Sunday, May 9, 2010

25th Annual R.I. Blessing of the Bikes

I had heard about this event, billed as the largest bike blessing in New England, but was unable to attend last year. So, this year, I made it a point to attend. Let's just say anyone who rides a motorcycle should experience it at least once.

The event, organized by the Rhode Island chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle club, is held in a large trucking yard on Shipyard Street, near the Port of Providence. According to the club's web site, more than 6,500 motorcycles and about 9,000 people attended the event on Sunday, May 2. In addition to the blessing, there were food and merchandise vendors, caterers and a band.

It was an opportunity to see all kinds of motorcycles - from Harleys to metrics, stock to custom - as well as colors of several motorcycle clubs from in and out of state. Being my first time at this event, I had no idea what to expect. I'd heard my brothers in the Romans 8 Riders chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association describe the event, but hearing it described and seeing it in person are two different things. For some reason, I thought our CMA chapter would be blessing bikes, but that was not the case. I didn't get to see the actual blessings, but I was told that a priest sprinkles holy water on the bikes as they ride by him.

Around 8 that morning, I met our Romans 8 Riders chapter president, Spike, and a few other chapter members on Allens Avenue before we rode to the blessing site to set up our tent among the vendors. It was overcast, windy and cool, but it became warmer and sunny by noon, which accounted for a bigger turnout than recent years, which had less than ideal weather, I was told.

Being one of New England's biggest bike events next to Laconia, the Blessing of the Bikes is like a reunion of sorts for bikers throughout the northeast, said my Romans 8 Riders brother, Cam. Friendships are developed as people see each other at these events over the years.

Although our CMA chapter does not bless the bikes at this event, just being allowed to set up a tent there with Christian literature a few years ago was significant, Spike said. In our earlier years there, CMA's presence was greeted with scorn by some attendees, I was told. But over time, consistent attendance earned respect and built relationships. Members of different motorcycle clubs greeted us and spoke with us, and I everyone I encountered while walking the grounds was respectful.

Throughout the day, members of our CMA chapter, as well as other chapters, stopped by our tent. In between enjoying conversation with my CMA brothers, I talked with a man who stopped by our tent who told me he has been sober for nearly eight years. I shared my testimony with him, telling him how my divorce led to my decision to become sober, which, for me, paved the way for me to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ.

In the background, I could hear the constant rumbling of motorcycles that sounded like never-ending thunder. Occasionally, I left the tent to walk around and view the vendors' booths or seemingly endless rows of parked motorcycles. I also enjoyed an excellent barbecued pork sandwich. But, as a first-time attendee, the most memorable part of the event for me was watching the continuous parade of motorcycles entering the gates and proceeding down Shipyard Street. My only regret was deciding to leave my camera at home.

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