HURRICANE — You may have seen him cruising around town in his electric scooter lugging a cart adorned with American flags, stuffed animals and signs about veterans.
Now, Raymond Black, 75, of Washington City, is taking his message of supporting veterans on a three-month trek across Utah and parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado on his scooter. It’ll be a 960-mile journey across the desert in a scooter that only goes 5-10 mph, but Black said he couldn’t be happier doing it.
“I’m 75 now, but that don’t bother me one bit,” Black said. “That’s just a good ripe age to keep going in life.”
While Black said he’s funding the entire trip with his own money, his goal is to raise money for the Southern Utah chapter 961 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, which is a group of Vietnam veterans that meets in Washington City. He’ll give people who stop and talk with him homemade brochures on how to send money to the veterans group.
He left his home in Washington City Monday with a police escort to state Route 9, where he started driving on the shoulder of the highway, waving to the passing cars and calling out “God bless America.” His trek will take him on a loop through Kanab; Page, Arizona; the Four Corners Monument; Rico, Colorado; and then back into Utah through Monticello, Hanksville, Panguitch and Zion National Park. He plans on returning to the St. George area sometime in August.
“I don’t know if that’s going to pan out, but that’s my plan,” Black said. “We just have to go from day to day and live it. That’s the way I live my life.”
Approximately every 30 miles, Black will need to recharge the electric engine inside the scooter from a portable generator inside his trailer. He’ll go as far as he can every day, and if there’s nowhere to stop at the end of the day, Black said he’ll pitch a tent on the side of the road and camp out. His cart is stuffed with camping supplies, food and stuffed animals.
Black, who served in the military for one year during the Vietnam War, said the issues veterans continue to deal with are misunderstood by many people. Many veterans don’t know about the services and organizations that are there to help them, which is why Black said he hopes to talk to many veterans along his ride.
His ride is also dedicated to the friends he lost in Vietnam, he said.
“When we came home, people called us baby killers, they spit on us and everything else,” Black said. “But we were called by our country to go over there. We didn’t go over there because we wanted to fight. Our country asked us to serve, so that’s what we did.”
This isn’t the first time Black has taken his scooter across the country. After his wife died five years ago, Black set out on a scooter ride to the east side of Florida in 2014. He made it Waco, Texas, where he said his legs swelled up and he lost a toe, so he had to cut his ride short.
Black said he lost his toe and part of his foot because of complications he had since his days in Vietnam during the war from Agent Orange, a dangerous herbicide used by the military during the Vietnam war that has hurt veterans since the war.
From his previous trips and all his time driving around the St. George area in his scooter, Black said the buggy has over 4,000 miles on it. He doesn’t have a driver’s license and said he doesn’t even like to ride in a car anymore, “but I will ride in a car if I have to.”
Next year, Black said he plans on riding his scooter all the way to Washington, D.C., to see the Vietnam Veterans
“I just have a wonderful time doing this,” Black said. “As long as I can keep going, I’m going to keep riding my scooter.”
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