By Carrie "Chunkz" Hintz, 2021-2022 ALRA Director
AMERICAN LEGION RIDERS, DEPARTMENT OF ALASKA 2021 ROMP, June 25-27, 2021
Written By Nolan Smith
Post 35 Riders began planning for the 2021 ROMP in the beginning of 2020 and held monthly, eventually weekly, meetings to discuss how it would look and to iron out the logistics. With the yearly ROMP historically being the largest gathering of American Legion Riders for Alaska the pressure to succeed was palpable.
The ride began on June 25th with 4 groups. The lead group was made up of Riders representing every Post present, labeled as the Pony Express Riders. It was decided early on in the planning stages that riding for a cause was as important as the comradery that would be built during our trek. The non-profit group called Battle Dawgs was voted on as the recipient of our fund-raising efforts due to their work within the veteran community in our home state. Battle Dawgs conducts camps on their 600-acre plot of land that focus on veterans battling post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.
(72 miles) Our first stop along the chosen route was in Trapper Creek, AK where we fueled up and met with representatives from Battle Dawgs. We were blessed with hot coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and donuts. Given that the day started with rain, wind, and road spray it was a welcomed creature comfort.
(133 miles) The ride continued until we stopped in Healy, AK where the Pony Express stopped for the first donation retrieval. Usibelli Coal Mine was gracious enough to donate $2,500 to our chosen cause and only wanted a picture in return.
After thanking Usibelli representatives we made a stop for lunch at the Totem Inn. Again, warm food and a break from the rain/road spray was welcomed.
(110 miles) We continued on from Healy, AK to Fairbanks, AK. American Legion Post 57 had a warm meal ready for us as we arrived. The atmosphere was inviting and a break from the now hot weather felt amazing. Alaska in the summer may not be as warm as most motorcyclists are used to but for us northern exposure types it was enough to dry out our chaps and begin the tan lines from our chin straps. A donation of $500 was taken in from Post 57 before we departed for our next and final destination of the day.
(13.5 miles) Departing in waves as we finished our dinners our next stop would be at Post 30 in North Pole, AK. Tents were popped, RVs settled in, and bikes were given a chance to rest. The night was spent stretching our legs and enjoying watching the sun hitting the horizon but never setting. In the morning we refueled ourselves with a hot breakfast cooked by the American Legion Family at Post 30. Our Department Director, Carrie “Chunkz” Hintz, held a meeting that morning on the spacious back deck of the Post while the rest of us sipped our coffee and smacked mosquitoes.
(189 miles) Our destination for Saturday took us to Tok, AK. The ride began with winding through tight streets before it opened up to what felt like an hours long straight shot. Trees, mountains, and rivers graced us along the way providing for beautiful scenery. Looking over and into my mirrors every so often I saw a tight group of Riders enjoying the ride and moving along effortlessly. The day’s ride ended at Thompson’s Eagle Claw Motorcycle Park in Tok, AK. The campground is cut into the woods with lanes that are perfect for bikes. Parking spots big enough for a Road King but too small for an SUV. Under the pavilion in the middle of the camp ground we opened up coolers carried in chase vehicles and fed the masses. The night was warmed with a camp fire and stories of wartime service and follies. After a good night’s rest, we gathered again around the camp fire for our breakfast of coffee and burritos put together by a small group of wonderful volunteers. The ride on this day would be the last of our ROMP, the weekend went by too fast.
(139 miles) Once the camps were packed and bikes warmed up, we gathered and prayed for a safe day. Riders departed the campground in waves on our way to Glenallen, AK. The plan was to meet up with Crowley Fuels at the local fuel station and receive a donation. Before getting there, we had to navigate pot holes, deep cracks in pavement, gravel patches, and frost heaves that felt like ramps.
Arriving in Glenallen, AK we again opened up coolers and passed around a mid-day meal. Receiving the donation from Crowley Fuels was a man named Moses. Moses is a direct descendant of one of the original Pony Express Riders in the late 1800’s. Moses is also a member of American Legion Post 1 in Anchorage, AK. Before leaving Glenallen, AK we were approached by a couple men on Harley’s. They told us that they heard what we were doing and what we were raising money for and handed to our Treasurer a $60 donation. They made a long trip on a beautiful day in order to help a worthy cause.
(52 miles) After a short ride from Glenallen, AK to Eureka, AK we made a fuel stop. Some Riders chose to take a few extra minutes and enjoyed fresh baked pie at the Eureka Roadhouse. While waiting for our group to stretch and shake off the dust we watched as a paraglider circled us from several hundred feet above, took in the majesty of massive mountains, and checked the gear strapped to our bikes.
(90 miles) Our final destination would take us back to where we started. We left in 4 groups and seemingly came back as one. The parking lot of American Legion Post 35 was packed with bikes, RVs, and passenger vehicles again. Working as a family we unloaded what needed to be and dragged our feet. No one was ready for the ride to end. Hugs and handshakes took as long as the weekend while discussion of the 2022 ROMP was begun.
After all was said and done the route took our Riders on an 867-mile round-trip. Some Riders came from towns that were hours away and clocked over 1,000 miles. The goal for our ride was to build stronger relationships between the Posts, put miles on our bikes, and raise funds for Battle Dawgs. Every goal was accomplished.
In total, $12,827 was raised. This money will fund an entire camp for the organization. Each camp held is scheduled for 5-10 days and invites are sent to veterans that have applied. These camps are held at zero cost to the veterans.
A special thank you needs to be said for American Legion Post 20 in Kenai, AK. The Riders from Post 20 were able to raise $5,000 as a donation to the Pony Express.