Forgotten Angels Campout

This was it, the event that determined the timing of my trip across the country from Arizona to Florida. I learned about Forgotten Angels on the internet and in YouTube videos, as several people I watch (and now consider friends) have gotten involved with them. From their website:


Forgotten Angels is a charity that benefits these children, many of whom have experienced neglect and abuse. We take these children in and teach them the life skills they were never given. They are given the opportunity to build their own tiny home, open a bank account, build credit, get a job, and have the care, love, and guidance they never had from their legal foster caregivers.

If it sounds like a strange thing for me to be interested in, you’re right. I have no kids of my own and never really wanted any. But I’m all about giving people a leg up and a chance to succeed. As Shadetree Surgeon says, it’s not about giving them a second chance, because they never even got a first chance. They take people in and teach them the life skills they never got. They build themselves tiny houses to live in, get jobs, and even learn to ride motorcycles.

David and Cindy run the place, and twice a year they hold a biker campout, because David’s a biker himself. They raffle off motorcycles and other things to raise money for the organization. Mostly, though, the campout is the community coming together to hang out and have a good time. At least, that’s what it’s looked like in all the videos I’ve seen, and what everyone I know who has been to one has told me. That’s why I wanted to check it out for myself.

On Thursday, I packed up everything and drove the whopping 17 miles from my family’s place to Forgotten Angels. I got all set up and unloaded the bike for the weekend. I knew people who were going to be there, wanted to meet, and wanted to check out my rig. So despite the van’s current mechanical issues, it was important to me that I brought the whole thing to show off my home on wheels, which certainly includes motorcycles.

Naturally, Lister immediately made himself at home on the neighbor’s front step. Fortunately, they love cats and were happy to have him around, even this up close and personal. I was about to shorten his tether, but they told me not to.

One of the first people I met was Barron, strategically parked near the entrance in a van of his own, advertising his iPhone screen repair service. So I had him replace my old iPhone’s cracked screen. It cost about half as much as I would’ve paid at a mall kiosk, and it helped out one of our people and a fellow van lifer instead of a mindless corporation. We hung out throughout the weekend and showed off our vans to each other. I think he got a few ideas to use in the future, which is exactly why I brought my van there.

More people kept drifting in throughout the day, including some of my online friends who quickly became real-life friends. People I’ve been watching in Shadetree Surgeon’s videos arrived, and I got to meet them, too. Some of them recognized me from the comments and Discord server. Jess, a.k.a. Her Two Wheels and I kept bumping into each other. A passing comment she made about her husband doing autocross led to a conversation about that, since I did it for many years. He has a Scion FR-S, and I had its twin, the Subaru BRZ, for three years, so we got to geek out on cars a bit, too.

I’m not trying to name-drop or brag about “famous” people I know. I’ve met enough legitimately famous people to be over getting star-struck. They’re just people, like you and me. Throughout the weekend, they were just part of the crowd. It didn’t matter whether we had 200 subscribers or 200,000. We were all just like-minded people who were there for the same reasons. A campfire and beer helped, too.

The next day I joined a group ride over to Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery. They’re partners of Forgotten Angels, and David arranged a wine tasting for anyone interested. I’m not much of a wine person, but Trisha had taught me a thing or two about wine, and I’m always interested in sampling whatever a local area has to offer. It was also a great excuse for a fun ride with my new friends. It had been a while since I’d ridden in a group, but the way things work came back to me pretty quickly.

You can see my selections on the menu. The sixth choice was their random selection, a blueberry wine. I’m not a big fan of blueberries, but that wine was exceptionally good. It also helped wash away the burn of the jalapeno wine I couldn’t resist experiencing!

More and more people arrived throughout the day. Whiskyeye, who I’d met at her 40th birthday party after knowing her online for the previous 20, towed her new cargo trailer behind her camper van. Before I knew it, she’d put me behind the wheel of her Promaster to get it maneuvered and parked with my now-extensive towing experience. I don’t consider myself a towing expert, but I suppose pulling one all over the western US and then across the country makes me one by default. It was great to see her again, and at a time that’s one of the happiest of my life instead of while I was devastated immediately after the breakup with Trisha.

Saturday morning there was another group ride, yet on a more somber note. Our orange shirts represented two members of our community who are no longer with us. Orange was the favorite color of David Nick, who I knew as RemoteCoderz. He was always there, always friendly, and went to Harley mechanic school in Phoenix while I was in Quartzsite this past winter. We became good online friends and had always talked about meeting up sometime, but never did. He was just about finished with school when he was hit by a truck on his bright orange Harley and didn’t make it. I never met Nick Miner, a local high school quarterback who was killed while helping a stuck motorist this past winter. But his parents were parked almost right next to me, and are amazingly kind and wonderful people, which is how I learned their story. So we all wore bright orange shirts to remember David, and the number 8 on them was Nick’s football number. I didn’t get any pictures of the ride itself because I was… well, riding, but we filled the roads with a sea of orange that I’m sure David would appreciate.

After the ride, shenanigans ensued. There were some motorcycle games. In the slow race, the object was to be the last person to cross the finish line without dabbing a foot down on the ground. I’m terrible at this, despite my off-road experience, so I didn’t participate, but I enjoyed watching. Then there was the keg race, where the object was to be the first to push a beer keg across the finish line with your front wheel.

Finally, there was a tug-o-war. I’m not going to lie — when the big burly dude I’d met over lunch asked me to be on his team, I took one look at him and decided that it was definitely his team I wanted to be on. I’m no powerhouse, but after a worthy struggle we won the first round. Then we easily got dragged across the line to an epic loss in the second round, laughing all the way. After the final round, David of Forgotten Angels brought over an old Goldwing on knobby tires to challenge everyone against him on the bike. It didn’t go as he expected with the humans easily defeating the Honda, which also ended up on its side. Again, there was laughter all around.

Speaking of bikes tipping over, a fan had donated a tiny pink minibike to Cheyleesi, whose favorite color is pink. You can spot her by her pink hair, and she wears a lot of pink. Chey is small, yet she was a pretty good fit on what’s obviously a kids’ bike. Everyone else was trying it out as well. I gave it a shot, but my legs got in the way of the handlebars, and the short wheelbase made it ridiculously unstable. Before long, I wiped out, right in front of everyone. There was much laughter. It’s the only time I’ve ever crashed a bike while laughing about it. The next thing I know, there’s a hand helping me back to my feet. I picked up the bike, but didn’t get back on it. I’m clearly not qualified to ride that thing. But it did go to a good home in the end. Dwight Smokem, who cooked the excellent food we ate all weekend, has a small daughter who got her first riding experience on the pink minibike, and loved it. It was great to see them riding minibikes together. In the end, Chey gave it to her.

What I did ride, though, was Jerry’s Honda Grom. EVERYBODY rode Jerry’s Grom. At the last campout, he invited everybody to take it for a rip and rack up as many miles as they could over the weekend. They put 70 miles on it. Jerry challenged us to beat that record this year, and I did my part in racking up a total of 108 miles during the weekend. I already loved the Grom, and riding it around Forgotten Angels just made me love it more. It’s a tiny little 125 styled like a naked sport bike. It has a whopping eight horsepower, four gears, and a top speed around 50 mph that I never hit. Those numbers make it sound like a terrible bike, but it is so much fun. You can whack open the throttle and accelerate hard practically everywhere, getting the thrill without actually going fast. It’s so light and maneuverable you can go practically anywhere. If I didn’t need a “real” bike for somewhat practical uses, I’d definitely want to pick one up. I have to admit, I took a moment to look inside my trailer to figure out a way to fit one next to the V-Strom.

I didn’t get any pictures of the rest of the campout. It was all a bit of a blur, and I was too busy hanging out with people, not singing karaoke (nobody wants to hear that), and enjoying myself. In fact, at one point I got a bit overwhelmed and had to retreat back to my van for a while. I don’t think it was a bad thing. Everyone there was amazing and super friendly. Maybe my brain short circuited from so much of a good thing.

On the first night of the campout, David of Forgotten Angels told us all that once we attend our first campout, we’re family now. I didn’t really understand what he meant at the time. I’ve heard people say that before. But now, I get it. In among all the good times I’ve described, I also saw people coming together to help people who needed it. I saw a Harley Sportster in pieces with strangers fixing a problem so he could get home. “Get well soon” cards were floating around to bring to ACogInTheWheel, who is in the hospital after a dog ran out in front of him a quarter mile from the campout, causing him to crash pretty badly. I’m planning to go visit him myself later this week, since I’m still in the area and several people took trips to see him during the campout. And anytime David asked for help with something, he immediately got more people than he needed jumping in and lending a hand. I was one of them. I plan to be out west again by October, when the next campout is taking place. But I hope to return to Florida next March to participate in all this madness again.

And now, back to reality, and figuring out the next steps for my ailing van. At least I was able to return the spark plugs I bought to an Advance Auto Parts that was directly on my drive back to my aunt and uncle’s place. The misfire isn’t getting any better, and then the transmission slipped a little bit at one point during the drive. That’s something new, and a rather worrying development…

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