Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects hundreds of thousands of our military veterans, leaving many feeling isolated, angry or depressed among a myriad of other symptoms. Not content to stand by and let those that served their country suffer from such a condition, a group called the Motorcycle Relief Project based in Evergreen, Colorado is offering support and camaraderie by way of motorcycle adventure.
The Motorcycle Relief Project, a 501 (c)(3), was incorporated in December 2014 and has since been providing “relief to veterans with PTSD and other injuries by taking them on multi-day motorcycle adventure tours. Our mission is to honor and encourage veterans while providing them with opportunities to decompress, get unstuck, and connect with other veterans.”
Motorcycle Relief Project seeks to achieve its mission through five-day Relief Rides, adventure excursions currently held in Colorado, Arizona, Utah and California that feature a combination of on and off road riding. The off road portions aren’t hugely technical, primarily focused on forest roads and jeep trails, and transportation to and from the airport, meals, lodging, insurance, support vehicle assistance, motorcycles (different sized BMW GS models) and protective gear (if the participant doesn’t own a bike or gear) are included. Rides are led by professional staff and fellow veterans, and there’s a licensed counselor available during each ride. Of course, riders with their own motorcycles and gear are welcome to use their equipment on a Relief Ride, as long as it’s appropriate to handle the terrain.
In addition to the on-bike experience, there are also workshops available that focus on relaxation and stress management techniques, recovery through service to others, coping strategies for trauma and learning to overcome obstacles associated with PTSD and other “invisible injuries.”
Camaraderie and connection are fostered through highs and lows reflection after each ride, in which each participant is encouraged to share the high and low points of the day with the group. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are shared together throughout the ride, allowing for even more relationship building.
Here’s a few testimonials provided by Motorcycle Relief Project from some past participants.
“I am still riding the high from the ride and probably will for some time,” says Marty, US Army (Ret.), Desert Shield/Storm, OIF. “Over the course of the week I gained confidence and by Friday I loved every minute of dirt we could get. The workshops back at the lodge allowed me to think of ways to change my life for the better. It really wasn’t until our first workshop on Monday night that I realized the problems that I was facing with rage and anger were similar to some of the feelings of my fellow participants. Sharing our stories and challenges over the course of the week with my fellow veterans built lasting friendships and true concern for my fellow riders. The ride had a profound positive impact on my mental state. Friday when we finished our ride I was in the clearest mental state that I have been in in years. My wife even commented on seeing the visible change in my attitude, and that the pictures she saw were the first pictures that she had seen me smiling in for a while.”
“Before I went to MRP I was very lost, depressed and full of anxiety and unrest,” said Zack, USMC, OIF. “I had been struggling with many problems from my three deployments with the Marines. My time overseas and in combat had left holes in my life which I ignored and left untreated. MRP helped me identify that many things I had been struggling with were because I had neglected to address those issues. MRP not only helped me on the trip on a road to recovery, but also assisted me with countless resources to use to continue my personal journey of growth. Since MRP, I have made radical changes in my life. I have attended a business and entrepreneurship seminar for Marine Combat Vets that I learned about on MRP. I have moved across the country, I am mending relationships, I am working hard on my personal and professional growth, and I am planning for future endeavors. Ultimately MRP was the most fun I have had in a long time. It was great to get to hang out with other vets who could relate to my experiences in the Marine Corps and in combat in Iraq.”
“Participating in MRP helped me realize that I’m far less alone than I think,” said Will, USAF, OIF. “It gave me a renewed motivation to break out of my isolation.”
What’s really remarkable is that participants’ costs to participate in a Relief Ride are covered by the generous donations received by Motorcycle Relief Project. All that’s needed from approved applicants is a $100 deposit to secure a place in the ride. Travel costs to get to the ride are up to the participant, however.
And veterans don’t necessarily have to have diagnosed PTSD to participate. Motorcycle Relief Project states that “while a big part of our mission as an organization is to help veterans with PTSD, we realize it’s not the only reason someone might benefit from what our rides have to offer. We evaluate all applications based on a number of factors, PTSD being only one of them.”
Participants aren’t subjected to any psychoanalysis nor are they forced to participate in group sharing sessions or workshops, either. The primary purpose of a Relief Ride is to offer veterans a chance to relax and connect.
Veterans with physical disabilities are encouraged to apply as well, but at the moment there is no adaptive equipment available in the Relief Ride fleet. If a participant has a motorcycle outfitted with the necessary equipment and can get the bike to the start point, they’re more than welcome to apply for a spot in a Relief Ride. Motorcycle Relief Project hopes to be able to provide such adaptive equipment in the future.
This year also sees the first women’s ride in Moab, Utah in May 2016.
The first 2016 Relief Ride is planned for March 7-12 in the Tucson area in Arizona. The opening adventure in Arizona is already nearly full, but rides continues through November. Check the schedule below and be sure to head over to the Motorcycle Relief Project website for complete information.
Check out the MRP website if you’d like to help support the cause as well, where donations of all sizes are accepted.
2016 Relief Ride Dates
March 7-12, 2016 – Arizona (Tucson area)
April 3-9, 2016 – California (Sky Rose Ranch – a 17,000 acre luxury ranch near Paso Robles)
April 17-23, 2016 – California (Sky Rose Ranch)
May 9-13, 2016 – Women’s Ride in Utah (Moab area)
June 13-17, 2016 – Colorado
July 11-15, 2016 – Colorado
August 22-26, 2016 – Colorado
September 19-23, 2016 – Colorado
October 23-29, 2016 – Arizona or California (TBD)
November 13-19 – Arizona or California (TBD)