By Katelyn Newberg Las Vegas Review-Journal
July 28, 2018 – 6:01 pm
Richard “Richie Two Chairs” Neider’s motorcycle growled as he rode alongside 17 other veterans in central Las Vegas early Saturday morning.
Neider, a veteran from Phoenix, Arizona, said he has always loved riding motorcycles. Paraplegic and in a wheelchair since 2013, he didn’t know if he would ever ride again. Then Neider discovered Veterans Charity Ride, a nonprofit organization founded by veteran Dave Frey.
“Dave came in my life last year, and drug me out of the house,” he recounted Saturday morning. Next to him was the custom motorcycle and sidecar he built, which Neider controls using only his hands.
Neider is participating in his second Veterans Charity Ride, a multi-day motorcycle ride from the American West to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota in the name of “motorcycle therapy.”
“Motorcycle therapy is this phenomenon that actually happens when you’re riding a motorcycle; it’s getting out on the open road,” Frey said. “It’s getting out on that motorcycle that you have to be in command of. That really helps our guys and gals that have been through the combat issues.”
In past years, the ride has departed from Los Angeles, but this year the group wanted to avoid the Mojave Desert and instead left from the Nevada Veterans Memorial, at 555 E. Washington Ave., according to organizers
The 18 veterans took to the road for the journey to Sturgis, where they expect to arrive on Aug. 4. They’ll stop along the way in places such as Moab, Utah, and Eagle, Colorado, where they’ll be met by local motorcycle group members and veterans cheering them on.
Most motorcycles were donated by Indian Motorcycle for the veterans to use. Some will sit in sidecars while a mentor who has participated in the ride before drives the bike. Ten riders are taking the trip for the first time.
Frey, 56, said he formed the group in 2014 after talking with other veterans about how to help veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I kind of just got the idea of putting a ride together that could help our fellow veterans and give them something special,” said Frey, who lives in Southern California. “It all kind of just magically came together four years ago.”
A veteran who served as a paratrooper in an Army airborne unit from 1981 to 1983, Frey said he was “born in a motorcycle shop to a motorcycle family.” Unlike other veterans, Frey said, he had a family business to come home to, and he wanted to share his love of motorcycles with other veterans.
‘The healing happens’
For many of the veterans, the trip is a way to rediscover a sense of community they’ve lost since leaving the military. Others are looking to overcome physical or mental barriers.
“When you leave the military you kind of feel like you lose your team, and then all of a sudden you got a whole team again,” Neider said. “The healing happens. You just have to keep moving forward after that.”
Neider, 39, served in an Army airborne unit from 1998 to 2007. He was injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom when an improvised explosive device caused a spinal cord injury that led to Neider using a wheelchair since 2013, he said.
He had built and rode motorcycles before, but that tapered off in 2011. His post-traumatic stress disorder kept him inside. But riding in a sidecar and meeting other veterans in last year’s charity ride opened him back up to the motorcycle world.
“It was a flood of emotion,” he said. “By the time we got to Sturgis last year it was just complete unit cohesion.”
He got his “Richie Two Chairs” biker name from last year’s ride, when he took his normal wheelchair and an “off-road” chair with him.
Helping one another
Neider said he hopes this year’s ride will help other veterans overcome their own struggles and realize disabilities “do not have to limit how they think or how they move forward.”
Matthew White, has his dogs, Nike and Toffee, to help him work through his emotions, but this year the veteran have 17 humans to talk to during the motorcycle trip.
White, who will ride a silver motorcycle for his first trip with the group, said he found out about the charity ride through social media. Coming from the Washington, D.C. area, he wanted to explore the West, the 29-year-old said.
“I’m really looking forward to that and also just bonding with the veterans, getting to know some of them,” said White, who also served in an Army airborne unit from 2007 to 2011 before retiring because of an injury.
The ride offers veterans a chance to help each other, White said.
“Everyone has their own unique story,” he said. “We all have different experiences within the military, so it’s kind of cool to see where we’re all coming from, but we all have the same unique common ground in the motorcycles.”
Contact Katelyn Newberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.