Photo provided by Bill Ellis
Former USITT President Joe Aldridge and 2015 Distinguished Achievement Award winner Loren Schreiber sat down with us to reflect on their most recent Long Reach Long Riders (LRLR) charity motorcycle ride. The 15th annual ride took place in New England from June 25-30. With 25 motorcycles and a slew of chase cars, the group managed to raise more than $54,500, bringing the total raised by LRLR to $650,000 since its inception in 2004.
Encountering mountains, covered bridges, and the architecture of New England, Loren and Joe tell of their preparations for each ride, what they enjoy most, and the reasoning behind it all.
Be sure to stop by the LRLR booth at USITT19 to say hello, learn more about their efforts, or to get involved!
What do you do in preparation for the ride?
Loren: Since I’m one of the motorcyclists, I’m just making sure my bike can make the ride duration, making sure I have all the right weather gear, and that I bring at least $1,000 to participate. That’s usually not too difficult to do.
Joe: Since I’m in the chase vehicle, I have to make sure that my truck is in good working order. My wife, Sherry, accompanies me on the ride because she’s a registered nurse and serves as the medical officer, if you will, in case there’s an accident or a medical issue. She’s there to help deal with that so we carry an ever-evolving first aid kit.
I always carry gasoline for the motorcycles in the event somebody forgets to fuel up or we just ride too far between gas stops. I also carry two coolers: one for adult beverages at the end of every day and one for water and Gatorade or whatever else people may need to drink during the ride. We also carry snacks and luggage so that people can take a little more than what their motorcycles will carry, especially the couples who are riding as it’s difficult to get everything you need on a motorcycle.
On occasion, if we have a companion rider who wants to get out of the heat, they’ll jump in the truck and ride with us. There are two chase vehicles on the ride. One drags the trailer in case we have a bike go down. I also have to raise that $1,000 to participate.
Loren, how do you gather those donations?
Loren: I used to be on Facebook and that was easy I’d just tell all my Facebook friends. It’s gotten a little harder, but I have some friends and family who know what I do and some theatrical colleagues who are contributors. I don’t get as much as others do because I’m not that famous, but I manage to squeak by each year with that $1,000.
And is that $1,000 a minimum or a personal goal?
Joe: That’s a minimum. The goal is always to do better than that, but you at least have to achieve that $1,000 by the week of the ride. On top of that, we pay for own expenses like fuel, food, and lodging. Everything we raise for Behind the Scenes and Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS goes 100 percent to the charity.
Joe, you mentioned your wife rides with you in the chase vehicle. What’s it like sharing the experience with her?
Joe: I went the first year without Sherry and I came home and was telling her how much fun I had. She put her foot down and said, “You’re not going to have fun without me,” and she’s joined me ever since and it works well.
Do you tend to see the same people ride each year?
Joe: In my six years with the ride, there’s a core group of about 18 or 20 and then there’s somebody new. It’s a bit of a family. There’s a good sense of family when the ride begins because everybody is looking out for everybody else as well as themselves. It seems to be the same way during the year. Everybody keeps in touch and we have the same things in common. It’s fun!
Loren: We have several riders who show up every year and then we always gain a few riders from the local areas. The rides happen in different parts of the country. We used to ride and meet in the middle, but that turned out to be a problem, so now we generally do a large circle in one general area. For example, the New Mexico ride that I led, we had some folks from the area join in and ride because they could, and we got together with the local IATSE union in Santa Fe.
Where was the ride this year and how long was the trip?
Loren: The ride this time was in New England and was led by Bill Sapsis. I started out in New Mexico hauling a couple of bikes out to California where I picked up two more bikes and then came up to Las Vegas where I handed off the trailer to Joe’s truck. We drove for five days from Las Vegas to New Hampshire. The ride itself lasted eight days and it was 1,700 miles. Next year’s ride is in Colorado.
How many stops do you make on average?
Loren: About once every hour to an hour and a half. We take hospitality breaks and each evening we stop at a hotel. We never ride through the night.
Joe: Yeah, that’s pushing it. This is a recreation ride for charity and not a recreation ride for a national emergency, so we never ride through the night. I doubt any of our people would ride through the night. If the leader said, “We can’t find a hotel, let’s move on,” that leader would be gone, and we would find a place to sleep for the safety of us, and everyone else on the road.
What is a typical day on the road like?
Joe: I need to make sure we have extra fuel, ice in the ice chest, supplies, and then about an hour before we leave I start loading luggage and gear in the back of the pickup. Once that’s gathered and the motorcycles have all been fueled and we’re ready to roll, the motorcycles roll out and we roll out and we hang behind so that if there’s a problem with a motorcycle, we are able to stop and be with them.
There are several CBs on the motorcycles and both chase vehicles have CBs, so we’re in radio contact with each other constantly. If one of the bikes has a problem one of the chase vehicles will stop and make sure they’re ok. We don’t leave them to their own devices. Every time we stop for fuel or any kind of break, we disperse water. The riders dry out quickly and get hot, so they need to be hydrated frequently. We carry snacks as well so that everybody stays alert, and nobody gets hot and goes down.
In the chase vehicles, we’re not the servants of the group, we’re a part of the group and that’s our responsibility. They ride, and we make sure they can ride.
Loren: I’ve planned and led three of the rides and when you’re the leading bike in the ride, there’s a lot more responsibility because you’re setting up the route, making sure you’re hitting the turns, making sure there are places to gas up. It’s like you’re always on alert looking in the rearview mirror.
I spend more time looking in the rearview mirror than I do looking down at the road it seems just to make sure the bikes are staying in a group and no one is falling out.
When you’re a rider in the pack, you’re keeping an eye on your positions, about two seconds behind the person who is riding in front of you. We ride in a staggered formation. We’re making sure we’re not slowing the whole group down or riding too fast. I spend a lot of time contemplating and in reflection. It’s not like riding a motorcycle is a hard thing to do particularly.
What is your favorite part of the ride and about Long Reach Long Riders as a whole?
Joe: My favorite thing about the ride is getting there and meeting up with everyone who you probably haven’t seen since either the last Conference or the last ride. It’s just the gathering of the clan, if you will, where everybody is happy to see each other.
My favorite thing about Long Reach Long Riders is what it does. It raises money for the charities and I have a former student who is a recipient of a grant from Behind the Scenes because of an unfortunate accident he had in Las Vegas. Knowing that others like my former student will benefit from our efforts makes me feel good about the whole thing. That was one of the reasons for me wanting to get involved was to help everybody else. I’ve been fortunate enough to stay relatively healthy for an old man, but I’ve seen others who have needs, so being able to help them makes you feel good.
Loren: On a brisk, crisp morning hearing 35 motorcycles start up at the same time and begin to pull out of the parking lot, it’s amazing. Also, going through a tunnel with over 30 bikes and hearing their overly loud exhausts is fun, too. Then, at the end of the day when you’re tired and your butt is sore, the bikes are all parked and you’re hanging around the back of the pickup truck having a beer, you celebrate and see the beautiful scenery you just came through, that’s really my favorite aspect of these rides.
The comradery of the people, the like-mindedness because we’re all theatre people and motorcycle enthusiasts, and as Joe said, we all care about our fellow theatre artisans and it feels good to know you’re helping to look after the people who have had an unfortunate life event.
What’s something you encountered this trip that was out of the norm for you?
Loren: I really haven’t traveled in New England that much before at all and there were two impressions that I came away with. The beautiful architecture of the houses in that part of the country and the beautifully designed farmhouses.
The other thing I came away with is that there are a lot of potholes! I’m beginning to think that Vermont is the old Native American word for potholes.
Joe: The thing that I enjoy about the rides, in general, is that we travel a lot, Sherry and I, but we’re usually on an interstate. One of the things we’ve been able to do since being on the rides is see the countryside that you don’t see from the interstate because you’re usually shielded from all of that. New England is no different because it has some beautiful countryside and natural wonders. You marvel at how the heck they keep them hidden.
I’m like Loren, the architecture is just phenomenal. Growing up in the West you have the western architecture that we’re accustomed to and then you get to the East Coast. Loren and I were able to take a day trip to Maine and saw some incredible coastal architecture that was amazing.
I think we missed three potholes when we were in Vermont, so we’re supposed to go back and hit those. They hit them with two wheels and I hit them with four so I’m able to pick up more of the potholes than they are.
It was a unique ride. This trip allowed me to complete my bucket list of the 48 contiguous states. I’ve been in all of them; Loren needs North Dakota, but we couldn’t find an efficient way to hit it this trip.
What do you hope for the future of Long Reach Long Riders?
Loren: I’ve already started planning two years down the road. It used to be a little laissez-faire, but now it’s very strategic planning two to three years out. I’m 66 years old, and I don’t know how many more years I can spend on a motorcycle but I’m hoping it will continue and I get to see young riders go by in the future.
The Long Reach Long Riders would like to thank everyone who helped make this year’s ride a success. Donations are still being accepted. Please visit http://lrlr.org/ for more information.
The 16th annual Long Reach Long Rider charity motorcycle ride will take place in the Rocky Mountain region of Colorado. Ride Marshal Jon Kirchhofer has tentatively set the dates for July 7 though July 13. Please check the website in the coming months for updates on the route, registration and donation information.