Grand Tour Gallery
By Kim Ring, TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
EAST BROOKFIELD A ringing doorbell at the fire station usually means someone needs help, but Tuesday afternoon, when Firefighter Paramedic Josh McCrillis and EMT Tammie Gadbois opened the door, they found Boston firefighters on the other side.
Members of the Red Knights International Motorcycle Club, a group for firefighters who ride motorcycles, the Boston crew asked if Firefighter McCrillis might take a photo of them posing in front of the East Brookfield Fire Station. While the motorcycle club is known for fundraising and charity events, the ride Tuesday in the country was simply for fun, part of a challenge called the Grand Tour in which the firefighters pose in front of various stations.
Worcester Telegram about Mass-15's
Grand Tour stop at a local station
The goal is to use the first letter of each town to spell a word, so the trip Tuesday to Spencer, East Brookfield, Oxford, Uxbridge and Framingham was part of the effort to spell the word "firehouse," Firefighter Troy "Tank" Osgood explained.
When they send in photographs proving they've completed the task, crew members earn a small patch called a rocker to be sewn beneath the Grand Tour patch on their leather vests. District Chief Erik Pettaway already has one patch for spelling "grand tour."
They can also earn a rocker patch with the words "Red Knight" if they manage to spell that in one riding season. A rocker for "12 stations" is earned by visiting a dozen firehouses in one season the trick is that a rider must start with one letter of the alphabet and visit stations in towns with names that start with the letters following the one they started with.
The alphabet patch is perhaps the toughest to earn. Firefighters Osgood and Kevin Weekes, along with associate club member Edwin Bennett and Kathy Costa, hope to complete the challenge next summer on a tour of several states.
Firefighter Oscar Francisco may also join that ride, though the others goaded him for being tired during Tuesday's tour.
If they take on the alphabet challenge, they'll search for towns to represent every letter of the alphabet no small feat since they'll need to go to Ohio to find an X, Mr. Osgood said. "Xenia, that's the one I found," he said.
The rides started when the club was in its infancy and members wanted to spread the word. The group's website explains that firefighters would ride together, visiting fire stations and talking about the Red Knights to boost membership. Eventually they were awarded pins for visiting a given number of stations, and the program eventually became the Grand Tour it is today.
The Red Knights are known for doing charity work, often raising money to send children who are fire victims to special camps. They support other charities as well, with various chapters undertaking special projects or fundraising rides.
The visit was a nice end to the day for Firefighter McCrillis and EMT Gadbois. Firefighter McCrillis handed each of the riders a patch from the East Brookfield Fire Department as a memento.
"This was great," he said as he and EMT Gadbois posed for photos. "We weren't expecting them."
The group has a memorial in Boylston, where the state's first Red Knights chapter was chartered, that includes a piece of steel from the World Trade Center and a stone marker bearing the names of members who died in the line of duty. The first name on the memorial is that of Worcester firefighter Timothy Jackson, who died in the 1999 Worcester Cold Storage warehouse fire.