BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – A few weeks ago, First News told you about Air Force veteran and retired firefighter Patrick Romeo and his motorcycle ride for charity. On Thursday, Romeo talked about his journey.
“It was not enjoyable, but I knew that going in,” Romeo said. “It’s a challenge for a reason, but I guess what it lacked in enjoyment it made up in satisfaction by finishing it.”
He worked with Dr. Chrisanne Gordon of the Resurrecting Lives Foundation, which advocates for veterans with traumatic brain injuries.
So far, they’ve raised $16,000.
“There’s still some pledges that hadn’t yet come in and hadn’t been collected yet, she feels there’s still money coming in,” Romeo said. “She thinks we should be able to, hopefully, get to $20,000.”
Romeo beat his goal of 14 days by completing just over 10,000 miles in 13 days.
“I averaged about 770 miles a day, probably 18 hours a day in the saddle and about four to five hours of sleep per night,” he said.
Part of the challenge was the riders had to sleep with their bikes while they were on the road.
“Two of the nights I just spent along the road, just pulled off to the side of the road and slept next to the bike,” Romeo said.
He brought a tent, air mattress and sleeping bag, but one night at a truck stop he was too tired to set it all up.
“The night at the truck stop I just climbed off the bike dressed and laid down in the grass next to the bike and just slept like that until I woke up at about 2 in the morning freezing, then I got the sleeping bag out,” Romeo said.
“Then I woke up at about 5 covered in dew and I was all wet,” he said. “It just depended on how I felt at night if I wanted to take the time or not.”
Romeo said all of the areas he visited were nice, but at the same time were miserable.
“You’re not really there to enjoy,” he said. “It’s just hour after hour after hour of riding. You’re riding through the desert and you can’t wait to get out and get into the mountains, and then after 18 hours of riding in the mountains you’re looking forward to the desert.”
While the ride was a challenge, Romeo had the support of many veterans, Dr. Gordon said. She said they encouraged him on social media and the foundation received texts, emails and calls.
Dr. Gordon told the story of one veteran in particular who served in the Vietnam War.
“One Vietnam veteran checked in with me twice per day from his ICU bed at the Cleveland VA hospital to make sure Patrick was all right, and, in fact, his condition improved throughout the week even though his main focus was Patrick’s safety,” Dr. Gordon said via email.
She said veterans are service-oriented and the veterans at the Resurrecting Lives Foundation were supporting Romeo as he was supporting them.
“Patrick gave a voice to those who had lost theirs, and he carried that voice across 10,000 miles and 36 states,” Dr. Gordon said. “It earned him a Letter of Commendation from U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan, who has supported our Ohio-based veterans non-profit from its inception. It truly was 10,000 miles of healing. The nation could learn about endurance, sacrifice, compassion and service from this veteran who is the poster person for Steel Valley Grit! We cannot thank him nor his supportive family enough for this sacrifice.”
Individuals are still able to donate on their website resurrectinglives.org or text “HOKA HEY” to 44321.
Romeo is happy to be home and joked that his bike is pretty dirty so if anyone is interested in detailing it for him, he’d be more than happy to let you.
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