Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! Well, we’ve just wrapped up another year, an’ some pretty amazin’ things have happened. In spite of the tough economy, bikers have stepped up to help others who are havin’ a rough time, stood up to protect our rights, and jumped in the middle of just plain havin’ a good time! If nothin’ else, ya got plenty of exercise doin’ all that!

Reggie an’ I had the honor of ridin’ in the Merced Veteran’s Day parade with the American Legion Riders Chapter 83. Her dad, Bob Martratt, who’s a World War II vet was ridin’ in one of the lead vehicles, and he’s the guy who introduced us to Jimmy Lee, the Chrome Cowboy, Doc and the rest of the guys in Chapter 83. They were tellin’ me that they raised the money for a new flag pole at the Legion Hall, and raised the new pole Iwo Jima-style and installed it themselves. If you were watchin’ the news when the young man in Denair was forced by the school to remove the American flag from his bicycle, you saw the Chapter 83 guys when they gave him an escort to school with his flag and theirs flyin’ proudly! Merced’s Chapter 83 is scheduled to host the American Legion Riders’ national convention in 2011, an’ they’re expectin’ over 2,000 bikes to show up.

Speakin’ of steppin’ up, the Fresno County Chapter of the Hell’s Angels stepped up to help a young lady named Desiree Vines who was paralyzed from the waist down in a 2009 quad accident. Desiree was a competitive athlete and cheerleader and only 18 years old when the accident changed her life. An orga­nization called A Spoonful of Sugar wanted to send Desiree to a Southern California clinic called Project Walk but the cost was $3,500. That’s when my amigo Merl and his brothers in the Red & White had a benefit poker run that raised $2,300 toward the bill! By the time ya read this, she’ll be there, workin’ on getting back as much as possible of her mobility and her life. The Red & White didn’t help out to get credit for the good deed, but it’s time somebody recognized their effort, an’ that’s what I’m doin’ here. There’s an old biker saying: “When we do right, nobody remembers; when we do wrong, nobody forgets.” Well, I damn well remember!

Speakin’ of the Red & White, Reggie and I just got back an hour ago from their annual toy run. It was rainin’ when we left this morning, but by the time we were soaked to the skin, it stopped. Fortunately, when we got to the meetin’ place, The Intimo, there was coffee an’ donuts ta thaw us out. We hung out for a couple of hours, an’ when the rain stopped more people showed up with toys for the kids at the Poverello House. By noon, there were around a hundred bikes in the parkin’ lot, an’ people havin’ a good time. My buddy Mel from Pine Flat Lake played Santa again this year, lookin’ threadbare as usual, but the kids love his scroungy ol’ Santa self anyway.

When we look at all the junk our kids and grandkids have, like Wii, iPads, and all the other stuff that us old-timers pay for but don’t understand, it’s hard to imagine that there are kids in America who grow up with nothing. Whether it’s drugs, booze or just the ass whoopin’ that luck an’ the economy have laid on ’em that put the parents on the street, it’s not the kids’ fault, an’ every kid deserves a Christ­mas. That’s the focus here, an’ Merl and the crew came up with dozens of brand new bikes, and dozens of big garbage bags full of toys to make that Christmas happen. Merl takes contributions all year, then waits in line all night on Black Friday to get the most bikes for the money.

When we got to the Poverello House, the kids all gathered around for the only Christmas they’ll have, and seein’ their joy made ridin’ in the rain seem insignificant. Naturally, the major news channels were there to film the goin’s-on, but as usual, they’ll probably give scant time and credit to the ones who made it happen. They always shoot at least 15 minutes of film of bikers givin’ toys to kids, bikers takin’ soap, shampoo and toilet stuff to the homeless like Reggie does, and when ya see it on TV, it’s a 30-second spot of somebody’s tail light, or a shot of a cop car following the bikes. Then, the next “news” item up is a five-minute story on some woman’s trip to a plastic surgeon.

After the ride to deliver the toys, we headed back to The Intimo for tri-tip, chili beans, salad and some mouth waterin’ spaghetti. The bar was open, of course, an’ as anybody who knows me will tell ya, I’m not one to let the bad economy hit a good bar too hard.

There are a lot of great events comin’ up this year, and I know that all of ya will give from the heart to help others that life’s knocked down, so me an’ Reggie just want to say thanks, an’ have a safe an’ happy New Year! See ya on the road!


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