On August 30, 2021, the Fire Hogs M/C set out from Los Angeles to New York City with 43 riders on their motorcycles to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 in honor of the 343 NYC Firefighters who served and lost their lives while trying to save others on September 11, 2001. These 43 riders consisted of retired and active members from both fire and law enforcement, friends of the Fire Hogs, and members of all five chapters of the Fire Hogs M/C. This was the Fire Hogs’ third Coast to Coast trip to NYC to honor those lost. Many on this trip had been a part of the response and recovery efforts during the tragedy 20 years prior.
After more than a year of planning, on August 30, 2021 Fire Hog member “El Jefe” Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas, kicked off the sendoff at the World Trade Center Memorial at the LAFD Training Center. The World Trade Center Memorial is a 23-ton, approximately 22-foot-tall steel column which was originally part of the lobby structure of the World Trade Center. Believed to be the largest remnant of the attacks on the west coast, it now rests safely on reinforced concrete pilings that sink nearly 30 feet below ground at the LAFD Training Center in Elysian Park.
Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas and National Fire Hogs President, Jack Wise, spoke about the importance of the Coast –to Coast Ride and to always remember the sacrifices that were made that day 20 years ago and are still being made by those in our military and first responders to this day. Chaplain Tim Werle then gave a blessing to the riders as the Fire Chief and the Patriot Guard detail provided an escort.
After a relatively short, but HOT (116 degrees) trip to Laughlin, the group was pleased to have made it there and get into the air conditioning of the Topak Marina. From there, we traveled via Route 66 to Bullhead where we stopped again due to the heat. After a few more cooling drinks we made it to the Riverside Casino and prepared for the evening.
On August 31st, we saddled up at 0800 hours and started the 365-mile trip to Gallup, New Mexico. Enroute to Gallup, we stopped at a corner in Winslow, AZ and met up with members from the Colorado River Cities and San Diego Chapters of the Fire Hogs. When we arrived at the Springfield Suites, we were met by the complete staff of the hotel who threw us a BBQ of some of New Mexico’s finest cuisine, all out of their own time and pocket!
September 1st saw us heading on a 423-mile trip to Amarillo, TX, with a stop to support the “Ride for the Fallen” who were also traveling across country to raise money for the Gold Star Families. What an event that turned out to be with the Fire Hogs as honored guests! No stop in Amarillo would be complete without stopping at the Cadillac Ranch for some authorized tagging which required some experience from a select few of the Fire Hogs and friends.
From Amarillo, we traveled to Oklahoma with a stop to pay tribute to those lost at the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. One of the many times I led the herd in the wrong direction. How was I to know there are two Memorial Parks in Oklahoma City? After our stop in Oklahoma City, it was on to Memphis after an overnight in Fort Smith, AR. A short 730-mile jaunt. In Memphis, we enjoyed the afternoon and most of the night listening to live music and eating at the world-famous Rendezvous Restaurant, followed by a midnight fest at the Beale Street Café. We even ran into LAFD member Jason Powell and his wife who were there enjoying the sights.
On September 4th, we traveled to Nashville, TN where we met some of the wives who flew in a couple of days earlier. That evening, 17 of us were treated with a party bus tour of Nashville on a Fire Engine driven by the local OFF-DUTY FD. Now there are a lot of party busses in Nashville, but this was the only one that was an actual Fire Engine. After the two-hour tour, we met up with most of the Herd who had been watching us from some roof top establishments and proceeded to hang out the rest of the night listening to some great music.
The next morning, the Herd was escorted out of Nashville by the State Troopers as we then went to Jack Daniels Distillery on the way to Knoxville. What a treat for all to see the inner workings of the distillery and to savor the tastings of some of the finest whiskey known to man. The next two days brought us into Knoxville, TN where we were greeted by the Tennessee Boys and treated to a catered private Riders Meet and Greet BBQ and a party at their Rouge Manor Clubhouse with a special musical guest Darryl Worley, who sang for us his tribute to the 911 tragedy “Have You Forgotten.” What a night it was as we were treated like royalty! The next day we all met at Smokey Mountain Harley Davidson for lunch and with the owner of that dealership and the Tennessee Boys, we were given a guided tour of the world famous “Tail of the Dragon” at Deals Gap, 318 turns in 11 miles. Not for the faint of heart, so we did it on the way back as well, then onto the Cherohala Parkway and to the veteran-owned Chatterbox bar for another private event! The weather was awesome, supporting our sightseeing ventures. That night we found the world’s best “old fashioned” in a little joint right by the hotel.
On September 7th, we headed to Roanoke VA via the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. What an awesome ride this was as we meandered along the parkway and villages gaining a view above VA. As we did 10 years earlier, we stayed at the Hotel Roanoke. What a grand hotel it is with décor that dates back to its golden age. The following day as our motorcycles rolled onto Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC, Rescue Squad 1, Ladder Tower 3, a Battalion Chief from the DCFD with a Police escort met us at Freedom Plaza. Their personnel gave us the opportunity to memorialize our excursion across the nation with the brothers and sisters of the DCFD. The photos of us with their apparatus and personnel in front of the Capital appeared in the newspaper. This event was epic and enhanced our journey across the nation in honor of our fallen. That night, a bus tour of DC was arranged by our San Diego Chapter that included a Night Tour of Washington DC, that started with a stop at the Iris Channel Pub where we were greeted by the Washington DC Pipes and Drums, then onto the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Wall, Korean Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial, and World War II Memorial.
On September 9th, we finally arrived at our destination, New York City! Up to this point our ride went fairly well, with only a little rain and mostly great weather. Unfortunately, as we came off the Jersey Turnpike, light rain was falling and one of our riders hit a metal trolly rail, which caused his bike to slide out from under him resulting in a trip to the hospital with a minor injury. Luckily, the New Jersey Police were right behind us and quickly shut down the turnpike! Quick actions by Russ, Karen, and Benny protected and helped the injured. That evening after some sight-seeing many of us headed over to the annual FDNY vs NYPD Hockey game at Madison Square Garden. It was a great game with the FDNY once again prevailing! Afterwards, the San Gabriel Chapter of the Fire Hogs arranged a meet and greet across the street from our downtown hotel at the Malt Shop Bar and Grill. The next day included a tour of the WTC MUSEUM. On Sept 11th, we took the subway to Riverside Park for the Official FDNY Memorial Ceremony and reading of names. We followed that up by going to St Patrick’s Church for the ceremony for the family members of those lost. Here we were honored to be placed in the front of the church as part of the Honor Guard as the families entered. Other ceremonies continued on that day with members attending, including a ceremony at Firemen’s Museum, 10 House at Ground Zero, and the FDNY Pipes and Drum Ceremony. Forty-five of us then boarded a cruise line to tour the harbor as the lights went on in the city. What a sight to see the Twin Towers Memorial alive at night and the rest of the city decorated in red, white, and blue lights. There is no other view in the world like this and it only happens once a year!
On September 12th, many folks found their own way home in smaller groups. I took a group of 16 riders, known as the “Wicked Tuna Group” up through New Hampshire for lobster, Maine as well for more lobster, Mt. Washington, Cleveland, Ohio for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to the Key West of the North, Put-In-Bay, and Ohio for their halfway to St Patrick’s Day celebrations. From there it was a ferry to Milwaukee for the Harley Davidson Museum, and then home through Iowa, Golden Colorado, and Mesquite.
Each morning and most evenings we conducted a riders safety briefing so that issues could be addressed, and the ride modified as needed. All said and done we raised $1500 for the FDNY Retirees Fund, rode 7600 miles in 27 days, and as I speak for many of us “With times I’ll never remember with friends I’ll never forget!” I would like to thank UFLAC and Fire Hog Greg Reynar for their generous donations to offset some of the cost to the riders, Scott and Gina Gould for donating their vehicle to pull the chase trailer, and arranging the majority of the hotels, events, escorts, and coordinating with the DCFD and other FD’s along the way, Dave Allen and Mike Merrick for arranging hotels, sightseeing events, Pipes and Drums, Ed and Donna White for guiding us through New England, Chris and Armando Diaz for coordinating the trailer wrap and providing support, The Choir Boys LEMC who made up and donated hundreds of dollars of merchandise for us to give away along the way, The Tennessee Boys who provided an experience in Knoxville that we will never forget, Julio Maldonado and Dion Garza for taking pictures all along the way, Carl Johnson for teaching our folks how to be Road Guards and better riders, the Iron Butt ladies who rode with us all the way; Chris, Jenny, Vicky, Donna, and the family and friends of the Fire Hogs who rode with us all the way, part of the way or just became part of the Herd while in NYC. A special recognition to Leonard Rubacava for making the trip with us in NYC; what a trooper, as well as my wife, Wendy who coordinated, supported, rode, and filled in every step of the way! Everyone played a part in this once in a lifetime trip. The coordination by all resulted in an event that will be etched in the minds of those that participated forever.
To quote a blessing that was our mantra: May you always ride with the wind in your face, the sun at your back, the rubber side down, and may you never ride faster than your Guardian Angels can fly…..
Fire Hogs events are posted on our website www.firehogs.org. Membership in the Fire Hogs MC is always open for active or retired firefighters. We welcome new riders to one of the first fire department motorcycle clubs in the nation. If you are interested in joining the Fire Hogs, contact any of the board members from our website. As a national organization, we are also accepting applications for new Fire Hogs chapters from other agency riders. Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FireHogsMCLAFD
By Jack Wise