TOWNSEND -- Riding in a group of 110 motorcycles is awesome. If that group is the "Give Back Ride," the ride will make a significant contribution to the community.
This year was the fourth time Aaron Williams organized the charity event. Each year, the group helps a different organization. This year, the Townsend Fire-EMS Relief Association received $5,000 after the May 19 event.
"We work hard as a team," said Joe Shank, Williams's father-in-law. "It's a great thing my son-in-law's done." Shank is a retired firefighter who used to respond to calls through the Harbor Fire Station.
"It got crazy this year. We put a lot of work into it," Williams said.
The first year, 50 riders raised $1,000, given to Mommies Mobile Meals. The next year, $1,800 was raised for Townsend Ecumenical Outreach and last year, $2,500 went to the Townsend Recreational Activity Council.
"It blows my mind it grew to this," Williams said. People come from all around to attend the ride. He recognizes many of the faces year after year, but does not know everyone individually.
Choosing a route and recruiting the riders for the roughly 100-mile ride into southern New Hampshire is just one part of the task. In addition, a mobile command center follows the riders along the route.
The Townsend Police Department escorted the pack out of town. Departments in other communities along the way helped where they could, Shank said.
Lots of work was done before the ride. Corporate sponsors were lined up. Lorden Oil, Enterprise Bank of Fitchburg and Harbor Auto Body, Shank's business, were local sponsors. Biltwell, a California motorcycle supply business, and City Wine Tours of Boston also chipped in.
No ride is complete without socializing, and the organizers made sure there was plenty of time to hang out. A mid-point rest stop was provided by Chief Norman Skamtze and the West Swanzey, N.H., fire station.
Bailey's Bar and Grille hosted the gathering at the end of the ride for the riders and their nonriding family and friends. Music, and, of course a fire truck, enlivened the festivities. The restaurant donated a portion of the sales that evening to the ride.
The relief association will use the donation to purchase three handheld meters, one for the front-line equipment in each station. The glow-in-the-dark units vibrate, flash and make a warning sound to alert emergency personnel of dangerous gases. They detect carbon monoxide, oxygen levels, hydrogen sulfide or sewer gas, and explosive levels of gas from gas lines and propane tanks.
A new charging and calibration station for the meters is part of the package. The meters have a lifetime of four years while most meters are only good for two or three years, said Thomas Routhier of Firematic Supply Company.
The meters in use at the fire department were purchased in 2005 and needed to be replaced, said Capt. Mike Grimley.
"These guys are going to be covered," Routhier said.