Each year about 100 bikers, and hundreds of their supporters, gather at the crack of dawn at the Guelph Legion on Watson Road before setting out to join thousands of other bikers on Highway 401.
The ride began as a way of paying homage to the Canadian soldiers killed during the country’s involvement in military action in Afghanistan, said Troy Bond, the ride's Southwestern Ambassador. He said participating in the event is a deeply emotional and proud experience.
The ride and rally happens on Saturday, June 4th, with riders gathering for registration at 6 a.m. locally, and setting out at 7 a.m. to merge into the collective flow of bikers on Canada’s biggest and busiest highway.
Bond said he would like to see hundreds of supporters come out to send off the local riders, with flags waving both at the Legion and along Gordon Street.
The Guelph contingent will join the main ride and proceed first to the National Air Force Museum in Trenton, and then travel down the Highway of Heroes to Port Hope’s Memorial Park, where the rally will take place.
The Highway of Heroes is a stretch of Highway 401 from Trenton to the Don Valley Parkway/Highway 404 in Toronto. It was so named because it served as the funeral convoy route to transport fallen soldiers from CFB Trenton to the coroner’s office in Toronto. Citizens lined the route to pay their respects, a ritual that is repeated whenever a Canadian soldier is killed in action.
Troy Bond has been on the ride a number of times.
“It’s a very emotional day,” he said. “There are generally quite a few veterans participating in the ride itself, and around at the event, and their families. The stories of losses in Afghanistan are very touching.”
Bond said his volunteer work with the ride is his way of respecting veterans and honouring their sacrifice.
“It started because of Afghanistan, as a way of honouring our fallen,” he said, adding that it has become a more general commemoration of all veterans.
Last year, about 300 people turned up to send off the local riders. Bond would like to see as many local people as possible take part in the event on the seat of a motorcycle.
“I’d love to have anyone that’s going there for the rally, and who rides a bike, to join up on the ride,” he added. “It would look good for this whole area of Guelph, Kitchener and Cambridge to show up in force.”
There will be about 3,000 bikes congregating in Trenton.
“It’s a free demonstration of support for our troops,” Bond said. “When we do the ride down the Highway of Heroes, it is just like when they repatriated the soldiers. People are out on the bridges waving their flags. We encourage people in Guelph to line Gordon Street and show your support. There will be veterans on the ride out of Guelph.”