God blessed us with perfect riding weather - clear skies, temps in the 80s and calm - as Anna and I left South Kingstown around 8:15 yesterday morning. Neither Cameron nor Duke, my fellow Romans 8 Riders who live in South County, were able to attend, so it looked like we would be riding solo to our rendezvous point at our Romans 8 chapter president Spike's house in Seekonk, Mass. But, as we were riding north on Interstate 95 in Warwick, we spotted two motorcycles belonging to Romans 8 members Bob Levesque and Cathilee DeLorto (who usually rides with her little dog), so we joined them and got to ride to Spike's with a group after all.
At Spike's, we were joined by his wife, Pam; Roland Caron and his wife, Sue; Bob Morra; and Paul Clement, a member of the Combat Veterans Association who sometimes rides with us. After praying, we rode to the ride's starting point, Mildred H. Aitken Elementary School in Seekonk, to register for the ride, set up our tent with Christian Motorcyclists Association literature and prepare to bless motorcycles. We arrived sometime before 10 a.m., signed a release form and got a ride T-shirt and rubber bracelet. Cathilee and Bob ended up not going on the run with us. Cathi-Lee caught a screw in her front tire, and Bob's back was hurting.
Over the next couple hours, motorcycles gradually streamed in and filled the semi-circular driveway in front of the school. At a rough guess, I'd say there were about 100 motorcycles. The guys who were organizing and leading the ride asked to have their bikes blessed, and I got to pray over one of their bikes belonging to a guy named Kenny, which I had asked to do since we share the same first name. Later, a couple came to our CMA tent and asked to have their bike blessed, so several of us walked over to their bike, a blacked-out Dyna.
Then, Bob Levesque, who knows Anna wants to learn to ride a motorcycle, spotted an ideal beginner's bike for her - a 250 cc Hyosung Aquila, owned by a woman named Christine. Anna walked over and began talking to Christine, who started out riding on the back of her husband Kyle's bike. Two years ago, she took a motorcycle safety course, got her license, bought the Aquila and has been riding it since.
Anna and I got into conversation with Christine and Kyle as Anna admired her bike. I have to give Anna credit for being observant, as she noticed that neither of their bikes had been blessed. Our CMA tent had been packed away by now, but when I didn't say anything, Anna persisted, "Baby, YOU should bless their bikes!"
I have never blessed a bike on my own before (usually, I am with at least one or two of my CMA brothers and sisters), so that was why I was a bit hesitant, but I thank God for Anna for helping me to get out of my comfort zone that day. After sharing the gospel of salvation and blessing each of their bikes, we chatted some more. Suddenly, we heard motorcycle engines starting. The ride was scheduled to begin at noon, and we had lost track of time. I had parked my bike toward the head of the pack and we were not close to it, so Anna and I sprinted to my bike. (Last year, I was also caught unprepared for the start of the ride, and almost ended up getting left behind, so I didn't want to repeat that scene.) We made it to my bike and quickly put on our goggles and helmets, and I started my bike with maybe 30 seconds to spare before the ride took off. That was a close one!
The ride ran smoothly for the most part. I was toward the front of the pack, with only about a half-dozen bikes in front of me. We had the benefit of police blocking traffic at several major intersections, and at the less-busy intersections, the first few bikes took turns blocking traffic. I wasn't sure of the route we took, but I imagine we rode through at least a few towns in Massachusetts (I only remember seeing a sign that said Dighton), on a mix of back roads, country roads and state roads, some smooth, some bumpy, some flat, some hilly, with a good mix of curves thrown in.
One of my favorite things about large motorcycle runs is that people standing in their yards or driveways often wave to us as we ride by. I especially remember an elderly woman who was rather excited to have us ride by. She put out her thumb, as if hitchhiking. "I think she wants a ride, baby!" Anna said.
My motorcycle ran well, and because it was warm, it didn't have that annoying tendency to stumble whenever I slightly twisted the throttle. However, much of the ride was at speeds between 30 and 35 mph, which had me constantly shifting back and forth between third and fourth gears. Anna complained that she was sliding back and forth on my seat. She though I was riding less smoothly than usual, but I thought I was riding the same, and I told her it must be because I recently put some vinyl conditioner on my seat. After the ride, I asked Roland, who rode behind me, to my left, how my riding was, and he said I did great. "It's funny you should ask," Roland said, "because I was going to tell you your riding has improved 200 percent."
As I mentioned, the ride went smoothly most of the way, until we reached Taunton Avenue in East Providence, a four-lane road in a busy commercial area (on a Saturday, no less). We had no police blocking traffic there, and there were a few awkward moments as cars tried to break into our group. I saw the exasperated expression on one man's face as he was about to pull out, then stopped, realizing he was in for a long wait while a huge pack of motorcycles rode by. At one point, an SUV came pretty close to Paul Clement, who was up front, sharing in the blocking duties. I saw Paul pull up next to the driver's door of the SUV and stop, and he appeared to be saying something to the SUV driver, so later, I asked Paul if the two had exchanged words.
"Oh, a few," Paul said, shaking his head. "He asked me if I owned the road."
East Providence (as do many parts of Rhode Island) had some particularly rough roads, so thankfully, we soon reached our ride destination, Houlihan's Tavern on the River, where food, a band and a raffle awaited us. By the time we parked and dismounted, some of the riders were already quenching their thirst with a cold beer. After riding about two hours on a hot summer day, I was a bit dehydrated and a cold beer sounded good, but I opted for a bottled water instead. Inside, two waitresses tried to offer Jello shots, but I declined, telling one of them that I've been sober for one year and four months. As much as the beer tempted me with my parched throat, Anna, who is trying to quit smoking, was tempted by several people smoking outdoors.
We got in the food line for burgers, beans, macaroni salad and cole slaw, and sat in a room with a view of the water. Cathilee, who had ridden her bike home, drove her car to Houlihan's to join us there. Romans 8 members Tony Calci and his wife Judy also joined us there.
As we awaited our 'second course' of roasted pig, Anna and I browsed the tables of raffle prizes. Normally, I don't buy raffle tickets, but that day, I had bought several, including the 50/50 raffle and the prize raffle, where you could somewhat
That day, I rode two-up; ate two courses; and, I found out after I got home, won two raffle prizes: tickets for a Pawtucket Red Sox game, and a barbecue grill kit, which will come in handy since I am rebuilding a gas grill.
(The first two photos were taken by Paul Clement.)
(The first two photos were taken by Paul Clement.)