98-mile ride to help preserve Vietnam monument

Engines will roar Saturday in an “old-fashioned” motorcycle poker run honoring 98 local men who died fighting in Vietnam.

Rita Adkins’ brother-in-law, Henry Dale Adkins, is one of the names adorning the Lorain County Vietnam Veterans Memorial on North Lake Street in Amherst.

“There’s constant upkeep that needs to be done and we’d like to continue to add to the memorial site itself,” she said, explaining the goal of the American Legion Riders fundraiser. “Just recently we cleaned it up, pulled weeds, put mulch down, purchased hooks for flags that were broken. There’s much to do.”

Riders from Post 118 in Amherst will lead a 98-mile trek starting at 11 a.m. (registration at 10:30 a.m.) from the memorial.

Anyone is welcome to join the ride, which will tour memorial sites on West 2nd Street in Lorain, Lake Road in Avon Lake, West Street in LaGrange, and American Legion Post 8 in Wellington. Lake Erie Harley-Davidson will also serve as a bonus rest stop to grab snacks and beverages.

Cars, trucks, and buses are welcome to ride along with motorcycles.

At each stop, riders can draw poker chips with $100 going to the best hand and $50 to the worst hand at the end of the day (last bike in at 4:30 p.m.).

At the end of the ride, Post 118 will host food, music, door prices, and raffles.

Ride registration is $15 for motorcycles or $20 with a passenger; and $15 for other vehicles and driver plus $5 for each additional passenger taking part in poker hands. There will be a $10 donation requested to attend the after-ride dinner only.

The first 50 entrants will get a complementary ride patch.

There have been poker runs in the past, but not for several years. This is the first time the American Legion Riders from post 118 are taking over the event, Adkins said.

The group numbers about 70 in all, with about 35 showing up to ride every weekend in July in support of Legion causes across the region.

Adkins, who helped organize this weekend’s ride, said she drew inspiration from attending her first-ever Rolling Thunder ride in Washington, D.C., where 900,000 bikers lined up to honor servicemen left behind in Vietnam.

“You couldn’t believe the sound of it,” she said. “Now I know why they call it thunder.”

Recent clean-up of the Lorain County monument plaza was aided by a $500 donation by American Legion Post 118. But Adkins said there is so much more to do at the site, from planting flowers to making routine repairs.

She also wants to create a directory of memorial pavers at the site so visiting family members can easily find engraved bricks honoring lost loved ones.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.