“This really is why we do this, what links us all together, this sensation of vitality and freedom we get from riding motorcycles. There’s an intangible that comes from shared experience, a sensation of freedom that we share with others.”
Linking together and shared experience. These words spoken by The Brand Amp’s Marc Altieri at the 3rd Annual Why We Ride to the Quail banquet couldn’t ring truer. For three days people from various walks of life linked together in the name of philanthropy, raising money and awareness for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation (PBTF) their goal. They did this through the experience of riding motorcycles, the group feeling the heat at the desert’s edge collectively, smelling oranges ripening in the morning sun together, digging in against a turbulent dust storm jointly. Friendships deepened in conversations around fire pits in Pismo Beach and at banquet tables in Monterey. Linking together and shared experience is what makes the Why We Ride to the Quail special.
The benefit ride is the brainchild of Bryan Carroll and James Walker, producers of the critically acclaimed motorcycle movie Why We Ride. Riders and enthusiasts themselves, Carroll and Walker know first-hand the benevolent nature of bikers. And what started as intimate gathering of riders coming together for the cause has been growing exponentially, literally doubling down every year in the number of riders, in the number of sponsors, and in the amount it raises for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. This year’s event saw over 70 riders winding their way through the twisting roads and scenic vistas of Southern California on their way up to Carmel, California, the highest number to date. Money raised for the PBTF easily eclipsed previous years as well.
The PBTF wasn’t the only benefactor this year. A handful of American veterans joined the third annual ride as part of Dave Frey’s Veterans Charity Ride. Frey’s program uses motorcycle riding as a form of moto-therapy for veterans suffering from both the physical and psychological traumas of war. By getting them behind the bars of a motorcycle or in a sidecar helps suppress the scars of PTSD. Riding a motorcycle is a “living in the moment” experience that has the ability to unlock a bit of that “freedom” Altieri mentioned for people that have forgotten what that freedom feels like because of the burdens of war they carry. Frey’s biggest event is the Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis, but as his program has grown he’s added more events in order to help even more vets.
“Why We Ride is now one of the signature veteran’s moto-therapy rides,” said Frey. He also said he aims to bring three times as many veterans to the event next year.
One of the veterans along for the ride this year was Justin “Wardog” McCarty and his wife Ruth. “Wardog” was a member of Air Force Intel for eight years. He also loves motorcycles. He’s been riding street bikes since 2004 and says he’s “building my own fleet” with four bikes in the garage right now. He also loves to wrench and do custom fabrication. When asked how he got involved with the program, “Wardog” said a fellow veteran that knew Frey brought them together.
“Dave gave me a phone call and introduced himself and had his hands full talking me into going (on the Veterans Ride to Sturgis) because I turned him down twice. I told him no thanks, that’s awesome what you’re doing but I’m not your guy. And he just wouldn’t ease up. He kept calling me and finally got me onboard. I’m glad I did because it’s been awesome.”
The addition of the Veterans Charity Ride wasn’t the only new wrinkle to this year’s Why We Ride to the Quail. This latest wrinkle requires a little backstory.
Last year Carroll established a “Spirit of the Ride” award. The premise is self-evident, to honor one of the Why We Ride to the Quail participants who embodies the “Spirit of the Ride.” The first recipient was a gentleman named Steve Moore. Moore and Carroll go way back, the two working on several movie productions together. A supporter of the event since “Day One” an injury prevented Moore from being able to ride last year. This didn’t prevent the determined Moore from participating though as he trailed the group in a chase vehicle and even copped a ride in a motorcycle sidecar with Robert Pandya. For his dogged determination, Moore received the very first “Spirit of the Ride” award.
Moore looked forward to once again being part of this year’s Why We Ride to the Quail. But sometimes fate intervenes in even the most well laid-out plans.
“As many of you know we lost our buddy Steve Moore this year. He received “The Spirit of The Ride” award on last year’s charity ride. During his acceptance speech last year Steve said “I will be on this ride until my last breath.” That’s who Steve was and because Steve had such a huge impact on everyone who came in contact with him we changed the award moving forward to “The Steve Moore Spirit of The Ride Award,” said Carroll.
Apparently dogged determination doesn’t fall far from the family tree. This year, Steve’s daughter, Samantha Moore said “I am coming with you on this ride this year.” Though “Sam” doesn’t ride a motorcycle (yet), she rode shotgun in a Polaris Slingshot, on the back of a bike, and shared every mile with her new moto-family. It is an experience she’ll never forget.
“This is very special that I can be here to somewhat attempt to fill in my 6’6” father’s size 13 boots,” said Sam. “I just know that my father loved to ride. I never stopped and asked him why. Why do you ride? And I never had to. In the past two days with all of you I understand so much more truly why he loved to ride.”
This year’s award was a custom leather motorcycle jacket made by Mark Gamo at D73 and custom painted by bike builder Serge Bueno. And what better person to present this year’s “Steve Moore Spirit of the Ride Award” than his daughter.
“I had the privilege and honor to help give the now named “Steve Moore Spirit of The Ride Award” to the most deserving, humble, positive, loving, and grateful beings I’ve ever met. Thank you Keith Hernandez,” said Sam.
When Carroll asked Hernandez to share his story with the group he replied “Yes, of course, I wear it on my sleeve now.”
His story is about how a chain of events changed his life forever. It started with a random conversation during a mountain bike ride and the offer to get an ultrasound from a friend. The discovery of an aggressive carcinoma followed. His story continued with the whirlwind of emotions and events that followed, how people and doctors came into his life at the most opportune times. It concluded with being a cancer survivor and how he uses that platform to encourage others. He left us with words of wisdom. “Time, treasures or talents, how will you give back?”
Why We Ride to the Quail does its best to give back. It gives back to children that deserve it the most. It gives back to those who have given of themselves in the name of our country. It gives to those who take part in the ride who share in the collective experience. For the second year in a row, I defer to Robert Pandya for my closing statement.
“Motorcycle riding is about family and that’s what Why We Ride has always been about. Period. There’s friends who we met here just last year that have become part of my motorcycle family and that’s just something that continues.” Well said, my friend. Well said.