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viernes, septiembre 29, 2023
HomeMotorcyclesZac Brown Band’s “Hop” Hopkins auctions Harley CVO for ALS research

Zac Brown Band’s “Hop” Hopkins auctions Harley CVO for ALS research

As a founding member of the Zac Brown Band, John Driskell «Hop» Hopkins has been instrumental to the country collective’s chart-topping rise. Along the way, he’s collected accolades to the tune of three Grammy wins, eight nominations, and 13 number-one hits. The Georgia-based musician has lived and breathed ZBB since 2005, but another three-letter acronym took over his world in December 2021 — ALS.

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Commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease (after the late New York Yankee great), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a degenerative motor disease that attacks the neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Though individual patients experience symptoms at different rates, ALS typically immobilizes the muscles needed to speak, eat, and breathe within three to five years. Hop hasn’t let the diagnosis dampen his spirits, nonetheless. 

In May 2022, the award-winning instrumentalist and vocalist established the Hop on a Cure Foundation, a 501(c)(3) raising funds for ALS research. Hopkins launched the non-profit organization with the intent to raise $250,000. Hop on a Cure amassed more than $1 million in its first year alone. It aims to double that total by May 2024. To help reach that milestone, Hop will auction off his personal motorcycle, a 2014 Harley-Davidson CVO Road King, at the Motor Company’s 120th Anniversary Homecoming in Milwaukee. 

With the festivities beginning in less than a week and bidding already underway, we caught up with the ZBB stringman as he continues to fight for a cure. 

Common Tread: Most folks know John Driskell Hopkins the country musician. Not many know John Driskell Hopkins the motorcycle rider. What spurred your interest in motorcycling and what do you love about it?

Like many motorcyclists, Hop rides to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. While on tour with the Zac Brown Band, he frequently explored local backroads. Hop on a Cure photo.

John Driskell Hopkins: I guess I always had a fascination with motorcycles. I rode bikes as a kid. My dad is a retired physician so he was very careful to not let us jump into motorcycles right away. So, it was a lot later when I got into it. It was probably 20 years ago when I got my first bike and I was just really enamored right away. 

I mean, for those of us who do enjoy riding, we know what it’s like to get on a bike for the first time. As a 30-something [year-old] adult who had been pining for it for many years, I felt like I had reached this pinnacle. You know, like, wow, I can afford a motorcycle for one, and you know, I got a small one; I got an 883 Sportster. 

It was a 2003 100-year anniversary [edition] and I still have it. We converted it into a trike because my father-in-law couldn’t hold the bike up when he was ill. Now I’m concerned with holding the bike up, so I’ve still got it. Because I can still ride a trike. But, I think the excitement of the power and the speed of the bike is probably what draws everyone into [motorcycling].

CT: How have you coped with the challenges of riding and touring following your ALS diagnosis?

Hop: I’m a year and a half into my diagnosis but I have been feeling symptoms for almost four years. I have three kids, so if I am feeling even the slightest bit impaired in my ability to hold up the bike, then I won’t ride. That has become increasingly prevalent in my day-to-day life. Unfortunately, my Road King CVO, my baby, has not accumulated a lot of miles because I’ve not been able to safely ride it. 

I did ride it about nine months ago, I guess, to just test the waters and I confirmed what I believed. It wasn’t the riding part. You know, the push and the lean was pretty good. It’s the stop at the stoplight and putting my feet down; having to hold it up and getting situated. My balance is off. When you’re riding, the bike balances itself, and you control that. Then when you stop, it’s all you. So, since then, I have decided that I’m probably better served on the trike. But, I still enjoy that.

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The same has started to happen in my playing. I can still play — just like I can still ride — but I’m noticing issues that are concerning. My right-hand strum is not nearly as fast as it used to be. My dexterity on my individual notes is the same. I still use every digit, and every limb, and can still play all the things that I play, but I’ve had to adjust my parts to do something with less speed and dexterity. It’s incredibly frustrating.

Equipped with wind protection, a full touring pack, and a little over 1,000 miles on the odometer, Hop’s CVO Road King is ready to hit the open road. Hop on a Cure photo.

CT: As you know, community is important within riding circles. How has Hop on a Cure helped you foster community among ALS patients? 

Hop: We have met an incredible community in the ALS world. The community is strong, you know. The community is very welcoming. Even though they call it the worst club in the world [to be in], they do boast that they have the best people. I think that’s probably true in that the compassion and the way that they treat each other is really incredible.

Every ALS patient is different. Some people have onset of symptoms and within a year they can’t use their body. I have had onset of symptoms and it’s been four years so my progression is very slow, but it’s there, nonetheless. So, I think the community is really good about trying to share information and things that they’ve learned on their journey. It’s a very tight-knit, supportive community.

CT: Hop on a Cure has outpaced your initial expectations. What can you do to maintain that momentum in the organization’s second year? 

Hop: I think that the platform that I have with Zac Brown Band is very helpful. We announce every night that Hop on a Cure exists and we try to give a brief synopsis of what we’re doing. I think diehard Zac Brown Band fans, those who are in the fan club called the Zamily, will recognize that I’m not running up and down the stage and doing the rock-pose lunges that I’m so enamored with. But, you know, I can only hope for treatments and medicines that might start to reverse those qualities so I can continue to do that. 

As far as our expectations for next year, I just hope to double it as long as we can. That may be overly ambitious, but we had a great first year, and we’ve just now begun to understand what running a 501(c)(3) is about and how to do that. We’ve got a great team and our events continue to grow. I’m just hopeful that come May of next year we have put another two million in the bank account. And we want to give it away as quickly as we get it, you know. We want this money to go to work.

Hop’s fellow Zach Brown Band members have supported the 52-year-old musician throughout his ALS journey. The band recently performed a concert to benefit Hop on a Cure following a Cincinnati Reds Major League Baseball game. Zach Brown Band photo.

CT: What will it mean to you to auction your personal Harley-Davidson CVO Road King and what will it mean to Hop on a Cure?

Hop: The funds generated for Hop on a Cure are very important. As far as giving up the bike, you know, I’ve got my trike. I just haven’t felt comfortable getting on [the CVO] and riding. I think it’s an incredible bike. It’s been outfitted with a brand new Vance & Hines package on the pipes and the air filter. It’s got a custom seat that’s wrapped in buffalo [leather]. I’m very proud of it, and I love the way it rides, but it’s time to move on. So rather than just sell it, I thought getting this auction together with Hop on a Cure was a much better solution.

Giving for good

As of the time of writing this article, Hop’s Harley is up to a $26,000 bid. Hopefully, the CVO raises even more funds before the auction closes on July 15. Even beyond that date, Hop will continue his quest for a cure. In the unmistakable words of the Zac Brown Band member, “We’re just out there making it happen. I tell people all the time, if I’m still singing it, I’m still bringin it.” 

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