later, I asked the same question. But this time, Stein told me that the friend was in Florida for the winter and couldn’t take care of it.
THIS WAS NO JOKE. So, I asked him what he was going to do about it? Stein told me that they had another friend who might have a contact somewhere or other.
I couldn’t believe it, so I asked Stein if he wanted me to take care of it for them? YES he said. So, that is exactly what I did.
I made a great number of phone calls to the City of Toronto, which brought me to the City’s Special Events Division, that brought me to the Toronto Police Escort Unit, that helped set up one of several meetings and a host of communications.
Eventually . . . all the contacts and meetings brought us to an agreement and permit in my name for the R2R.
I should also mention, unbeknownst to me, one of the Police Officers in authority just happened to be a regular visitor to Galganov.com. It certainly didn’t hurt.
To say that I was utterly blown away by the fact that Stein and the organizing committee allowed this most important element of the R2R to hang around as if it was meaningless is an understatement. But, I said nothing, since the people on the committee were well-intentioned and outright amateurs doing the best they knew how to do.
In fact, I liked them for their commitment to put all of this together. And when it came to organizing registration, goodies, caps, T-shirts and welcome bags, they were second to none.
As all of this was going on, the event began to take-on a life of its own, growing exponentially by the day.
And The Truth Shall Set You Free – PART FOUR will be forthcoming within a few days.
Best Regards . . . Howard Galganov