Dartmouth roads reverberated Sunday morning with the sounds of Harley-Davidson motorcycles as the sixth annual Ride for the Troops kicked off with more than 300 bikes at the Harley-Davidson on 799 State Road.
A massive convoy of chrome and leather — 336 vehicles in all, with around 600 drivers and passengers — rode all over town with a police escort before returning to the grounds for lunch and the raffle drawing.
The event is a fundraiser for Homes for Our Troops, a Taunton-based non-profit with a mission of building and donating specially adapted houses to severely injured post-9/11 veterans.
The 50-mile route took all kinds of bikes — from Harleys to Hondas, some with sidecars and even some tricycles — to UMass, down through Padanaram, then over to Horseneck before coming back through Westport.
Scott Foisy, Assistant Director of the Minuteman Harley Owners Group Chapter 2522 based at the Dartmouth Harley-Davidson, said that over the past five years they’ve raised around $73,000 for the charity.
The goal this year, he said, was to top last year’s record of $22,000 funds raised.
“We try to keep making it better and better,” said the group’s director, Tony Alfonso.
“It’s a worthy cause,” he said. “We actually got to see one of the houses that they built…they make the houses so it’s adapted for [the veterans], so they can live a normal lifestyle again.”
“And the homes are turned over mortgage-free, so they can concentrate on getting their lives back together, rather than their bills,” added Foisy.
A live band played rock tunes as Harleys and other bikes rolled in from the ride, many waving American flags from wing mirrors and radio antennas.
Riders came from all over New England to take part. “We got ‘em from Vermont, Boston, New Hampshire,” said Alfonso, before adding with a laugh, “we were supposed to get some from Georgia, I don’t know if they made it.”
It’s not just for Harleys, either.
Foisy said he’d be happy even for a little motor scooter to join in. “It’s all donations, it’s all for charity,” he said with a smile. “I don’t care.”
And the riders seemed to enjoy the atmosphere.
“We do it every year,” said Cheryl Hathon of Wareham, who was a passenger on her friend’s Harley. “It’s our last ride of the season…It’s for a great cause, and we love it.”
Other riders touted the organization, atmosphere, and scenery as reasons to come back next year.
Larry Badger of Brockton, who rides with the Patriot Riders out of Middleboro, said that it was his first time at the event. “The great thing about the ride is, there was a police escort,” he said, adding “The neighbors on the route came out to support us.”
His uncle, Wayne Forth of Brockton, joined him for the ride. Forth himself is an air force veteran from the Vietnam War. “I liked the countryside,” he said of the ride. “It was all country.”
“The ride was fantastic,” agreed Kim Moore of Barrington, RI, who was also here for the first time. “We got both farms and ocean. The scenery was fabulous.”
Her fellow rider, Rick Costa of Rehoboth, added that it’s “tough” to find rides that are so well organized.
But most of all, the riders agreed that they were here to support the cause.
“The fight doesn’t end on the battlefield,” Badger said.
“It’s a shame what this country doesn’t do for our vets,” Foisy said. “And we need to start somewhere.”