Saturday night’s heavy rains proved to be Mother Nature’s April Fool’s Day joke on bikers who awoke that Sunday morning to a sunny, albeit windy, California morning—a perfect day for firing up the scoot for a ride to Camarillo Grove Park for the 21st annual Vung Tau Run sponsored by the Viet Nam Vets/Legacy Vets MC (www.vnvmclvmc.com).As motorcycle events go, this one was special. The Viet Nam Vets/Legacy Vets MC are one and the same club, the latter being entrusted with the responsibility to carry things forward into the future. They are, as their website proclaims, “activists and advocates for veterans’ rights and issues.” And, one might add, passionate about it too. Supporting veterans’ rights is indeed a noble cause if ever there was one. All club members share a common bond of brotherhood that can only come from having survived a costly war in terms of lives lost and lives forever changed.As for the Vung Tau part, a little history lesson is in order: During the Vietnam War, Vung Tau, located on a tiny strip of land that extends into the South China Sea near the southern end of Vietnam, was one the most popular R&R locations in ’Nam for American fighting men and their allies. Thanks in part to its idyllic location, beautiful beaches and plethora of bars, the area attracted plenty of soldiers. It was even rumored that the Vietcong would sneak into town on occasion to enjoy the attractions (Vung Tau is located 120 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City). It was also a point of debarkation for troops arriving in Vietnam and, ironically, the place where fleeing Vietnamese were evacuated at the end of the war. Today it’s back to being a thriving resort locale with an international reputation.
The Viet Nam Vets/Legacy Vets MC’s Vung Tau Run celebration has become a springtime ritual for the club, which attracts other MCs from all over Southern California: Seven Skulls, Sacred Bones, Bill W’s Sober Pack, Leathers N Lace, the Shamrock Social Club and Soldiers For Jesus as well as a number of others who take time off from their own club activities to display solidarity with the Viet Nam Vets/Legacy Vets MC. Proceeds from the event go to assisting various veterans’ causes and charities, which makes it an even better excuse to party and rub elbows (and denim and leather) with some genuine, everyday American heroes. So the park was full of those who “gave some”—there was even a Korean War Medal of Honor veteran on hand as a special guest. He insisted on being called “just Ray,” and said he served in the Marines from ’58-’65.
Of course no proper biker event could exist without a little rock ‘n’ roll. Music was provided by SoCal rockers National Dust, who are in the midst of celebrating their latest CD, “National Dust III.” Billed as one of the hardest-working rock bands in the area, the group has played just about every major biker event from Sturgis to Laughlin, and they have become known for detonating their own special brand of metal mayhem. These guys certainly lived up to the billing as they rocked the park with crowd-pleasing cover tunes and originals that most likely scared local residents into locking up the children and small pets for the afternoon. If that wasn’t enough, during the band breaks DJ Dave was busy playing selections from his own “bikers’ greatest hits” playlist that featured songs by Aerosmith, Hendrix, Guns ’N’ Roses and more. What could be better than nonstop biker party music? Well, beer and barbecue make for a great lunch, so the Ventura Veterans Club was on hand, serving as master chefs and feeding the hungry crowd. Forget hot dogs and burgers, as one of the cooks said, “There’s tri-tip—and then there’s our tri-tip!” With plenty of back slapping and bear hugs, stories and jokes were swapped and old friends rediscovered under the shaded eating area. There were a few dozen vendors selling the usual biker faves of pins, patches, jewelry and T-shirts, along with a few over-the-top custom bikes on display serving as eye candy.
And then the games began. First came the various raffles and even an auction, where a four-day vacation at Harrah’s for the upcoming Laughlin River Run went for a paltry $200. The crowd was no doubt lulled into temporary distraction from consuming so much food and, um, maybe beer. With wisecracking club member “Oil Can” handling the emcee duties—and calling for some in the audience to “auction off your old lady” after being heckled—the games portion of the afternoon began. The obvious crowd pleaser was the Grab the Wienie competition, and being a family publication, we can’t repeat all the various comments being yelled by the audience—or the color commentary added by Oil Can. Next came the ball drop—which despite the name, is actually harmless. It starts with the passenger attempting to place a tennis balls atop pylons as the rider negotiates a slalom course. Then there was the aptly named “slow race,” with the last bike across the finish line being declared the winner. In the end, winners were apparently chosen for a combination of comedic relief, skill and, as it pertained to the women, skimpy attire.
No biker event would be complete without a Peoples’ Choice bike show. The first-place winner was Michelle Brassell and her 2001 Heritage Softail custom. Appropriately enough, Michelle’s husband is currently deployed on active duty, so he should get a kick out of reading this.
In the end it was an exceptional event for two reasons: It was a reminder that there is still much to be done in terms of helping our veterans—they are the real reason the rest of us are free to ride around and act crazy; and with so much made out of sensationalistic news reports of violence when two or more biker clubs gather, here was a veritable “Woodstock” of MCs coming together to help out for a common cause.