Everybody now! "Awwww."
This is just a tiny portion of the bikes that were there.
The Rowemobile, as we called it. Feast your eyes on the beauty of the raffle bike. Go on, feast! Proceeds will go to the GDA.
One day, this little guy will be helping someone lead a more independent life.
Some of the raffle baskets, including a very nice seat.
We've run all kinds of things in Full Service, most of which ranges from shop information to various events. Rarely do we devote an entire FS to one event, but we decided this one was definitely worthy of some extended attention.
I've decided to embark on a career of crime.
This has absolutely nothing to do with my actual topic, which is the reaction I receive when I tell various friends and family members that I work for a motorcycle magazine. Some jump up and down and squeal. Some look on in silent horror, picturing me hurtling to my death on some raked-out monster chop. Still others aren't quite sure what to say, and therefore pat me on the back, happy that I've at least found employment. Some just back away slowly.
But every now and then, someone brightens up and says "Oh, I've got an event for you to go to!" And if it's someone that you never pictured getting involved with bikers, well, all the better.
In this case, it was the Guide Dogs of America's (GDA, located in Sylmar, CA) annual poker run through the beautiful Angeles Crest Forest. Now, since the first thought that came to mind when I considered bikers and guide dogs was a Golden Retriever in a sidecar, I figured I had to check the thing out, if only for the photo opportunity. I knew very little about GDA, save that their efforts allow thousands of blind individuals to experience independence that they might not have otherwise. So we had bikes, dogs, and a great cause. I couldn't not stop by.
As always, it's pretty easy to spot a biking event-just look for the rows of motorcycles. In our case, we discovered a parking lot full of bikes ranging from stock Harleys to some pretty wacky customs, and even a couple of rat bikes (a personal favorite of mine, as I'm sure zombies ride them). I figured there had to be upwards of 300, maybe even more-I wasn't about to go count each and every bike, but holy crap, man, this event was a lot bigger than I figured it to be.
One thing that struck me about the industry the moment I started working here is its generosity. Bikers seem willing to turn out in droves for a good cause if there's a ride involved; present them with a trail through the forest and a kid that needs a heart transplant, and they'll be there. But it's not just when a ride is promised-when our editor Courtney was down for the count earlier this year, folks came together and punched out some great auctions to help pay his medical bills. I expected a lot of things when I first started working for a motorcycle magazine, but the kindness that is inherent in so many riders was not one of them.
Lorri Bernson, graduate of GDA-and organizer of the event-was thrilled with the turnout, but then again, she knows that if there's something good that needs attention, the engines will be revving. "Bikers are one of the most gracious and generous groups," she said when I asked her about them. "There are so many charity events that they attend."
That graciousness led to a record turnout for the Ride for Guides; in short, it was a smashing success. The poker run began early on Sunday morning, and stretched into the afternoon, whereupon the riders came back to the Sylmar facility for lunch and a raffle. Up for grabs were baskets full of goodies from various manufacturers and retail stores. I saw seats, Harley-Davidson gear, leathers, gift certificates for various bike shops, and much more. I tried to get in closer for a couple of shots, but only managed to get a partial picture of the teddy bear dressed in S&M; gear.
It wasn't just gift baskets they had to raffle off, though; a gorgeous blue custom-built pro-street-style bike by Ron and Chuck Wendt of Rowe Machine is still up for grabs; one lucky winner will ride off with it in November, and all proceeds from the $10 tickets will go to Guide Dogs of America. We're talking one-off wheels with Avon tires, a 113ci engine, and a six-speed tranny. Great bike, great cause, why not enter?
"Think they'd notice if we took it?" my friend asked, obviously envisioning the pair of us making off like bandits with the Rowemobile and bombing down the freeway to Anaheim.
"Nah," I said. "We'll just leave my Nissan in its place." I'm sure Ron and Chuck are just thrilled to pieces that their craftsmanship is inspiring Grand Theft Motorcycle.
The ride's popularity skyrocketed this year; over 500 turned up for the run itself, and judging by the bikes in the parking lot and the amount of food consumed, most of them stayed on through the full event. Compare this to last year's run, where about 175 participated. "We did have a threat of rain that day, which minimized attendance," Lorri said. Still, going from 175 to 500 is no small feat; as word spreads, I'm sure that others will get involved as well. About $22,000 was raised throughout the day-not bad for a bunch of puppies, huh?
"The money will go to the care and training of dogs in our program," Lorri said. "With no government or state funding, the money that it takes to run the school and to provide these wonderful dogs at no charge to the blind recipients is all up to us to raise."
Of course, I can't go any further without gushing about the dogs a little bit. The Sylmar facility breeds, raises, and trains puppies to be guide dogs later in life, and the "representative" dogs that were present were decked out in their yellow training jackets. We ran across a German Shepherd, a couple of mixes, and a flock of Golden Retrievers (my personal favorite). They were friendly, well-behaved, and really looked quite at home amidst all the bikes; when riders started firing up their engines, none of the critters batted an eye (my dog, by contrast, would've run for the hills at so much as a gurgle from a V-Twin-but then, she was something of a wuss).
The money raised from the various raffles and the ride itself allows GDA to continue this sort of work, bringing independence and confidence to the blind. The GDA folks who were on the premesis were ecstatic with the turnout, and everywhere I looked, I saw smiles. They're a good bunch of people, working toward the common goal of helping the blind gain more self-sufficiency. I was more impressed by the minute.
Later on, after a great lunch and too much soda, I fought off my food coma by meandering through the parking lot, taking pictures of the various scoots parked there. If you see your bike here, by the way, give me a holler! And well-done to all you customizers; my friend wandered through the rows with his mouth hanging open half the time. The creativity and energy that can go into a motorcycle is something to behold; with these sorts of people attending, it's no wonder the Ride for Guides event turned out so well.
As for the raffle bike...well, I don't know where I'd store it or if I'd be able to keep the rest of the staff off it, but I'm entering the contest anyway. At $10 a pop, I'd be nuts not to make a try for that thing. Of course, I'll be up against all of you...but hey, it's for a good cause, so enter away!
And on that note, the next Ride for Guides will be held Sunday, May 18th, 2008, so check this space when The Time Draws Nigh for additional updates. I'll be there-I want to see you there, too!
For information on the bike's technical specs, visit www.iamawbikebuild.com; for information on Guide Dogs of America or any of their upcoming events, visit www.guidedogsofamerica.org.