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Bikers stop in Santa Fe in run to Vietnam Veterans Memorial

By DILLON MULLAN | The Santa Fe New Mexican | Published: May 18, 2019

SANTA FE, N.M. (Tribune News Service) — From atop the countless highway overpasses they encounter on their cross-country ride, the hundreds of motorcyclists riding together in the Run for the Wall are rather indistinguishable from one another. In tight, fast-moving rows, they form one massive cluster of loud engines.

Once the group stops, though, the bikers easily differentiate themselves. Patches show off state flags and personal mottos. The backs of their leather jackets list rides they finished in past years. In conversation, every rider has his or her own road name.

"I'm proud to have this one on here," said Alfredo 'Go-Go' Gomez as he pointed to the New Mexico state flag patch on his chest in the parking lot of the Cities of Gold Casino.

Run for the Wall is an annual 10-day motorcycle ride from Southern California to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. On Friday afternoon, about 500 riders passed through Santa Fe on their enjoyable yet serious mission.

"This isn't a fun run. We like to explain that to people. This particularly is not a fun ride. We like to stay tight and compact and focused on making it all the way there," said Gomez, who is taking part in his seventh straight Run for the Wall. "It's an amazing feeling that all these people are family. There's not a state I couldn't go to now and have somebody to call. We've got all 50 represented."

Gomez said he joined the U.S. Army after graduating from Los Lunas High School in 1998. After four years of service, he returned to New Mexico and began riding motorcycles. Gomez said most – but not all – of the Run for the Wall riders who stopped in Santa Fe on Friday are military veterans.

"They give new meaning to the word 'bikers,' " said Anastasia Kurilich, who participated in last year's ride and watched from the spot where Ridgetop Road crosses over Veterans Memorial Highway (N.M. 599) as the caravan passed through Friday around 12:30 p.m. "It truly has become a family that supports one another."

Gomez said the group wakes up at 6 a.m. in order to average about 10 hours of riding per day. While most sleep in hotels, some camp outside.

"You're shoulders and arms will start to get sore, but it's easy to stay focused when you've got such a strong group around you," said Gomez, who added he has ridden his bike to 46 states in the past two years.

The group left Los Angeles on Wednesday. From Santa Fe, they headed to Angel Fire, where their bikes had to trade open highway for tight curves in the mountains. From there, it's on to Colorado, Kansas and eventually, the nation's capital.

By all accounts, a motorcycle is not a bad way to see the country.

"Of course I love riding through New Mexico, but it is all pretty," Gomez said. "Flat states, like Kansas, you're basically tilted at 45 degrees the whole time because of the wind. But from the Rockies to the rolling hills in Missouri to Virginia, there's a lot of amazing views."

After a weekend of Memorial Day celebrations in Washington, some riders ship their bikes and take a plane home.

Not everyone, though.

"Of course I'm riding back," Gomez said.

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