Virginia Beach And Back – Riding For Karen, Victor, Women Riders and the Special Olympics

eastern shore

Adventure number two for 2011 is now in the books. Diana and I took a special overnight trip to Virginia Beach with a small group of members from our HOG Chapter. We left Delaware on Friday the 13th and came back on Saturday the 14th which was Harley-Davidson’s Womens Ride Day. The trip was full of meaning. There are several themes that tie together here so bear with me as I try to bring you up to speed.

Two years ago we were heading down to North Carolina with twenty or so members of our HOG Chapter. There was an accident. A women on drugs drove through our pack of motorcycles and killed our friend Karen Fortner. The first responders from Cheriton, VA and the surrounding area took good care of us and we have become friends with the police, firefighters and EMT’s. Terry Thomas, the President of the Cheriton Volunteer Fire Departmentand Investigator for the Northhampton County Sheriff’s Office, keeps in touch with members of our HOG Chapter and he invited us down to participate in the 2nd Annual Ride The Bay event. This is a charity motorcycle ride that benefits the Special Olympics of Virginia and crosses the Chesapeake Bay via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. We felt this was a good opportunity to go down unofficially as a second year anniversary to memorialize the loss of our dear friend.

Gladys, our Assistant Director and a Road Captain in Training, was close to Karen and eager to lead this trip. My wife Diana was also close to Karen and helped Gladys plan the ride. The ride would take place in May which is Women Riders month and the event was scheduled on the same day as Harley-Davidson’s Womens Ride Day. It was fitting that Diana and Gladys lead our HOG Chapter down to Virginia Beach to help the Special Olympics and honor Karen on Womens Ride Day. Unfortunately Gladys had to fly down to Florida to help her parents out and wasn’t able to make the trip. Diana who is a patched Road Captain took over the trip for Gladys.

I was also riding for Victor. Victor is a Harley rider from Pennsylvania who is currently fighting cancer and undergoing chemo treatments. His sister contacted me via e-mail asking me if I had any pictures of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. She said that Victor’s special place he likes to ride is the Bay Bridge and Tunnel and that pictures would help keep his spirits up. Although I never met Vic or his sis I wanted to help out. I couldn’t help but feel there was a special reason all these events were tied together. I was able to get a DVD documentary from my brother’s mother in law about the building of the bridge and I forwarded that to Victor. Terry Thomas, mentioned above, stopped at the gift shop on the bridge and picked up a book for Vic that also illustrates the building of this historical engineering marvel. Yes, there is a gift shop on the bridge as well as a restaurant and a fishing pier. This is the most amazing bridge ever built! I don’t know if Victor knew all this much information about the bridge before, but he certainly does now. I tried to get some original pictures of the bridge from members of the Tidewater HOG Chapter but was not successful. So guess what?! This trip was for both Victor and Karen and I would go down and take some pictures special for Vic!

this is for you Vic

The weather report wasn’t exactly calling for sunshine for this trip. We had two riders back out in the morning before leaving because of the threat of rain. So what was originally going to be be four guys and five ladies each on their own motorcycle became three and three. Six is the perfect number for group rides so I was happy about having six. We got down to Virginia Beach by dinner time without any problem. One of our guys (Mike the 2010 Chili King) went on to visit his Mom, so we were down to two guys (me and Eddy) with three lady riders for the rest of the trip. The other lady riders were Erin and Dana. Erin was riding her husband’s Heritage and on her first overnighter as a rider and not a passenger. She was very excited and proud of her accomplishment. Dana was with us on the ride in 2009 when the accident took place and this was her first time back to the area since then.

Erin and her Heritage

Erin, the proud rider of this Heritage

the ladies and eddy

Diana, Dana, Erin and Eddy (all officers of First State HOG)

Later that evening we got a call from Terry Thomas saying that some of the event volunteers were backing out because of the weather report and they had to cancel the charity ride for the Special Olympics. He was upset because he felt responsible for us traveling all this way and having the event canceled. We didn’t mind. We had a plan B that was in tune with our other themes.

Back in 2009 we were going to meet up with Tammy Walker of Diva Customs. She owns a custom motorcycle shop in Virgina Beach that caters to women, and she published a book called Why We Ride that includes 101 uplifting stories of women and their motorcycles. Karen, Diana, and Dana all contributed stories as well as many of you lady motorcycle bloggers out there (BB, KT Did, LadyR and Boston). So now that the Ride The Bay event was canceled it only made sense to drop in at Diva Customs to celebrate Women Riders Day. Tammy keeps a special copy of the book in her shop where she tries to have as many of the ladies who contributed their stories autograph the book. Dana got to sign the book!

visit diva customs on women rider day

everyone having a good time at diva customs

I own this place

After visiting with Tammy it was time to gear up to cross that long bridge and then stop to visit the cross erected at the accident site in honor of Karen. I dropped to the sweep position so that I could take pictures while riding across the bridge. Please do not tell anyone I was taking pictures while riding sweep on a chapter ride. Not exactly safe Director/Road Captain behavior. But I had to do it for Vic! If I get in trouble for this it won’t matter because I got the picture of a lifetime! As we crossed the first section of bridge and approached the first tunnel a Navy ship crossed the bay right in front of the tunnel! I got the most amazing picture of us that looks like we are riding into the ship!

ship 1

Ship 2

ship 3

ship 4

going down

After crossing the bay we visited Karen’s cross. Then we headed home. Diana picked a route that skirted the rain and the Dover NASCAR race traffic. It was the long way, but it was also the scenic way. We had a great ride home, we avoided the rain, and we arrived in Newark, Delaware safe and dry. Dana and Erin did catch a little rain as they headed north to Wilmington.

diana and dana and karen

We had a great trip! 500 miles in two days. Nothing beats travelling with friends who can switch from plan A to plan B and enjoy themselves the whole time. Visiting Karen’s cross two years and three weeks after the accident had deep meaning to those of us that knew her and were with her that day. Taking pictures for Vic… awesome! I can’t wait to send these to him. You can have a sneak peek by clicking here.