ScootinAmerica and the Cross Country Journey to Raise Awareness for Wounded Veterans
Adam Sandoval’s voice has the earnestness and enthusiasm of a person who is on top of the world, giving off the mood of an emotional high similar to what athletes who have just won a championship sound like. Even over the phone, his passion for his cause is evident in every syllable. It seems a strange attitude, given that Adam has spent the last 18 months on the road, without end. Sharing the open road with him has been Adam’s Chihuahua Scooter, who has been his furry co-pilot and faithful companion for the entire journey. Scooter has a namesake in Adam’s effort to raise awareness on behalf of wounded veterans: ScootinAmerica.
“He always gets a great reaction from people when they meet him for the first time. The kids we meet love Scooter, I guess he’s the popular one,” Adam jokes. “It’s a blessing to share this journey with my best friend. He usually sits in the back, but sometimes he’ll sit up front with me, tucked away in my jacket.”
When Adam Sandoval first took to the road on November 10, 2014 from Fort Myers, Florida, he didn’t set out to break world records. He did it to raise awareness for a deserving generation that served its country. Unlike the wounded veterans he rides to support, Adam does not have a military record. His grandparents served in World War II, and he spent his younger years dreaming of military service similar to his father who was unable to enlist.
“My father tried to join, but due to polio, they wouldn’t allow him,” Adam explained. “I’ve always wanted to be a soldier or a pilot. When the time came, I was making bad decisions, and I never served. Then in my 30’s, friends who went to serve didn’t come back. That’s when my deepest regret set in.”
For Adam, regret was a motivator. He found himself reflecting on the sacrifices others made, the friendships they built, and the lives they changed through their service.
“I missed out on being part of that,” Adam said. “I searched for different ways I could join or serve, but at my age, the options were limited. That’s when I had the idea to use what I am passionate about to raise awareness for wounded veterans.”
When he realized his passion could be a platform to support injured service members, he loaded his motorcycle and hit the road with a single goal in mind. Adam’s ultimate objective is to visit every Harley-Davidson® dealership in America to raise awareness for injured veterans, especially those suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Adam recently announced that he is also raising awareness and funds for Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP), to support the life-changing programs and services the nonprofit provides free of charge to the injured servicemembers and families it serves.
“What Wounded Warrior Project has done for this nation’s service members is incalculable,” Adam says. “They have saved lives with their programs and services, and I am proud to support them and the work they continue to do for wounded veterans across America.”
Adam has so far visited 567 Harley-Davidson dealerships across the continental United States, and has already broken the record for number of dealerships visited by a single person. Adam plans to visit all 696 locations before the end of 2016. He has broken several other records too, including the longest motorcycle trip in a single journey.
Another voice chimes up on the call. It’s Adam’s father, Blaine Sandoval, who supports Adam’s awareness efforts from his home by organizing the route, accommodations, and interview opportunities along the road. Blaine shares his story – he was seriously injured in a car accident that left him paralyzed in 2010, and says that supporting Adam gives him a newfound purpose and focus. There is deep emotion in his voice.
“When your world turns upside down, having something you can mentally sink your teeth into makes a huge difference in your outlook,” Blaine says. “It’s a proud moment for a dad when I can thank my son for giving me something that not only improves my life, but can change the lives of those who served this country.”
When asked what first inspired him to raise awareness for wounded veterans, Adam’s voice cracks. It’s clear that this cross-country journey is leaving a significant impression on the otherwise energetic and chipper motorcycle enthusiast.
“During a meet and greet at a motorcycle dealership in New Mexico, I was sitting at the lounge catching up on my social media correspondence,” Adam explains. “I noticed a woman looking at me, waiting for something. She approached and asked to take a picture with my dog. I could tell something was wrong by her tone of voice and body language.”
Adam followed her outside, posing with his dog and her motorcycle for the photo. As Adam noticed the design on the bike, he connected the dots immediately: it was a tribute bike honoring a fallen soldier.
Adam clears this throat gruffly and continues. His voice strains briefly. “She turned to me with tears in her eyes and said she lost her son. She built this bike in his memory.” Adam pauses again, longer this time. “She said that she lost her son to the war, but he died here at home. He took his life because of his experience overseas, and he couldn’t find the support and hope he needed to carry on after his military service.”
The woman spent the next several hours talking with Adam about her son, his life, and her family. Adam’s voice turns to stone. “We’re losing soldiers every day at home, after they are supposed to be out of harm’s way. It has to stop. It shouldn’t be this way.”
Over his 18 months on the open road, Adam has travelled more than 65,000 miles across the United States, coast-to-coast an astounding five times, with a sixth on the horizon next month. Adam’s cross-country quest will officially end in Manhattan, on September 10, 2016. He says that this is intentional due to the significance of the next day.
“It will be 15 years since the 9/11 attacks the day after I finish this journey,” Adam explains. “That attack is the catalyst for the war that changed the lives of this generation’s injured service members. A small minority of this country dropped what they were doing to protect the overwhelming majority, and that is a very humbling reality. I don’t think this country can truly appreciate the magnitude of that.”
When asked what he wanted to see happen as an outcome of his efforts, Adam pauses thoughtfully. His voice responses with a resurrected determination and edge, the same that began the initial conversation.
“I’ve raised $200,000 in support of those wounded veterans, but I want that to be a drop in the bucket compared to what we can give back to the soldiers who have given so much,” Adam declares. “I want people to see that you can serve even if you don’t wear the uniform. If you can’t give money, give your time, and if you can’t give your time, find your niche, whatever that is, and raise awareness for those who have fought and sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy every single day. If you can’t serve, find a way to serve those that have.”