On Friday (June 6, 2014 D-Day) . . . at about 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon, I gave Stryker a big hug, kissed Anne goodbye, got on my BIKE, and headed West along the 401 (Trans Canada Highway) towards CFB (Canadian Forces Base) Trenton, Canada’s Primary Transport Air Force Base, to where our FALLEN HEROES of the Afghan War were flown home, from where they would start a two hour funeral cortege to Pearson Airport for their final voyage to the Canadian village, town, or city from where they came.
There are plenty of ways to be a HERO. Not everyone needs to carry a gun and head off into battle to be a HERO. And we also don’t all have to wear the uniform of a First Responder to be a HERO.
There are many people who are HEROES, simply because of how they conduct themselves, reach out to others, and risk failure for a JUST CAUSE. That kind of defines my good friend Lou DeVuono, who started this incredible HOMAGE to Canada’s fallen HEROES through the HHR.
Several years ago, Lou decided that Canada’s FALLEN HEROES needed more than just sympathy and the simple gratitude of a nation. They needed an EVENT that SHOWCASED their COURAGE and SACRIFICE, and since Lou was a BIKER, he thought . . . what could be better than a RIDE in HONOR of our FALLEN HEROES?
So . . . on the FIRST Saturday of every June, Lou organizes the HHR from CFB Trenton, where BIKERS from across Canada gather to RIDE towards Toronto in MEMORY of our HEROES.
At first, Lou was able to convince a couple of hundred BIKERS to join the RIDE, and now, it is in the THOUSANDS. And that’s the way it was this past Saturday (June 7, 2014), where it is estimated TWO THOUSAND BIKERS paid HOMAGE.
And I’m PROUD to say that I was one of them, DELIGHTED to be RIDING in the lead amongst the FIRST CAV (Canada’s Army Calvary) led by Trapper Cane.
Trapper Cane at the HHR, beside his Combat Painted Harley Davisdon with his Side Car and Mounted 50 Cal Machine Gun (rendered imoperable), with the backdrop of THOUSANDS of BIKES readying to leave for the 2014 HHR.
Myself with my Exceptional new FRIENDS on the way home from the HHR.
I rode back on Sunday, leaving Oshawa, a city about 30 minutes East of Toronto at 9:00 in the morning, and stopped at a Flying J Fuel Center for gasoline, where I met a group of seven Black Americans wearing very bright YELLOW riding gear.
A few of them gave me a nod and started to chat about Riding. They told me where they were from, and where they were going. And as it turned out, they were headed for Montreal, a ride of some five to six hours to the East, for which they had quite a few questions.
These RIDERS were from the DEEP South . . . Tennessee, Alabama, etcetera, with one coming from Illinois.
What really impressed me most about them . . . was their tremendous sense of humor, camaraderie, and the warmth they showed to me. So, when they asked in which direction I was headed, and when I told them East towards Montreal, but not as far as Montreal, they asked if I would ride LEAD as far as I was going.
At the next fuel stop, after giving it some thought, I asked the Americans if they would want me to ride LEAD right to their hotel in Montreal, which would add an extra hour and a half for me each way, which didn’t matter, because it was the right thing to do. THEY THOUGHT SO TOO, AND WERE VERY GRATEFUL.
Along the way, one of their BIKES suffered the death of a battery, which brought us to a Wal-Mart on route to Montreal, where by nothing short of a miracle, we found a battery, which the Americans were able to replace right in the parking lot.
Unfortunately for the Americans, they had no idea what Montreal was like, and figured they would simply pass through the city on their way back to the USA, not knowing that Montreal is a huge World Class City and tourist MECCA, which they would miss. BUT . . . If nothing else, I wouldn’t let them miss Montreal SMOKED MEAT, which is NOT available anywhere else in the world.
So . . . That’s what I did, and took them for a treat they will not forget.
While the eight of us ate, we learned a great deal about each other: Two of the RIDERS were pharmacists. One was a retired COP; the other was a working COP. One was in charge of shipping Logistics. And three of them were retired Marines.
What was also quite interesting . . . was their Conservative behavior (prayer before the meal), yet, by their definition, they seemed to be American Liberals, with a very definite bent to personal obligation, objection to BIG Government, Big Business and the Something-For-Nothing Bunch. I guess they didn’t realize that under it all they were in fact Conservatives. This gives me hope.
As we were mounting up on our BIKES, there were two young guys, and a pretty young woman, who were staring at my new friends and myself.
With my helmet on, I couldn’t really hear what they were saying to each other, but it wasn’t in English.
The two guys looked really tough with their short-cropped hair and no shortage of tattoos, while the young girl had several piercings. And in spite of being petite, she looked as tough as her two friends.
At one point, one of the tough guys began staring at me quite intently . . . looking at the Pledge Rider Patch on my leather vest, when the other slapped my shoulder, to which I was more than prepared to drop the BIKE and go to war, when in a heavy accent, the guy who slapped my shoulder pointed to the Star of David on my PLEDGE RIDER Patch, asking “WHAT’S THIS?” . . . which made me even more convinced that we were headed to FIST CITY.
I was really hoping that when the fists started to fly, my new American friends would be in the thick of it with me. But either way, with them or not, this was not going in a warm and cuddly direction.
AND THEN A REMARKABLE THING HAPPENED . . . The tough guy with the question about my Pledge Rider PATCH reached into his shirt and pulled out a gold STAR of DAVID, saying: “We’re Israelis . . . Do you speak Hebrew?” To which I responded “LO” (no).
They were shocked to meet a Jewish BIKER, especially riding with BLACK BIKERS who wore the MARINE Patch (Semper Fi) on their jackets. And as it turned out, it was a good thing they were friendly, because after aggressively banging on me on the back in the most affable way, I learned they were from Israeli Special Forces (paratroopers) on vacation in Montreal – pretty girl included.
One NEVER knows what lies around each corner, or down the highway of LIFE, other than it is a RIDE we should all look forward too.
What started as a weekend to honor our FALLEN Canadian Troops . . . became a weekend of discovery and new friends.
By the way, the reason the American RIDERS struck up a conversation with me at the Flying J . . . was because I RIDE with an American Flag beside my Red Maple Leaf at the back of my BIKE, which caught their attention and interest.
And as my parting “gift” to the BIKERS dressed in phosphorescent YELLOW, I made arrangements for the President of our Montreal BIKERS’ Club (Mark Laxer – Maccabees) to escort them to a Harley Davidson Dealership, and out of Montreal in the morning, so they wouldn’t get lost.
I know that my new American friends will be reading this . . . So thanks again for allowing me to become part of your RIDE, thank you for paying for a great Montreal Smoked Meat Supper against my protestations, and thank you for making a great weekend even BETTER.
Best Regards . . . Howard Galganov