By Eric Nuechterlein

The 2017 Veteran’s Charity Ride put their kickstands down after a nine-day journey through winding highways and beautiful back roads to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. Bates Footwear was the proud sponsor of this year’s ride, supplying the American-made Freedom and Bomber motorcycle boots for the veterans and crew. The 2017 ride had a few new components and a couple of big surprises in store. Veteran’s Charity Ride Founder Dave Frey sat down with us to talk about the overall experience with Bates and the ride itself.

Photos Courtesy of Sara Liberte Photography

One of the biggest changes for the 2017 ride came with providing a professional motorcycle safety course for all those who participated.

“We brought everyone in early for a professional motorcycle safety course. We also wanted this to be a chance for the veterans to get more familiar with the Indian Motorcycles”, says VCR Founder Dave Frey. “This greatly increased the safety and comfort level of the riders and sidecar passengers, putting them more at ease. More importantly this provided an opportunity for them to bond and get to know each other”.

Another difference in this year’s ride was in regards to the safety and travel of the veterans as they embarked on their journey.

“This year we hired on professional road captains to lead the group on our daily routes from Los Angeles to Sturgis. This enabled the veterans and mentor riders to focus on enjoying the ride, freedom and the motorcycle therapy experience,” Frey explains.

The route from Los Angeles to South Dakota.

Feeling confident and connected, the veterans prepared for their great adventure. A special moment came before the ride even began when the veterans were presented with their care packages from Bates. Each veteran was given a pair of boots, along with a personalized message from Bates Footwear Marketing Manager, Julie McCauley.

The veterans checking out their new Bates.

“The personal handwritten notes to the veterans were very impactful. As they opened their boxes and read the notes, there was genuine surprise and appreciation that Bates Footwear took the time to personally acknowledge each veteran. It was very moving,” Frey explains.

The connection between the veterans and Bates made this experience even more touching as most had been issued Bates boots during their service time.

Veteran Moses Sonera with the Bates Freedom Motorcycle boot.

“To have another pair of Bates boots to keep them safe and comfortable on this year’s ride was very meaningful. Most of them put the boots on immediately and wore them throughout the ride. The support from Bates helped set the tone for how important this and other sponsors are to Veterans Charity Ride and how important each individual is to our partners and sponsors.”

With new boots on their feet and a sense of adventure in their souls, the veterans and crew headed out. On July 28th, the group departed from Los Angeles Fire Station #77 in Sun Valley, CA. The group rode the famous Angeles Crest Highway, through Nevada, Northern Arizona, Utah and Colorado. At every stop the veterans were greeted by excited supporters until finally they received a hero’s welcome upon arriving in Sturgis, South Dakota on August 5th.

While there were many memorable moments on this year’s ride, one in particular really resonated with founder Dave Frey.

“When Rich Neide, or Richie Two-Chairs as he is affectionately called, a paraplegic-spinal cord injury, thought to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life, rode the modified Indian Scout sidecar rig. The joy on his face, the major breakthrough that really changed his life and outlook is one of the best moments and greatest accomplishments of VCR 2017”.

Richie Two-Chairs riding in the custom side car with with Robert Pinkham. Photo courtesy of MotoInsider.

The 2017 Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis covered over 1500 miles and changed the lives of all of those involved. Bates was proud to be apart of such a rewarding experience and looks forward to future involvement with Dave Frey and his incredible organization.

The Ride to Sturgis is just one of the ways in which Veterans Charity Ride supports wounded and severely injured veterans from all branches of service. The non-profit organization uses motorcycle therapy and other life-changing programs to provide uplifting and healing experiences for these veterans, and Bates Footwear is proud to support their efforts.