More than 30 off road vehicles, decked out in American flags, ferried military veterans through the desert and to a popular local watering hole on Friday for the first ever Rick Seales Veteran’s Ride.
Havasu Side By Side Trail Association ride share coordinator Dave Gerrity said one of the club’s founding members, Rick Seales, came up with the original concept to pair veterans with association members for a ride through the desert and a salute to their service.
“He is not in the best of health,” Garrity said of Seales. “I was talking to him one day and he said one of the bucket list things he wanted to do was create this run himself – but he is in no physical shape to do that. So we decided we would pull it off in his name.”
Garrity said the event started with a group of about 10 club members planning to bring some vets out to The Bunker Bar for lunch, but it quickly grew from there. He said Ride Havasu also helped out a lot with the event, and many of the local off road service shops and dealers also joined in along with Desert Hills Fire District. In the end about 250 people participated.
Many of Havasu Side By Side’s members are veterans themselves, but the club also invited Prestige Assisted Living residents and other veterans to join in.
The facility brought a total of nine residents – mostly military veterans or their spouses – including the oldest veteran at the event. Roz Naylor served in the Marine Corps as an aviation machinist during World War II and took part in the Rick Seales Veteran’s Ride after celebrating her birthday last week.
“I’m 99 years old and this is my first adventure,” Naylor joked, as the Prestige residents waited to load into side by side vehicles for the tip to the Bunker Bar.
Although a couple Prestige residents said they had been off roading before – including Landon Moreland who served in the Navy on an aircraft carrier for 22 years – most said it would be their first time in a side by side and they were excited to try it out.
Once at The Bunker – which recently closed for the season but reopened specially for the ride – the veterans were treated to lunch, drinks, live music, and a short ceremony that included a presentation of the American flag, and the flags for all five branches of the military.
Garrity said he hopes that the ride becomes an annual event, but they will likely be moved to the fall going forward. He said the association is planning to hold the second Rick Seales Veteran’s Ride in November – likely the weekend after Veterans Day so as not to interfere with other events on that day. He said with cooler weather in the fall, he hopes to be able to play it up even more and maybe get more businesses and organizations involved.
“The next one will be a much larger event, I’m sure,” he said.