Rick and Monique

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


The years of the bikes. I believe we've entered an era in our lives. Does that happen to you? It's not quite a mid-life crisis. I don't feel a crisis. It's an era.

Last year Monique and I experienced the quintessential accomplishment either of us have tried. We broke through several glass ceilings that week and many of you know which ceilings were shattered. This year we did something again! I can't say that the experience of last Sunday reached to RAGBRAI heights, but I can say that we broke yet another ceiling.

We and our friends Dan and Stephanie participated in our first bike rally on Sunday! The ABATE toys-for-tots run occurs every year. ABATE dedicates itself to rider education, rider freedom and watching and defending rider rights in the political realm. TO some rider freedom means you don't have to wear helmets. To some rider freedom means you have the freedom to gear up to the max. To some rider freedom means you don't have to do anything about your own hygiene. I mean really.

Actually there were people of every kind there. Our friends Dan and Steph invited us to attend and, while intimidated, we decided we'd take advantage of yet another opportunity to experience something we'd never done! RAGBRAI gave us untold confidence. So, we went to church, came home, changed clothes, made sure we had our toy for the tots and geared up. Dan and Steph showed up and so, we planted our crazy butts onto the seat and headed down the interstate to a parking lot just east of the Capitol. We got there early and so we took off again because Dan had to finish off his biker repertoire with a soda and a cigar. I succumbed to peer pressure (not really much pressure) and found myself a cigar.

We returned to the lot and watched the bikers and their bikes roll on in. There were cruisers, choppers, sport bikes, crotch rockets, and well, there were what could best be described as "beasts." There was a three-wheeler harley which I found out there that they had reverse! He backed right into the spot. How easy is that? I just have to believe that every time I walk my bike in and out of spots that I'm working on my conditioning. Anyway, we saw bikes...one with a barbie doll strapped to the front (say what?), we saw older bikes with side-cars on it. Some were shiny and chromed and others were just wicked sweet. We saw bikes that hadn't been washed in 30 years! Supposedly there's a group of bikers who believe it a badge of honor to have a hardcore bike. Beer Bellies, Black Vests, holey jeans, and dirty freakin bikes makes one more bad-ass. Oh well...I could take 'im. There was an older woman who'd obviously been riding a long time. She was geared up in black leather and jeans and rode a yellow Honda Shadow. It was a cool bike and a cool chick.

One chopper was painted yellow and the tank was overlayed with a spider web, home to a menacing black widow...very cool. The "official" bike was attached to a sleigh, a symbol of the charitable event that would give many young but struggling children something to enjoy. In fact it felt good to be part of something where this many people gathers together in order to make a child's day, and maybe even change their perspective on life. We don't get to meet the tots, but we gave ourselves a chance to pray for them. Monique and I got some molding clay and a stamping package. The kids might make a mess, especially with the clay...but I hope they enjoy themselves.

Everyone walked around and checked out everyone's ride. I was checkin out the rides but you wouldn't believe some of the people either! One of them was dressed up as Santa Claus. Another leathered and jeaned man who looked like he seen more tussles than operas in his life, was wearing reindeer antlers! Huh? I laughed.

Some people were clean cut, others were hardened. Some were in good shape and some had beer advertisements for stomachs. But everyone was there for the tots! It's ironic how quickly we judge those who look a mess, but these people of every kind were ready with their big stuffed animals and play-do and I was inspired. And the people we talked to were cool. And I find it interesting how many American Flags I saw attached to bikes, or helmets or fenders...good stuff.

Before the walk around Dan and I sat on the grass, talked politics and bikers and smoked cigars. Dan's just a bit older than I am. Why is that important? It isn't. I just wanted to feel young again. Either way, I give him the credit for giving me the impetus to finally purchase a motorcycle. He'd been turning me in that direction for a few years now! I've wanted one for over 20 years. Monique never thought about it until I mentioned it one day. What kind of brain-fart coerced her into believing she wanted to take the Motorcycle course, I'll never know. But I'm so glad her brain farted. Monique is so awesome and I'm proud that she's in a place where she can enjoy this. She's stoked that Steph also has her license. Some day they'll hit the roads together on their own bikes. I just know it.

The triumph got a few hard looks and one biker dude used to own a Triumph and wished he'd never gotten rid of it! I think he was kinda checkin Monique out too, but I'm a biker dude now too which I believe gives me the natural ability to use numchucks. I didn't know where I was going to get a pair of "chucks" but it was alright...after googling awhile, He moved on without incident. Either way, Dan, Steph and Monique and I were getting more excited by the minute.

We were in the parking lot a bit over an hour until 1 o'clock, the time that everyone was to fire up the bikes and proceed to the destination where everyone would drop off their toys for the tots and party it up! We did, the noise came all at once! Exhilarating! You could feel the rumble in your feet on the ground. Big time whoa. I let Dan lead me into the line of probably 2000 bikes and we rolled out of the east parking lot into the Capitol City...a place we would rule if only for 1/2 hour.

We headed down the road, a regular city road. Cops were at every interesection holding traffic in toe while we rumbled through, 3-4 or 5 wide! We rode through stoplights, stop signs and every kind of normal traffic obstacles. I laughed at the prospect that the cops who are usually chasin some of these people, were actually helping them avoid traffic laws! Totally sweet. I couldn't dreamed it. It was a triumphant procession made up of 2 miles of bikers. One looked down the road, looked left and right and all you saw were bikes and riders! We were so nervous but it was 10 seconds and Monique was raising her hands, fingers in the victory position and screaming...WOOO HOOOO! YAHOOOOOO! TOTALLY COOOOOOOL! Steph was doing the same thing. I was near euphoria amongst the noise. I've seen miles of bicycles on the roads of Iowa and now this! It's not the same accomplishment as RAGBRAI, but could you see us 4 wide, rolling down the road at 45 miles per hour on a motorcycle? Neither of us could explain to each other how accomplished we felt through the ride and through the event itself.

Put into perspective, we didn't save a life, we didn't build a house, we didn't get a job..., but there are children who will know that there are people out there who have their backs. And we had fun, so much fun. All we did was give a toy to a tot, and do something we'd never imagined doing. Ever. But in my mind there are many ways one contributes to society and doing good things that build confidence allows me and us to inspire someone else to do something they've never done. It's also given us ideas how we can inspire people who've come through years of struggle or had to overcome a recent tragedy. That's important I think.

The ground thundered under thousands of two and three wheeled roaring machines. The lot of us were in our element. We stopped at the south edge of town and added ourselves to the throng of toy-tossing ruffians. Most stayed for a meal and some drinks. Everyone was standing around talking and enjoying themselves. We knew why we were there. It was simply a charitable thing to do. But these freedom loving people find many reasons to get together. They love being around eachother. I find the culture interesting. There's honest respect between bikers. Many will go out of their way to assist you in any way and others can't wait to talk bikes with someone. Car people just don't understand. I don't either really, but I'm learning. I take that back, the classic car culture knows what I mean. Cyclists know what I mean. There's an intangible something about camaraderie. When you meet another biker on the road, most will give you the one or two finger wave. They always know you're there. I love it. And there are quite a few events in and around town that we think we'll find time to attend next year.

One year, RAGBRAI. This year, ABATE Toys for Tots. Next year we're putting them both together! That'll be great eh? A single year full of two-wheels, antlered bikers, whirr and roar. Amazing. You're welcome to join us. Please do. In fact I full hope you would.

For another perspective on the event, read Stephanie's blog by clicking HERE!


Julie said...

SOunds like you and Monique had a lot of fun. And guess what? My agency gets toys from Toys From Tots for our tenant Holiday party. So, I truly apperciate the toys everyone brought! You are bring a smile to a child's face, which is as important as saving a life and building a house.

fasthair said...

HI Rick,

Just found your blog. Glad to hear you are enjoying this event in your life! As I'm sure you have figured out by now I am one of them "ruffins" you speak of :) Maybe one of these days we can to meet up for a chat, maybe at a bike night. Of course it will be about bikes and rides!