GLENDALE, CALIF., OCT 21–I’ve spent decades riding and contributing to various charities in order to establish a better image of bikers in the public’s eye, and have been greatly discouraged when certain charities decided they no longer needed nor desired our deep pockets. Throughout the years the Love Ride continued to be one of the best and largest fundraisers, beginning with MDA and expanding to include a multitude of foundations. But to say I was thrilled that this year would benefit the USO would be an understatement. There’d be no refusal of money or association. Hell! Biker clubs began with World War II veterans, my father among them. Yeah—I’m a legacy!

Jeremiah Gerbracht with his white shepherd mix, "Sir Davidson," perched atop the gas tank
Jeremiah Gerbracht with his white shepherd mix, “Sir Davidson,” perched atop the gas tank

Love Ride 29 returned to the familiar routine set years ago (briefly interrupted by the blip in the economy) with the signups at Glendale H-D and requisite bike lineup on San Fernando Road. The full-size stage was brought out of mothballs to grace the entrance to Glendale H-D. It easily accommodated the 1967 Original Strawberry Alarm Clock, dressed in their finest paisley gear and playing their psychedelic hits including Incense and Peppermints. Tom “Disco” Loveland regained the mic as our favorite emcee presenting Oliver Shokouh and perennial Grand Marshal Jay Leno, who in turn introduced and roasted a bevy of entertainment celebrities and politicians alike. Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge honored the SAC band for the 45th anniversary of Incense and Peppermints’ number one position on the charts in 1967 with a framed proclamation. Joining Leno onstage were Glendale Mayor Frank Quintero and Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who remarked we were “bad to the bone, but good to the core.”

The Davidson family followed with Willie G. saying, “Because the USO was the benefactor, this was the right place to be.” Leno cautioned Willie G., “Never say to bikers, ‘You all know my wife…’”

Nancy and Willie G. Davidson have become Love Ride regulars
Nancy and Willie G. Davidson have become Love Ride regulars

Leno then brought up custom car builder George Barris (pointing to his beltline, Leno quipped, “Every year we put another line on his pants; they get higher and higher.”), compared grey hair with Perry King, chastised Keith Emerson (Emerson Lake & Palmer) for sporting a Norton T-shirt, Sons of Anarchy actors Mo McRae, Kurt Yeager and Emilio Rivera who “looks like a son of a bitch,” and other celebs including Robert Patrick, Antonio Sabato Jr., Ron Moss (Bold and the Beautiful) and Lorenzo Lamas, who closed the press conference with the national anthem.

Right on schedule the sun broke through the morning clouds and the caravan began, led by custom- painted tribute cars honoring the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and Flight 93, as well as first responders and L.A. County peace officers. Among the first bikes to roll out was that of Jeremiah Gerbracht with his white shepherd mix, “Sir Davidson,” perched atop the gas tank where his beloved Siberian Husky, “Lady Harley,” had sat for over 200,000 miles gaining a mention in Ripley’s Believe it or Not to go along with the numerous traffic tickets in regards to motorcycle-passenger safety laws. The caravan took a new route to Castaic Lake up along the foothills as it headed north.

GEICO's military salute caught plenty of attention at Castaic Lake
GEICO’s military salute caught plenty of attention at Castaic Lake

There the 4,000 riders were treated to a new, tighter layout that brought the stage forward from the flat and dusty shoreline, creating a natural amphitheater with grassy seating and unobstructed view. Gone were the scratchy bales of hay! The patching clouds, if you stood in the right spot, aligned perfectly with the painted backdrop framing the stage. The hills were dotted with a dozen gourmet food trucks (everything from lobster to hot dogs), beer booths, a bike show, a motorcycle trade show and vendor fair up top on the steady pavement. I’ll tell ya what was greatly missed: an appearance by the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps.

The Peter Fonda Ride-In Bike Show brought out some Shovel choppers, a gorgeous Native American-themed custom and a licensed “historic” bike—but I certainly couldn’t tell of what!

The lakeside concert began with Ken O’Malley and the Twilight Lords featuring Cory Parker, a top session guitarist, performing rock classics and originals. Leno came back up to introduce Rebecca Lopez, U.S. Navy logistics specialist, second class, to sing the national anthem. Canned Heat followed with a 90-minute set with the surviving original 1969 Woodstock lineup. Every song brought back memories, including their declaration that “Speed Kills!” Hearing this from my contemporaries did more to keep me off hard drugs than anything the authorities spouted. Rock ’n’ roll is good for some things.

Hollywood stars and industry icons come out in full support for the USO at the Love Ride
Hollywood stars and industry icons come out in full support for the USO at the Love Ride

The vendors had a decided slant towards the military, including radio station KLOS 95.5, which had a camo van with large dog tags. Other vendor booths included the National Veterans Foundation, and Special Operations Warrior Foundation. The USO and California State Military Reserve had neighboring booths with military vehicles you could climb into and pose for pictures complete with the turret guns. With helmet properly in place and my hands upon the gun, I was daring any copper to give me a ticket!

Several military-themed bikes were on display. Commissioned by Northrop Grumman to celebrate the (2009) 20th year of the Stealth B-2 Bomber, Orange County Choppers integrated design elements from the bomber including the unique leading edge of the fuselage, flush gas cap and each wheel had 10 individually machined B-2s arranged in the shape of an Air Force star engraved with a tail number from the fleet. Geico Insurance likewise had a spectacular custom in red, white and blue with a little green gecko offering a salute to the military on the primary cover. The word “Honor” was emblazoned in chrome across the flanks of the gas tank, “Sacrifice/Loyalty” on the air cleaner, “Valor” on the sissy bar and “U.S. Armed Forces” down each front tube.

Back down to the stage, Oliver and celebrities who made the jaunt from Glendale to Castaic welcomed the crowd. Oliver announced the top 10 fundraisers: Mark Cheely ($10,100), Eric Schmoranzer ($7,295), Jim Carnes ($5,311), Judi Flournoy ($4,271), Gerard McKenzie ($3,491), Kent Vest ($2,930), Melanie Postell ($1,500), J. Michael Popovich ($1,070), Lonnie Hood ($1,030) and Diana Donaldson ($1,025).

George Thorogood rocked the stage to a packed audience at Castaic Lake
George Thorogood rocked the stage to a packed audience at Castaic Lake

The winners of the Peter Fonda Ride-In Bike Show, which had seven categories, were: Alfred Barajas’ ’04 Road Glide (Touring), John Kuhn’s ’93 Heritage Softail (Softail, FX), Lenny Meyer’s ’12 Big Boy Custom Chopper (Custom Built), Mike Lee’s ’98 Sportster (XL), Edna Clingerman’s ’03 Softail Springer (Lady Ridden/Owned) and Steve Margeson’s ’49 H-D (Antique). The People’s Choice award was earned by Mike Bilek’s custom Boss Hoss.

Now that they had the crowd’s attention, the headliners grabbed the stage. George Thorogood and the Destroyers brought the entire crowd down to the stage. George worked the audience for 90 minutes, offering all of his hits including his anthem Bad to the Bone, plus new selections from his latest album, 2120 South Michigan Ave. At one point George declared he would sacrifice himself and would “go to jail for rock ’n’ roll!” With the aroma of cloves, cigars and grass drifting over us, George played the crowd to enthusiastic response. I spotted Sir Davidson napping amid the noise. By the end of the day he was sporting a Hustler Casino bandana and Budweiser beads. Quite the party animal!

After an encore by Thorogood, the only detail remaining was awarding the seven opportunity prizes and choosing the winner of the 2013 H-D FLS Softail Slim in Black Denim. Bob Kurkjian of the USO joined Oliver to announce that Melissa Corea was the lucky recipient of the bike. Falcon Belmontez won the Milwaukee trip for two with a tour of the H-D factory and museum. Autographed Sons of Anarchy helmets and a Love Ride/Victorinox Swiss tool went to Jim Carnes, Todd Gleason, Bob Gregson and Amy Silvia. The seventh prize of a Squire Telecaster guitar went to Matt Borlenghi.

Just in case anyone gets outta hand...
Just in case anyone gets outta hand…

Supporting Love Ride 29 were the 22 dealerships of the SoCal Harley-Davidson Dealers Association, with added sponsorship by Russ Brown Attorneys, Geico Motorcycle Insurance, Paul Mitchell, Coast to Coast Computer Products, Panoptx, the Burbank Airport Marriott, KLOS 95.5, LA Weekly, City National Bank, Budweiser,, Coca-Cola, Hustler Casino and special contributions from Pink’s Hot Dogs and K-Earth 101.

With the close of another great Love Ride, bikers headed off for various after-party locations to continue the feel-good high obtained by this stalwart run. Next year the 30th event will be on Sunday, October 20. Be there, as we look forward to the fourth decade of biker generosity.



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