As we mentioned before, we had signed up to participate in the 10th anniversary "Ride to Remember". Every year the America's 911 Foundation has organized a memorial ride to honor those lost on 9/11 in Shanksville PA, at the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
We started our trip on Wednesday the 17th, heading to a hotel in Waldorf, MD for the night. We had an 8:30 meeting with a planned 10 am departure from Motovation Cycles in Mechanicsville, MD the next morning.
We had trouble finding our meeting spot, not well signed for those not in the know. LOL! But we did and we weren't the last ones arriving. We finally headed out about half hour late, truck & trailer leading the parade of about twenty bikes.
After a fuel stop and a nice lunch in Hancock, MD we finally arrived in Somerset PA. Registration was going well at the Quality Inn and we waited for the orientation meeting. Afterward we headed out to the Shanksville Memorial site but once there, we discovered it was closed already (we got there at 7:15). Disappointed, we headed back towards town.
We stopped at McDonald's for a bite to eat and coffee. Stu needed to get his clutch adjusted before the trip and the HD dealer in Somerset was open till 9pm so we headed over there next. They took him right in and in less than 15 minutes he was back out the door, no charge. Thank you!
Then it was dark and we had to head to our hotel which was 17 miles out of town. We ended up with a long procession of bikes behind us...we all made it without incident via some twisty roads that would be awesome if ridden during the day. In bed around 11, we set the alarm 4:30.
Up, bikes loaded and joined a group heading back into Somerset at a little after 5am. We ate snacks for breakfast, glad we fueled the night before. I can't remember the last time we watched the sun rise. Spirits were high, everyone was chatting with the folks around them....finding out if they had done the ride before, discovering that many/most had not.
Before we knew it, it was time to leave. Listening to the over 1700 motorcycles start up was like nothing we'd ever heard before. Helmets on, engines roaring, flags waving...we slowly headed out towards the original Shanksville Memorial site. 1700+ bikes slowly circled the building and then proceeded out on to the highway, heading east. What a site!
The early morning sun caused a few slowdowns, spots where we just couldn't see the road. Riding a motorcycle at 10-20mph for long periods of time is exhausting, mentally and physically. Our first leg of the day was 4.5 hours in the seat...no stops, no fuel, no food.
To make up for that we had people lined up on the sides of the road, no matter how small the town. They were in the fields sitting on their tractors, they were in chairs by the side of the road, they lined the bridges and overpasses, they were on top of their cars, they lined the sidewalks, they stopped mowing lawns, they waved, they had flags and homemade signs...THEY WERE AMAZING and we didn't think about our pain anymore. We waved back, we tooted our horns, we wobbled at slow speeds in awe at the display of patriotism being shown. This was OUR America!
Children who weren't born yet in 2001 listened as parents explained who we were and why we were riding. Children who were in elementary school in 2001 displayed their handmade signs proclaiming, "We will never forget" and "We will always remember". Fire departments, police, EMS squads lined the roadways saluting us. Waves, high fives, V for victory signs...it was never ending and more than made up for the fatigue we were feeling.
Initially I felt strange when I passed someone saluting us...then I realized that they weren't saluting us, they were saluting those we represented. At registration, each participant received a card memorializing someone who lost their life that fateful day. Stu rode in honor of Martin Coughlan, 54, a carpenter from County Tipperary, Ireland. I rode in honor of Conroad K.H. Cottoy Sr, 51, who worked for Carr Futures on the 92nd floor of Tower One.
Several towns made an impression on us, Cumberland MD first, followed by Leesburg, VA and topped off with Hightstown, NJ (the home of Todd Beamer, "Let's roll" on Flight 93). We were staggered at the outpouring, the support and the welcomes. We continued to be staggered by the logistics...closing major highways for miles like I-70 and I-95, pumping gas for over 1800 motorcycles at one time as well as parking and feeding them, and the chore of maintaining a safe route. Thank you to all the volunteers, police officers, Fire/EMS workers, riders and other supporters for making this year's ride a success.
We spent several hours in New York City after the final ceremony...a moving one. We walked the perimeter of ground zero and spent some time at Station 10-10 (Engine 10, Truck 10), adjacent to the towers. The bronze murals were unbelievable and I wish I could have captured them better. The construction was going on as they build the tribute to the towers and we saw a lot of activity.
We knew a big storm was moving in so we hit the road by 1pm...and we didn't out run it. We managed to make it to a hotel in Mount Holly, NJ after spending an hour under an overpass. What an end to an unbelievable four days!
I don't have the final count but estimates were over 1700 motorcycles leaving Somerset, PA and over 2000 arriving at the World Trade Center in New York City. Over 200 motor officers volunteered their time and spent their money to work as escorts for the ride. Meals were provided, gratis, at several lunch stops as well as the final night in Linden, NJ (Applebee's, you ROCK!!!).
Were there glitches? Sure. Was it a hard ride? Positively grueling. Do we regret doing it? Absolutely not! Would we do it again? Possibly, but differently...and we would volunteer to help in some way. It was worth every mile, every hour, every dollar spent...
Here are the links to all the photos we took as well as two short videos of the closing ceremony:
- Trip Start-Visit Somerset-Shanksville PA
- Trip from PA thru MD to Arlington VA
- Trip from Arlington VA-Pentagon thru NJ to NYC
- NYC-World Trade Center and Ride Home
Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna and St