“Telling the Stories of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community”

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“Telling the Stories of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community”

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March 21, 2019

Red Mountain Riders Featured on AMC’s ‘Ride with Norman Reedus’


The Red Mountain Riders are a sovereign nation motorcycle club founded on November 6, 2007, by the late George L. Lerma, James Osife, Leonard Villenueva and Gabe Castaneda. The group has 13 other members, who include Eldon Moore, Dennis Toya, Gary Garrett, Manuel Lyons Jr., Abalino Garza, Ignacio Rodriguez, Sarah Rodriguez, Tammie Willie, Ron Willie, Roy Roma, Carl Young, Judge Hudson and the late Ed Luz. 

The Red Mountain Riders are a diverse group of working professionals committed to making positive differences and promoting Community involvement by honoring veterans and respecting cultural values of all nations.

Although the mission for the Red Mountain Riders is to help others, they also like to ride for the fun of it. The group has been on a number of trips during the summer months, taking to the open highway to places such as Las Vegas, New Mexico, South Dakota and California.

Recently they acted as tour guides to The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus, in his AMC show Ride With Norman Reedus. 

Ride with Norman Reedus

At the end of 2017, the Red Mountain Riders were contacted by Discover Salt River Division Manager Blessing McAnlis-Vasquez to see if they would be willing to participate in “a motorcycle television show.” The group agreed and moved forward with the arrangements, with little knowledge that the show was actually Ride with Norman Reedus, featuring one of the biggest stars from the AMC show “The Walking Dead.” 

In the weekly show, Reedus visits different biker clubs, shops, local eateries and scenic routes in the various areas he visits. The show is now is in its third season and has visited San Francisco, Death Valley, Pacific Coast Highway, Spain, England and many more places. Each episode includes meetings with various friends and co-stars Reedus has worked with. 

In 2018, Reedus and “Walking Dead” co-star Austin Amelio traveled to the Community to meet the Red Mountain Riders and shoot a segment for the fourth episode “Valley of the Sun with Austin Amelio” of the show’s third season, which aired on March 4. The two actors rode into the SRPMIC, taking in the sights of the Community, then pulled up to the Red Mountain Riders headquarters near Alma School and Camelback roads. Reedus and Amelio met the Red Mountain Riders and asked them about their group.

The bikers and their wives shared their knowledge of the Community and the people and how they support and give back to the Community. Then they all rode to the Beeline Highway, where they stopped at the old back road to Red Mountain, taking some photos with the beautiful mountain in the background. They then made their way to Fountain Hills to eat lunch and talk. 

“Riding is always a way to break down yourself and the outside world, and these guys have taken it a step further, using their riding to connect their community to this sacred land, making the bikes they ride and vests they wear a symbol of honor here,” said Reedus in the show. 

Although it was only a four-minute segment in the 40-minute episode, this was a big deal for the Red Mountain Riders and for any Norman Reedus fan. The group went through a two-month-long process of talking to the show’s producers before they even knew if they would actually be filmed for the show. They went through background checks and meetings with the production company and even signed releases that prohibited members of Red Mountain Riders from sharing photos and/or videos of any kind before the airing of the show. 

Osife recalled, “We got the call a week or so before the filming. We had to get our helmets microphoned and sign release statements, and finally it came the day to film [in January 2018]. We were all excited. We got to Leonard’s house (where the Red Mountain Riders meet) and we waited for them to arrive. Once they arrived, we talked with them and went on to the Red Mountain,” said Osife. “What usually took a 20- to 30-minute drive took three hours to Fountain Hills.”

“It was cool because we had the opportunity to see how they film these shows,” explained Villenueva. He added that there were camera people in vehicles in front of and behind the motorcycle group during the filming. “There are even stunt riders weaving in and out of the riders” filming with cameras. Also featured in the episode are Community members Michelle Johnson, Mick Antone and Cindy Washington, who gave a brief history of the Community and described what it’s like living in the Community. 

“It’s very big for Salt River and [the Red Mountain Riders],” said Villenueva. “It’s very well deserved for us, because we’ve done a lot [for the Community]; a lot of people don’t realize how much we do. What’s interesting about the show is that they showcase the motorcycle community and all the friendships you make, and the people you ride with, and how everything connects.”

“One of the things we wanted to include but didn’t make the show was all the work the late George Lerma did to help get the group going,” explained Osife. Lerma, a founding member, has been an influential part of the group, and the Red Mountain Riders hope his family is proud to see what he helped start and feels proud to know that he was and is a part of them. 

More About the Red Mountain Riders

The group has committed its time and services to helping veterans in any way possible, whether it is providing funeral-procession escorts, gathering donations of any kind for families in need, or having fun participating in parades. 

The group started out being the escorts to the USS Arizona Flag that was donated to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community by the Pearl Harbor Memorial. They would escort the flag to the Arizona Capitol during the Pearl Harbor Memorial held every December. They were also big supporters in the Veterans Powwow that the Community used to hold every spring. 

“One of our big events we would participate in is the Light Parade here in Salt River,” said Osife. “We took first place, and with that monetary reward we used that to help out families in the Community by buying them groceries and things they needed for their home.”

“It’s a good feeling to help people out in that way, and that’s something we always tried to do is help people out when they need help,” explained Villenueva.

Ride Like the Wind

Another of their most memorable trips was when the group escorted a young soldier returning from Iraq, meeting him at Sky Harbor Airport and escorting him back to his home in Mexican Water, Arizona. 

“It was cool to see this young man’s face when he saw all these bikes there at the airport to escort him home. He didn’t believe we were going to ride with him all the way back to his home,” said Villenueva. “His parents were grateful that we were there to get him home safely.” 

Other trips included a ride to the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in New Mexico to meet up with about 200 bikers who were mostly Native American; and a trip to Las Vegas, after which Villenueva and Lerma continued on to San Francisco, the longest ride they ever went on. It was a trip Villenueva said he was happy to take with his friend Lerma before he passed. 

The Red Mountain Riders welcome those who like to ride or just interested in bikes to come out and see what the group is about, for more information visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RedMountainRidersSRAZ/.