I am currently sitting in Phoenix, Arizona, thinking back about how amazing July has been. It only makes it better that I get to spend a few days with my amazing girlfriend and the kiddo while we look at where we want to move this time next year.

This is a much-needed time of rest and relaxation, plus a celebration of our two-year anniversary. I am thankful for all that she does in the background to make this trip as successful as it has been. I truly am lucky to have such a beautiful woman by my side who understands my desire to ride and to help others. I love you, Q and O, and happy anniversary! Thank you both for putting up with me.

The month started out a bit slower, and ended up with quite a few firsts. Most of them were spectacular experiences, but two roadkill incidents happened this month. Early on a pair of doves were playing chicken, and one lost as it hit my windshield and fell lifelessly to the shoulder of the road.

Later on in the month, near the end of a 1,037-mile day, a fox decided to test his skills playing frogger across I-40 and found out that his head isn’t as hard as my highway peg. I did stop the bike to check and see if it was suffering at all, and luckily for it, I think it died instantly. Fortunately for Trinity and me, we clipped it instead of riding over it at 80 miles per hour. I am still sad that a beautiful creature is no longer with us, but the incident could have been far worse, especially at this time of year.

Another first for the month was the “Friday the 13th” rally in Port Dover, Ontario, Canada. The lovely agent at the Canadian port of entry informed me of the event while every other question he asked was, “Are you sure that you don’t have any weapons on you or in the bike?” For my first time on a bike in Canada, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see something new. If you are in the area, I would advise checking out the rally though! It happens every Friday the 13th, year round. This summer they estimated having over 120,000 bikes attend.

Also, I completed a personal goal of mine when we arrived in New Jersey on the 20th. Trinity and I have officially visited the lower 48 states and Washington, D.C., and attended the 12th annual Roar on the Shore in Erie, Pennsylvania.

While in New Jersey I stayed with fellow Thunder Press writer John “The Breeze” Furiato and his amazing bride for two nights. They insisted that on my first real visit to New Jersey I should indulge in some local food favorites. So, pork roll sandwiches for breakfast, Schickhaus Griddle Franks for lunch, pizza from Illiano’s Italian Restaurant for dinner, and pastries from J & M Bakery to finish the day out. Add in the amazing company and it was an outstanding visit to say the least!

My trip to New Jersey was made even better because some friends from Pennsylvania made an early morning ride out to visit as well, not just to see me though, but to attend the inaugural Memorial Poker Run/Ride for Travis Lutzko. The community pulled together and 98 people showed up to support the Lutzko family to help remember Travis and to bring awareness to our nation’s suicide problem.

Born on March 3, 1995, Travis decided to take his own life on July 24, 2017. This was an abrupt and shocking decision to the family, as on the outside all seemed well. An avid wrestler in high school and with a passion for riding, Travis was an apprentice with the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 9 in New Brunswick, New jersey. Travis was only 22 years old—gone from this earth way too soon.

I had the honor and pleasure to meet Travis’ father Michael Lutzko, his stepmother Lisa, some of his cousins and a few of his friends. As I asked about who Travis was, one thing kept coming up over and over. Travis absolutely loved to laugh and to make others smile. Repeatedly I heard about his beaming smile and uncanny ability to get anyone to laugh when they were having a tough time.

There was also another similarity that echoed through each person telling me about Travis. The fact that each and every person that he had ever met missed him. Every person, one way or another, expressed an empty void without Travis in their life. His glowing personality left a lasting impact over his very short 22 years on this earth. I wish that I had been able to meet Travis. More importantly, I wish that Travis had reached out to one of the many, many people that loved him.

To the friends and family of Travis Lutzko, I am sorry for your loss, and I am thankful to have learned a bit of who Travis was. I only wish that I had been one of the lucky people to have met him. He indeed seemed like an amazing person. I hope that next year’s event is even larger and spreads even more awareness.