Richie Salerno raised the beer bottle to his lips and took a swig. After a long week of riding his motorcycle from Simi Valley, Calif., to Freeport, he was relieved to be in his hometown. The last time he was in Freeport was 2005.
The trip was personal. It was the first time he has ridden his motorcycle across the country, and it was his longest trip since he was run over by a teen driver while on his motorcycle in 2006.
After the accident, Salerno, now 52, was in a coma for 28 days. His skull was fractured, his ribs were broken and his liver was split open. Hospitalized for three months, he underwent 30 surgeries. He still has aches and pains in his back and shoulder. A cross-country ride should have taken its toll on his body. He described it, however, as liberating and gratifying.
Born and raised in Freeport, Salerno is a 1982 Freeport High School graduate and a former Fire Department volunteer. He moved to California in the 1990s, and has lived out West for the past 25 years. Now a father of 9-year-old twin girls and an independent contractor who dabbles in acting, he is excited about reconnecting with his Freeport friends and family.
“I grew up on Grant Street, and at the end of my block was Guy Lombardo’s house,” Salerno recalled, as he looked across the canal to the Nautical Mile. “I still have a lot of friends and contacts out here.”
His best friend, Greg Hagger, accompanied him on a Harley Davidson Ultra, while Salerno rode a Harley Road Glide. They left California on July 15. Salerno’s bike broke down twice — as the duo arrived in and left Las Vegas. Still, they pushed on along Highway 70, stopping along the way to camp at rest stops, visit friends in Nevada, surprise Salerno’s daughters, who were on vacation with their grandparents in St. Louis, and visit Hagger’s family in Pennsylvania. The trip took them a full week. They arrived in Freeport last Sunday at 4:30 p.m.
“It was great to see America that way,” Salerno said. My father had driven us cross-country back in the ’70s, so it was a whole different take on it, especially riding a bike. I got to absorb a lot more and see a lot of cool stuff.”
Strolling through Freeport, he said he was awestruck to see the growth and development of his hometown and proud to see some of the businesses he grew up with still thriving. Though he was disappointed to hear about the devastation that Hurricane Sandy caused in 2012, he said he was happy to see the village persevere.
“The town looks really good,” he said, taking another swing of beer. “I’m just surprised how much this whole town has changed.”