Wednesday, 2 March 2011
Ride of Respect 2011
On 14 March last year, I got home from work, flicked on the TV news, and saw that there had been a mass rideout of bikers at Wootton Bassett. The charity event had been held in aid of Afghan Heroes, and had been attended by an estimated 10,000 bikes and 15,000 riders and pillions. The event raised a whopping £104,834 for the charity, which had been started by a group of mothers who had lost their sons in Afghanistan. The story of the ride is an amusing one. An 18-year-old rider, Lizzie Stevens, made a call on Facebook for a ride through Wootton Bassett, to join a run organised by her bike club. When the numbers grew beyond the handful she expected, Lizzie handed over organisation of the ride to an older rider, Julia Stevenson. Julia decided to make it a charity ride, and decided on Afghan Heroes as the recipient of the donations. The whole thing snowballed, mainly through the Facebook page, and in the end the numbers were overwhelming and the event was huge. The story is told here.
As soon as I saw the footage of the rideout, I kicked myself. If only I had known it was happening, I would have been there, and I made myself a promise that if the event were repeated in 2011, I would be a part of it. I kept going back to the website, but all I could see was 'work in progress'. Finally, I checked it today, and it is open for registration.
I have booked the day as holiday, I have registered and paid my donation, and I am going.
The event will be held on Sunday 3 April (Mothers' Day, of course). Bikes will assemble at Hullavington Airfield, just off the M4, and will proceed in groups at 15-minute intervals to Wootton Bassett. Organisation is going to be tight, given the numbers anticipated, and I have opted to arrive between 8.00 am and 9.00 am (later slots have all been taken!) and join the queue. Minimum donation is £10, and there is a fair bit of merchandise like stickers, t-shirts and patches to soak up some more of your spare cash.
Wootton Bassett is, of course, the place where the people line the streets to pay their respects and, by implication, the respects of the country, to the fallen from the Afghanistan war as they pass homeward from RAF Lyneham. The town came to me to represent the affection, support and gratitude felt by the ordinary British people to the boys and girls who risk their lives to defend us, as compared with the shabby and deceitful treatment the troops were getting from the last government. You don't have to agree with the war itself to feel admiration and humility in the face of such courage and commitment. Lions, led by lions, and sent to war by spivs and charlatans.
If you ride, and you fancy a day out in deepest Wiltshire, then get along to the website and register. The organisers have set a limit of 10,000 bikes, and after that registration will be closed. From the availability of time slots on the registration page, I would guess that more than half the places have been taken, so if you are thinking of going I would advise that you did not delay any further. For those that can't make it all the way to Wootton Bassett, there are also regional rides going on in Essex, Shropshire, Eastern England, Kent, the North-East, Scotland and the Borders. Details here.
If you are going to the main ride at Wootton Bassett, and if you are the gregarious type, drop me an email with your mobile number and we could try to meet for a coffee-style drink and a turdburger at some point in the day.
It's a charity that I feel is hugely worthy of support, and I am greatly looking forward to being a part of this event. Please consider attending, or donating, or both.