LACONIA — The Memorial Ride for the Fallen 7 took a few minutes to conceive, and a few hours for it to go viral on social media. It’s now positioned to be one of the largest rides in local history, and organizers have been working around the clock to ensure that it goes smoothly.
The ride was planned in the wake of the horrific collision in Randolph on June 21, in which a truck crossed over the center line and struck several motorcyclists, members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club. Seven of the victims were killed.
The incident was one of the deadliest in state history, and has inspired an outpouring of support for the victims’ families. Two days after the tragedy, when Charlie Lord and Steve Allison announced on social media that they were planning a ride to memorialize the victims, their event was shared far and wide.
The Memorial Ride for the Fallen 7 will take place on Saturday, July 6, and organizers are collaborating with state departments to ensure the safety of what could be thousands of motorcyclists.
“It’s very hard for us to accurately give a number,” of how many to expect, said Brian DeSimone, one of the organizers. He expects anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 participants. “We’ve got bikers coming in from all over the country, including California.”
The plan is for motorcycles to rendezvous at 11 satellite staging areas around northern New England, and for all participants to meet at the Broken Spoke Saloon in Laconia at 11 a.m. At noon, the ride will depart.
The seven killed in the crash were Albert Mazza, 59, of Lee; Daniel Pereira, 58, of Riverside, R.I.; Michael Ferrazi, 62, of Contoocook; Aaron Perry, 45, of Lee; Desma Oakes, 42, of Concord; and Edward and Joan Corr, both 58, of Lakeview, Mass. All were members of supporters of the Marine Jarheads Motorcycle Club. At the time of the accident, the group had left the Jefferson View Motel to attend a charity raffle at the Gorham American Legion.
State Police said liability issues prevent them from providing an escort, but organizers met Wednesday with Gov. Chris Sununu and State Police officials. The parties agreed that public safety and security are the greatest importance.
The initial route called for riders to take Route 16 north to Conway, take the West Side Road and then pick up Route 16 again in North Conway to Route 2 in Gorham.
But after Wednesday’s meeting, organizers announced the ride will now travel Route 3 to the junction of 104 to Interstate 93 north. From there, the ride will take Exit 35, and travel through Twin Mountain. The ride will take Route 115 to Valley Road.
The exact route, with an eye for rider safety and to minimize traffic disruption, and will be posted on social media and on the state Department of Homeland Security Website.
“We’re trying to plan a ride in 10 days that usually takes a year to plan,” DeSimone said. He didn’t know any of the victims personally, but when he heard about the crash, he thought of a near-fatal crash he was involved in three years ago. There was an outpouring of support for him and his family, he said, and he offered to help organize this ride.
“I wanted to do my part to give that back,” he said.
DeSimone said people coming to participate in the ride should obey the rules of the road and share the road with all other users.
“We’re working closely with state and local police, and organizations to make this a safe, successful experience,” DeSimone said.
“Best thing you can do is be conscious of everyone around you. You need to be safe. With a ride of this magnitude, you always have to be aware of your surroundings,” he said. There won’t be any scheduled stops, so riders should be prepared to cover the 80-mile distance without stopping. “Rides like this tend to not go very fast, so be prepared and stay hydrated,” he said.
The ride will go rain or shine, he added, encouraging riders to bring rain gear.
The Broken Spoke Saloon will see a couple thousand bikes on a busy day during Laconia Motorcycle Week, according to John Turner, whose family owns the business, so they’re used to that kind of volume on their property. “Just not everyone leaving at the same time,” he said.
“Personally, I’m not afraid of it. We’ve got a lot of hands on deck for parking, we’re making sure it comes in orderly and leaves orderly.” Turner urged people arriving on Saturday morning to follow the instructions of the parking attendants. Getting everyone lined up in an orderly fashion will allow everyone to leave without disruption. “It’s like Motorcycle Week. It can be chaos and mayhem, you’ve got to park these people in line.”
Turner said organizers reached out to his business to host the send-off, and he was happy to oblige.
“We’ve got six acres of open ground, it’s a biker event, we’re a biker bar, we’ve got the ability to do it,” he said, but, “We never expected the quantity that might be there.”
Fortunately, he said, many other people and organizations offered to help. Coca-Cola is donating drinks and water, Dunkin Donuts in Meredith is bringing coffee and snacks, Anheuser-Busch is provided iced tea, and Absolute Septic is donating the use of portable toilets.
“I think all is good with all the people we have helping out," Turner said. "It’s going to be a wonderful thing.”