Embracing change

SoCal classic nears perfection

Glendale, Calif., Oct. 26—The Love Ride has reached—in my humble opinion—near perfection with its integration into the sophomore California Bike Week. I’ve listened to every gripe people and vendors have had for 24 years and they’ve all been resolved. Yes, the bucolic locale of Castaic Lake is missing, but there’s so much more that’s been gained.

The two-week bump on the calendar allowed the Love Ride to finish in the daylight, thus avoiding the usual 2 p.m. escape when the sun dipped behind the hills surrounding the lake. It was a miserable ride, splitting traffic through the San Fernando Valley, and worse at night or in inclement weather. And remember the year Bruce Springsteen showed up and played to a crowd of only 200 hearty souls? Lots of folks missed out on headliner entertainment.

Separating the vendors into the Biker Market allowed them to sell their wares throughout the three-day Bike Week. When the Love Ride concert and prize drawing was complete there was still two hours of daylight to finish browsing for that final purchase before the ride home.

And you couldn’t complain about the parking: up front and close to the entrance. No long hike in heavy boots to a bike you hoped was still upright on the grassy median parking at Castaic. You often had to make several trips to your bike to unload your purchases or for a change of clothes if the weather was fickle. I recall having to lug five pounds of leathers around the lake, anticipating the instant chill at 3:00. No more!

And finally, the cost. I’m cheap. I haven’t been to a concert in decades. I hate to pay for parking. And Fairplex food prices are steep: I refuse to pay seven bucks for a damn quesadilla. So let’s add it up: parking, $10; food and drink, $15; three bands at small-venue prices, say, $30 bucks each? Got your calculator handy? The Love Ride is a bargain. And there’s still over a million dollars going to charities. What’s your bitch now?

There were only two problems I encountered. The first was needing a photo ID for my sign-in, which required a walk back to my car (yeah, still waiting for my bike) for my purse. The second was the early sunrise at Glendale Harley-Davidson. The VIP area was set up as in the past but now all the press photographers were shooting into direct sunlight with the celebrities in silhouette. There were audible grumblings while they adjusted their exposures.

Inside the dealership The Wild One was playing on a screen as we shopped for Love Ride merchandise. A very large, intimidating yellow man dressed in black strolled by, wearing a small sign for MotorcycleMonster.com. Diamondplate shoulder pads with spark plug spikes, bullet belt, a turn signal propped on his right shoulder… he was a sight to behold as the bikers gave him a wide berth.

Outside I heard a commotion: Jay Leno had arrived in the VIP area and began his nonstop interviewing and posing for photos with literally every person within camera shot. Signing the Love Ride posters were a constant stream of celebrities: Robert Patrick and his Boozefighter mates, Peter Fonda, the Davidsons, Lorenza Lamas, the cast from “Sons of Anarchy,” Larry Hagman, and many more.

The sun had risen and we were fully awake. While riders were waiting for the caravan to the Pomona Fairplex they were entertained by singers Cydney Robinson and Magna Hiller, followed by the Georgia Satellites. The California National Guard presented the colors while Lorenzo Lamas sang the National Anthem.

Honorary Grand Marshall Peter Fonda welcomed the crowd and introduced the Davidson family. Willie quipped that the factory was in “good shape for another 105 years.” Oliver Shokouh, Love Ride founder and chairman, was “staggered” at having reached the 25 year mark. And although he’d met many business tycoons and famous movie and rock stars, he said, “None have touched me more than the poster child.” Oliver said all the motorcyclists can be proud that together we’ve raised over $20 million to fight childhood diseases.

When Leno took the stage he questioned Oliver’s use of the term “motorcyclists.” “Aren’t we all bi-wheeled Americans? What’s wrong with being called bikers?” That was met with a rousing yell from the audience. Jay went on to call to the stage all the celebrities and VIPs before sending us off with the reminder to “act irresponsibly and do something stupid.”

With that everybody headed for their bikes. The celebrity riders pulled out first and formed a line in the intersection while photographers took one last shot. After a short ride to the FairPlex everyone enjoyed a barbecue lunch and drinks before the concert began.

First up were The Tubes, who presented their highly popular and occasionally risqué rock show. With their lead singer Fee Waybill going through more costume changes than Cher, their set was visually stimulating. Fee sang the duet for “Don’t Touch Me There” atop a Harley, wore a spinning TV head for “Turn Me On,” and for the finale “White Punks On Dope” transformed himself into the character Quaylude, all in decadent ’70s silver spandex, blond fright wig, 10-inch platforms and a meandering dildo. The crowd loved it!

The Foo Fighters were next and the crowd had a distinct paradigm shift. Their fans were quite devoted and cheered for every note and twitch for this band born from the ashes of Nirvana.

By the time ZZ Top’s drum stand was in place, so was yet another music crowd. Dressed much more sedately than their previous Love Ride appearance (Grand Ole Oprey on steroids) they played through their most popular hits for a satisfied audience who only needed a slight nudge for another beer and sexy dancing.

Oliver returned to the stage to introduce 8-year-old poster child Jared Schultz, diagnosed with Becker dystrophy, a mild form of Duchene dystrophy. Christopher Houle, Love Ride poster child for 14 years until his death two years ago, also suffered from Duchene dystrophy. Jared pulled the winning ticket for the 2009 H-D FLSTSB Softail Cross Bones which belonged to Rachel Olmos of Arleta, California. His parents, Kari and Steven, joined Jared to thank all those who unselfishly contribute to the Love Ride.

And with that signaling the official end of the 25th Love Ride, the participants could now meander through the Biker Market and down a final beer. On my way home I thought about all I had seen and heard. I got to listen to an eclectic collection of music including Lee Rocker, the Blasters, and blues rocker Dennis Jones in addition to the main attractions. I had watched Jeff Kuklovsky beat his son Jeff on the 105 mph V-Rod dragster simulator; admired Bev Gregorio’s Matrix “Heart Bike” with its clever inclusions of hearts in the fairing and paint. I marveled at the spectacular detail of Skinny Dog Design’s jewelry of tikis, skulls and Nordic designs, one ring being a true-to-scale Knucklehead engine. I watched the Saturday night flat track races where I met the Alves, a three-generation racing family from Hanford, California. Grandfather Augie was absent this night but son Joey and grandsons A.J. (9 years old) and Jeremy (4 years old) all race. A.J. is the West Coast AMA Amateur National Champ in 50 cc Premier Class and received a Kawasaki KX65 for his birthday, but he really wants an H-D 750. Jeremy rides a Honda 50 XR, First Timer class. And Jenny, wife and mother, was still smiling “…as long as they get off the track…”

It was a great weekend not only for the charities but for the bikers as well. And I’ve got the pin to prove it!


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