Last Saturday morning the Walkway Over the Hudson was closed to pedestrians to allow 1,070 motorcyclists, along with 403 passengers, from nearly 20 motorcycle clubs and community organizations, to ride across the 6,768 foot span, starting at the Ulster Welcome Center on the western side of the bridge. The ride officially kicks off a period of a few months that honors the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Walkway in October 2009.
The riders were led by the Hudson Valley Red Knights, a club comprised of current and retired firefighters in Dutchess and Ulster counties and Wheels of Honor, a specially branded police car honoring those in law enforcement who were killed in the line of duty.
In a prepared statement, Rich Valentine, President of the Red Knights Chapter 37, said, “We’re proud to have been able to mobilize to support the Walkway Over the Hudson in raising vital funds to enhance their veterans programming to reach more of our heroes than ever before, as well as make the Walkway more accessible to all.” Funds raised will be used to purchase an electric tram that can be used by visitors who require assistance getting on, off or across the span. In addition, more wheelchairs will be added to the Walkway’s fleet for visitors.
The funds will also go to support the group Vet2Vet. According to their website, the organization, “is a consumer/provider partnership program that utilizes veterans in recovery in a peer-counseling capacity to help other veterans. Vet2vet is administered by veterans who themselves have been consumers of VA mental-health services.”
Walkway Executive Director Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart welcomed everyone to Saturday’s SkyRide. She recalled that when the railway bridge first opened in 1889 it was called “The Great Connector.”
“We keep saying that because it has connected so many people and so many communities. We’re so happy to welcome the motorcycling community of the Hudson Valley to the Walkway Over the Hudson today,” she said.
NYS Sen. Sue Serino said this ride came about because of, “all of our veterans, all of our first responders; thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate ten years on the Walkway; just have a great ride, I’m looking forward to it.”
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, who has served in the military, took a moment to recognize the veterans, first responders and law enforcement who were in attendance, “especially three Gold Star mothers who are with us and will be leading off the ride. Let us take a second and thank them, their families and their sons for making the ultimate sacrifice for our country and to keep us safe; a poignant reminder of what this is all about.”
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “it’s great that you all came together and that’s what the Walkway is; a place where all things come together. The fact that you never gave up on making this [event] happen is just a testament, not only to the Walkway and the value of the Walkway, but to our community as a whole. On behalf of the two counties, thank you and congratulations.”
Walkway board member John Storyk called the event “absolutely extraordinary.”
“We worked so long for so many years and people have wanted to do this; all of the cooperation is what has impressed me the most,” he said. “For everybody, it was months and months and months of trying to get groups that at times are not naturally in sync with each other...Slowly but surely this event has actually forced everybody to get closer and closer and that to me is amazing.” He said that SkyRide is helping to change an “old-school” perception that bikers are members of gang organizations.
“We throw all the politics out for a few hours and we just enjoy the bridge, the weather and the event; it’s pretty good,” he said.
As a young man Storyk rode a Triumph TR6; “I wish I had that now. If I had it I’d jump in there, but I’m more of a spectator today.”
Rev Rich Rinehardt led in a Blessing of the Bikes.
“I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken because he is right beside me and I ask you Lord to guide everyone within the sound of my voice and always be with them,” he said. “Let all who take refuge in you rejoice and let them sing joyful praises forever. Protect them so all who love your name may be filled with joy and surround them with your shield of love. Lord, I just ask that everybody here today have a safe ride, have a safe season and their bikes work for them fine and I thank your for this gorgeous day.”
Participants lined up along the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and in groups proceeded across the Walkway. Once over they returned to the western side of the Hudson River via the Mid Hudson Bridge and turned south on Route 9W, ending up at the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh to enjoy food, live music by the Americana Oak Band and tour an array of vintage motorcycles on display inside the museum.