Hard to believe, a whole year has passed since I photographed this event, but here it is, the 2017 Veteran’s Ride for Freedom for the POW and MIA soldiers who are unaccounted for in all wars. Riders assemble in Woodland Park Colorado and ride en masse to Cripple Creek where a cheering crowd of thousands greets them with an amazing Colorado style festival. I’ve had numerous opportunities to photograph the riders leaving Woodland Park, but this was the first real chance I have ever had to actually go to Cripple Creek and capture them coming into town. Almost could not drag myself out of bed this morning but fortunately the doggies know the meaning of the alarm clock and were not having any part of going back to bed 🙂
I couldn’t figure out from the website what time the riders would actually arrive so I wound up getting there way too early, so I thought… Anyway it seemed like an opportune time for another 50 cent breakfast at Bronco Billy’s which upon arrival looked like a no go when I saw the crowd. Luckily I received a tip from someone in the know that I could go to one of the bars and order breakfast from there instead of sitting in the cafeteria. Cool! The bar was empty so that worked out just right! The bartender filled me in on the schedule and I was happy to discover that there was going to be a parade in less than an hour so as it turns out I wasn’t so early after all.
The parade was small but quaint and I didn’t notice until tonight, but I captured an image of Miss Colorado, which I think is pretty cool 🙂 This year was also the last year for the Vietnam era Huey displayed on a trailer in the parade so I was glad to have gotten the opportunity to see that as well. A traveling replica of the Vietnam Wall was on the other side of town but I managed to miss that somehow.
Then I took up a good vantage point in front of the Brass Ass which was also where a couple of Teller County’s finest were stationed as well. So I chatted with them and listened to the play by play of the riders progress on their radios 🙂 Finally I heard the roar of probably hundreds of Harleys making the turn from the base of 14,115 foot Pikes Peak on Highway 67 into the downtown area. It was especially important to me to capture the front runners carrying the flags. Such a cool sight, so I made sure I was in the middle of the road for that! Just in time for the arrival of the riders a big ugly cloud rolled in overhead to spoil all the colors but I got the shots and got out of the street in time to get them going west down into the massive crowd at the festival and towards the beautiful flag flying over the street.
Then I captured a few more sights and sounds, including a video from my phone, which never ceases to disappoint me with it’s lack of quality… My camera does video as well, but for some reason I can never remember to figure out how to use it until it’s too late. Something about switching a still camera to video just doesn’t seem natural!
The heat today was oppressive, which was another reason to get there early. I was able to park in the Double Eagle parking garage, so I made sure I lost a few bucks to the one armed bandits there to make up for using their garage. Tried to take the doggies for a hike, but it was way too hot and we only went a few yards before they did their business and wanted to get out of the sun.
As I work on the pictures tonight it occurs to me that it was at this event one year ago that I received the first hint that there was something seriously wrong with my 70-200 F4L lens. Weird… parts of the picture in focus and other parts in the same plane not in focus…. After grieving about it for a couple of months I took it in for repairs and now I have it back as good as new 🙂 It needed a tune up anyway after a decade of hard use!
I thought it was great to see all those thousands of people cheering and waving flags, everyone fully in support of the rider’s mission, especially in this time of such strife when so many are so bent out of shape over everything under the sun. There was not a single fight the entire time I was there, no protestors to ruin the event for everyone else, just thousands of people being happy and polite. I wish there was more of that in this country now!
These pictures and more will be for sale on my website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, framed and matted prints and also as novelty items including t-shirts and coffee mugs. Commercial editorial stock versions of the images is also available at the image licensing portal of my website.