My first ride, in 2004, was a bit of a leap of faith. My best friend grilled me over the coals about who was paying for what, what guarantees did I have, what if this, what if that…I said “The worst thing that happens is John Mayberry and I drive all the way across America and have to pay for the rental van. It turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime.

I have been lucky enough to be able to chase these bikes on every ride since 2004, and in the process support some worthy charities. It all seemed abstract until 2010 when we got to know Uwe Willenbacher, who had received a grant from Behind the Scenes a few years earlier. His story of how much the money meant to him when he was laid up in Hospital after an accident made me understand why this event is so worthy.

Devoting 10 days every year to a charity event is no small commitment. But my contribution is peanuts compared to the endless hours the organizers of the event put in. Booking hotels, arranging deals on food, planning the route, updating the website, ordering (and paying for!) the Kazoos and T-Shirts – there is a lot of work that goes on “Behind the Scenes” to make this kind of event fly – and the many folks to do this work each year do not get nearly the credit they deserve. And let’s not forget the many Riders – they brave extremes of weather (-3 to +104 F), nasty traffic, grooved pavement (remember Huston, Bill?) and all that endless fundraising to make this event a success – they deserve the praise! Scott and I in the van, all we have to do is adjust the dual-zone climate controls (and keep the cooler stocked).

I have been asked many times why I do this, why I commit so much time and energy to what seems to be a ‘foreign’ charity (Note: The chase van drivers have always been from Canada or Sweden). It is the people. It seems that this kind of event attracts the best kind of folks and that is why I keep coming back. I have made many life-long friends on this adventure, and that is what they call “Priceless”.

— Rob “Beermeister” Hamilton, Chase Van Driver

I am the sound man – that guy whose name you may not remember. I was blessed for over 30 years to mix the sound for music in countless cities and countless countries. I’ve had the privilege to share that music with the best musicians in the world. The crews I have worked with are my family.

Then, all of a sudden I got sick. I was dying. My liver failed because of an auto-immune disease. It hit hard and moved fast – WOW! Just imagine the thought of being penniless and homeless and hopeless and unable to help yourself. Your medical condition is completely out of your control and it is all happening within days. You can understand the emotions I felt. Thankfully a live donor, who volunteered half of his liver, and the doctors and nurses at USCUH were able to save me.

I couldn’t believe that when I needed help Behind the Scenes was there and didn’t turn their back on me. I am the crew guy, not the superstar. Without Behind the Scenes I would not have made it – that’s a fact. I can never thank them enough for their help, and I can never thank them enough for the compassion they showed me in my true time of need. What an honor it is to be part of this community. It is a feeling that I can’t describe. For everybody who contributes to Behind the Scenes, thank you. You helped save my life.

— Leonard Popa, BTS Grant Recipient

What does it mean to be in a group ride? I’d always been a solo rider. To me, the idea of “pack riding” conjured up Brando’s Johnny Stabler in The Wild One. My first LRLR was 2007 in New England. I’ve been at every ride since. I’m now a happy part of the long sashay of staggered riders drawing a thick line over a landscape. With this group I’ve shared so many sweeping vistas, so many winding turns, and experienced so much joy in riding with a common mission on uncommon roads. I’ve met new friends and learned how to be part of a group ride. For a solo rider, used to going my own way, used to being in charge of my own life, that isn’t easy.

This ride, with the charitable causes up front and 100% to the goal, is now a passion that I will happily wrap my calendar around. The folks that get involved are not incidental to the cause—they believe in the cause, and make a hard earned effort to raise money. I should know; I am Treasurer to the ESTA Foundation, and I see the results. Of course, we can always do better, as the need will always be there.

My lovely pillion partner joined the ride in 2009. I proposed marriage on the top of a pass in the Absaroka Range of the Rocky Mountains in 2011. So yes, I am committed to this ride, to new friends, and to the cause.

As Johnny would say, it begins here for me on this road.

(editor’s note: she said “Yes”)

— Aurelius

The very first time I met Greg Williams, we talked motorcycles. Greg extended an invitation for me to ride for a day with LRLR on a Midwest route leg. I took him up on the offer, and I was hooked. For me, the scenery, the solitude of being on a bike, and the challenges of long distance riding – those are all givens for a group motorcycle ride. But LRLR, like everything else in the entertainment business, is “all about the people.” What makes Long Reach Long Riders such an engaging ride for me are the people who ride, the spirit of camaraderie and ultimately, solidarity in the promotion of the charities.

Who in the entertainment business has not worked with someone or had a friend or family member affected by AIDS, or worse, lost a friend or loved one to AIDS? Who in our business has not seen a coworker, friend or family member’s life changed by an unforeseen accident or turn of events that put them out of work, in some cases permanently, or worse, left a family in financial need? In addition to the riders’ contributions, if even one more individual or business is inspired to make a donation to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and/or ESTA Foundation’s “Behind the Scenes” by the Long Reach Long Riders promotion of these charities, then mission accomplished. I dare say that hundreds have been so inspired. How about you?

Ride with us, or support a rider. You know you want to.

— Cap’n Diesel

First Timer, 2009

I just wanted to thank everyone for making this such an amazing trip. I have to admit, that I did not expect to enjoy it. I had thought, well it will be nice, but as a passenger not my kind of thing, but I’ll make do with the hanging out with great people at the end of the day. Boy was I mistaken. This was the first time I have ever understood the beauty of “enjoy the journey not the destination,” which is a good lesson for my type A personality. It has been the first chance I’ve truly had to relax in many months. The past few have been way beyond hectic and stressful on a personal and professional level with deaths in the family and more. I had the opportunity to do lots of thinking with the beauty of the mountains, and it was personally an extremely moving experience all around. And thank you to all the other riders-each of you taught me something whether you know it or not and I feel I am a different person for it.

— Kacey (dragonfly)

Chrome and I have traveled cross-country on our bike so much that people think we’re crazy and I have loved it from the very first trip. Riding cross country with the LRLR adds another several layers of enjoyment. I remember so many days riding with this group when I have noticed how supremely happy I was. The fun of the bike riding, the staggering beauty of the scenery, the rewarding feeling from raising money for those in need, and the camaraderie that we all enjoy not only during meals but also while riding in the group, combine to create an experience that is unparalleled. I am so grateful to be preparing for my 8th ride this summer.

— Sweet Tea

Riding with this group is an incredible experience. It is exciting to hear the stories of your fellow riders, challenge yourself on the new roads, and see beautiful country that you may otherwise never think to visit. In addition, the charities that benefit from this group directly affect the lives of our friends and coworkers in the industry.

I look forward to this yearly adventure like a child at Christmas. The group is friendly, the views are magnificent and you can’t beat the sound of twenty bikes starting up in the morning. Everyone in the group has a different skill level and style when it comes to riding and the group naturally finds a rhythm that allows all riders to enjoy the roads at a pace that is comfortable to them. This trip is very much like summer camp for adults and I plan to return over and over again. Thank you LRLR.

— Strong Bad