Hundreds of motorcycles and their riders gathered on Washington Avenue outside the clubrooms of Reino American Legion Post 21 during the Veteran Tribute Ride on May 25, waiting patiently as lunch was served inside.
IRON RIVER—Iron County’s biggest event of Memorial Day weekend wasn’t one of the cemetery ceremonies on Monday morning. It wasn’t one of the high school graduation ceremonies Sunday afternoon, either.
It took place Saturday, May 25, on Washington Avenue here when hundreds of motorcycles rumbled into town and came to a stop outside the Reino American Legion Post 21 clubhouse.
It was the ninth annual Veteran Tribute Ride, honoring all those who served their country. Post 21 Commander Gary Lane had invited everyone to come over for lunch, and the post, its auxiliary and its Sons of the Legion branch were ready when they arrived: brats, hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans, drinks—plenty of everything..
“We’ve got tons of food in there,” Lane laughed. “We used up every pot in Nesco that we had around the county.”
How many motorcycles were there? Estimates are far from exact, but they were parked in double rows on both sides of the street divider for several blocks. The street was closed: Traffic was diverted onto Amber Street for several hours.
“This is the start of their Memorial Day ride,” Lane explained. “They raise a lot of money and take care of the veterans. We had an opportunity for them to come to our club, and we took up on it.
“Our officers and our club really, really wanted to have this. I think these guys are great—this is wonderful what they do. We have a lot of veterans out there who are not being taken care of. These guys are trying to make sure they are.”
Everything fell into place, even this spring’s cantankerous weather—it was bright and sunny on Washington Avenue as the riders waited patiently in line for their meal.
It was the second time Post 21 hosted the Veterans Tribute Ride. The 2010 event was smaller, with about 175 bikes. Participants had a good time and wanted to return. They also paid for the podium that Post 21 used during a short program honoring a pair of World War II vets before everybody hit the road again.
Lane and Post 21 found out two months earlier that the Veterans Tribute Ride would, indeed, be visiting. “We’ve been having meetings, back and forth, about this ride,” he said. “We also had meetings with our officers and our people to be prepared to receive these people.”
The preparations, the big food bill—Post 21 paid for everything itself. “That’s one thing about this post,” Lane said. “Anytime we have any kind of convention or, if I ask these people to help me to make it possible… I mean, they were out here at 7 o’clock this morning, working already. It’s just fantastic.”
They had been expecting 300 riders. But the weather turned out better than expected. “I got a call this morning, and it went up to 500 bikes.”
But if he was a little overwhelmed, Lane didn’t let on. “It’s quite impressive. Very impressive. All the planning and hard work—well, we’re here today, and to me this is something I’ll never forget.”