Woo Hoo-What a Ride! Through the Eyes of a Rider…

First and foremost, we need to thank all of our volunteers, sponsors, riders and concert goers. You are the reason Max’s Ride is able to donate $15,000 to the ALS Association this year. Also, a huge thank you to Harley’s Heroes! During their time at Cowboy Harley Davidson, they were able to assist 60 Veterans in obtaining the benefits they so deserve from the VA.

Max’s Ride provides us with many incredible memories;  I’d like to share one of the special moments from this year’s Ride-

When we began this journey of Max’s Ride, our 1st year included one person I consider our “Trifecta.” Joel is a biker, a veteran, and a victim of ALS. He has been an avid supporter of Max’s Ride since its inception and has been part of opening ceremonies and our Salute to the Military. For the past three years, I’ve watched him as the bikes rode out. Along with the sense of pride he held, I could always see sadness in his eyes. But despite the continued toll the disease has taken on his body, every year, he has kept his promise that he “will be at Max’s Ride as long as he is able.” Well, this year Joel rode! These are Joel’s words and a great example of why we continue this journey of Max’s Ride…

It’s hard to believe that the Fourth Annual Max’s Ride has come and gone. To most that may simply be the matter of only four years. To me, it means a miracle, and even more so, a miracle that I was able to climb on a big v-twin and join in the actual bike ride through the hill country. At the First Annual Max’s Ride there was no one who could have convinced me that I’d be able to even attend, let alone ride in the fourth annual festivities of this worthwhile celebration.

for those unfamiliar with Max’s Ride, it’s all about bikers, veterans and the ongoing fight against ALS. An unlikely combination some may think, but it works so well, especially now that research has proven that U. S. Veterans are at a higher risk of developing ALS than other segments of society. Why? No one knows for sure and that’s why it’s so important that we throw our support behind Max’s Ride and any other project that aids the fight against this “beast.”

I discovered recently that I’m referred as a “Trifecta” in Max’s Ride. Simply put, I’m a veteran with 22 years active duty in the Air Force, I’ve been a biker since I was 12 years old and, unfortunately, I’m one of those many veterans, like Max, that developed ALS. I guess I’m the only one so far that matches all facets of Max’s Ride. Not a distinction to be envied, I promise.

I’ve a less know form of ALS referred to Bulbar Onset ALS. Simply put, it’s ALS that begins in the tongue, neck and jaw areas. Most others start with limb onset and eventually are affected in the same way as myself. So far, ALS has robbed me of the ability to speak and eat/drink. Slowly now, it’s gaining its foothold in my extremities, but I’m still fighting. And if I have my way, I’ll be riding again in the Fifth Annual Max’s Ride.

When I look back on the first three rides, it actually hurt to see all the bikes pull out and journey on into the beautiful hill country, eventually to converge again and enjoy music, food and drink as the afternoon festivities continue on in downtown Austin. I didn’t ride in the first three I think because I was still trying to find my bearings and limits with this new beast within me. It’s difficult to put into words just what one’s mind may deal with given such an overwhelming condition. But, for me, it was hard to face the end of my working career, hard to face each day knowing things won’t get better and almost impossible to face the fact that I’ll never enjoy eating again. But, emotionally it also captured my thoughts and pleasures in doing many other things I wished I could still do. I didn’t ride because I had lost that air of confidence in my riding abilities to this beast. I feared pushing myself into something like riding because I feared failure.

Last year, at the completion of Max’s Third Annual Ride, the inner spirit moved me. I wasn’t going to empower ALS to deny me any more Max’s Rides as simply a spectator. I started to secretly shop around for a bike. I’ll admit I was nervous to finally jump on a big bike again. Yes, my limbs have weakened over these years with ALS, but bikes are more about balance than strength. I finally made a good purchase and started spending hours just riding through the hill country, out of main traffic areas to avoid congestion and stop and go traffic. One can only imagine the thrill I experienced as I kept regaining my proficiency as a biker. Only when I felt totally comfortable did I finally announce that for the very first time, I’d be riding in the upcoming Forth Annual Max’s Ride.

The excitement of that Saturday is still with me. Finally, I rode with the pack. The weather was perfect, not too hot and no rain in the forecast. I can’t explain the overwhelming power one feels when riding in such a large group of bikes. The bike isn’t a vehicle as such…more like an extension of oneself. And in the open, your senses are immersed with all the smells around, the sight of everything around you, the sounds of the power of all the bikes traveling together as one. It’s not only the riders that feel the power of it all. Wherever we went, cars stopped. People walking along streets appeared mesmerized with such a powerful group of machines. At one point, we passed another group of a dozen or so bikers who simply stopped and saluted our passage. So many feelings and emotions prevailed during that ride, with a bit of sorrow that I hadn’t ridden in previous years. It all became one of those times that one wishes would never end.

Will I be there next year? All I can say is that if the decision is mine, I’ll be there and hopefully ready to ride again. Much of that will be up to my “beast.” But, this year, this Fourth Annual Max’s Ride is quite literally the “Ride of a Lifetime.” Peace……….

From the moment DJ Big W cranked up the music at Cowboy Harley Davidson until Omar and the Howlers played their final note, fun was had by all. My life and many others have forever been changed by this disease and the incredible people who are part of the fight to defeat this killer. A special thanks to the persons living with ALS and their families and friends who have been part of this Max’s Ride journey. Your fight continues to inspire us all! Be sure to hang with us here for updates on Max’s Ride V!

Take Care and Be Safe~Whitney

SAVE THE DATE:  Max’s Ride V-April 23, 2011

Printed in the July/August issues of Biker Living and in the South Texas Chapter ALS Associations A Reason For Hope newsletter