Legacy Run Day 4: 'You want to make sure they're safe'

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Tuesday morning, more than 230 motorcycles departed Richfield City, Utah, and traveled across the mountains, national forests and desert to end up in Ely, Nev.

Among those motorcycles was a small group whose sole function is to ensure that someone is looking out for the riders: the Legacy Run’s advance team. The team normally leaves 30 minutes or so ahead of the main group of riders, advising the road captains of potential hazards ahead, and then orchestrating refueling efforts and parking at lunch and dinner stops.

Todd Harris, a member of John D Wibby Post 86 in Overgaard, Ariz., has been on the advance team seven of his 10 years on the Legacy Run. While the team has ways it wants to do things, Harris said it also has to be able to think on the move.

“Our slogan is ‘sember gumby’ – always flexible,” Harris said. “When we get out there, we do have overhead pictures and general guidelines. But 99 times out of 100 it never works out that way. You have trucks in the way, cars, just the general public wanting to come out and see us. Those are all hazards; as much as we want the publicity, they’re all hazards to the Riders when they get in the way.”

Like Harris, many of the advance team members have been a member of the team for years – from three to as many as 11 years. That type of continuity is beneficial.

“We work as a team,” Harris said. “We’re family. We think alike. We all have the same goal of the safety of the Riders. It takes special people to have that mentality.”

Rhonda Cowen, a Legion Rider from Francis Neidlinger Post 79 in Zionsville, Ind., and an 11-year member of the advance team, is a part of the advance team for one simple reason. “I know how I would feel if I was in a big group,” she said. “I would want somebody protecting me. There’s a lot of things out there. There’s a lot of challenges. You want to make sure they’re safe.”

Touching gesture

The Border Inn, which sits on the Utah-Nevada border and served as the lunch stop for the Run on Tuesday, had to bring in extra staff to help out serving lunch. But when the extra staff found out why the Riders were doing what they do, they wanted to help.

“They said they wanted to donate their (extra pay) to the Legacy Run,” Chief Road Captain Bob Sussan said. “It was really pretty amazing.”

Thanks for the weather

During Tuesday’s wreath laying at the Ely, Nev., Veterans Memorial, Mike Raymond – a Legion Rider from Post 110 in Port Charlotte, Fla. – provided the prayer. He also thanked someone near and dear to all the Riders’ hearts: Verlin Abbott, the Run’s longtime chief road guard who was killed in a motorcycle accident Aug. 5.

“Please let Verlin know we appreciate what he’s doing with the weather,” Raymond said.

Elks open their doors to ride

Elks Lodge 1469 in Ely hosted the Run’s dinner stop, providing grilled hot dogs and hamburgers. Lodge 1469 Exalted Ruler Alan Lafferty, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1997-2001, said it was an honor to host the ride.

“Being a Marine myself, it’s just an honor to serve my fellow veterans,” Lafferty said. “We open our doors for every veteran. It’s a chance to still feel like you’re serving even though you’re not wearing the uniform anymore.”