130 Miles of Hope in Southern California

Less than two months from Veterans Day, American Legion Riders Chapter 852 of Temecula/Murrieta, Calif., decided to accept National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford’s 100 Miles for Hope challenge on Sept. 19. Riders and supporters staged at a Stater Brothers grocery store parking lot in Temecula and spent half a day rolling along the sunny Southern California highways, passing vineyards, waving to passing motorists, visiting a casino and wrapping up with lunch. They completed the challenge – plus another 30 or more miles – many wearing “100 Miles for Hope” performance shirts they received after registering for the challenge at www.legion.org/100miles.

Chapter 852 member Phil Rice, a retired Navy master chief, organized the ride, but due to bike problems, he was relegated to a “4-wheeled cage.” Regardless, he was ready to do his part in leading the Riders on the Saturday morning mission. “It seemed like a great idea and an opportunity for us to get out as a group and do something – and give to The American Legion and our fellow veterans,” Rice said.

Nearly two dozen bikes showed up for the official start at 8 a.m. Among them was Michael “Monkey” Killion, secretary of Chapter 852, widely known in the community for a five-foot stuffed monkey on the back of his bike that his son gave him for Father’s Day. “Whenever I stop in a grocery store, they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re the one we see all the time riding around,’" he said. "I’m like, ‘Yeah, I ride with The American Legion Riders … we come out and support our local veterans, our nationwide veterans, and anything we can do.”

The planned route took the Riders through the winding hills of Riverside County and the Temecula wine country. Two stops were planned along the route, first at the Cahuilla Casino along State Route 371 near Anza. Riders later got an opportunity to buy nuts and fudge, or pet the animals at Bates Nut Farm near Temecula. The final destination was the Rainbow Oaks Restaurant just South of Temecula to wrap up and grab some lunch.

Post 852 Commander Charles Landreth, who also serves as chaplain for the chapter, said he is grateful for the opportunity to get together with his fellow riders. “It gives something to bring us back and cement the solidarity between the Riders,” he said. “We have several other chapters who have come out for support, so I think it’s a good thing.”