Sunday, October 24, 2010

Right In Our Backyard

Warm, sunny days and motorcycle runs are becoming more and more scarce this time of year. Anna and I haven't ridden with a group since the big Rhode Island Motorcycle Association toy run three weeks ago. The last two weekends, we've ridden solo, and practiced with her new video camera. But, we were both hankering to ride with a group again. We had an opportunity today, and it happened to be another toy run, the 5th Annual fundraiser to benefit the Sgt. Brian R. St. Germain Foundation and U.S. Marine Reserve Toys for Tots.

This toy run was much smaller than the one earlier this month, and a much shorter ride (actually, it was billed as a "ride-in" and "toy drop" by the Patriot Guard Riders, who led the ride). What was cool about it was that it was practically right in our own backyard - we actually rode by our apartment during the ride.The foundation was created to raise money for renovations and improvements to the West Warwick High School track. It was named in honor of U.S. Marine Sgt. Brian R. St. Germain, a WWHS all-state track star who lost his life in 2006 while serving his country in Iraq.

It was cloudy and about 45 degrees as we rode to the ride's staging area, the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Coventry, R.I. We arrived around
8:30 a.m. and a few minutes later, five other members of my Romans 8 Riders chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association arrived. After a period of greeting and chatting, a total of about 30 bikes began the five-minute hop to the West Warwick High School track. It was practically a straight shot - New London Turnpike, which becomes Main Street, to New London Avenue - although our speed was slow, since it's a congested area with busy intersections. We did have a police escort and blockers, though.

At the track, where there was also a Walk-A-Thon as part of the fundraiser, we parked our bikes and handed our toys to the always impeccably polite
Marines. No motorcycle run - no matter how short - would be complete without food, but they were serving a full breakfast at the high school's cafeteria for $8. The track, which we parked near, is a decent walk from the cafeteria, so some riders rode their bikes over, but our CMA chapter decided to walk, which, we conceded, looked a bit out of character for us. Manny joked, "If you turn the letter 'M' upside down, we could be the Christian Walking Association." Manny and Cameron held their hands up like they were holding onto ape hanger handlebars, while walking. Said Anna, "You guys are in the same boat I'm in - bikers without a bike."

Breakfast was indeed hearty: pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon, plus juice and coffee. Anna and I bought a $20 raffle ticket for a chance to win a new 2010 Harley Street Glide or $10,000, plus a few tickets for smaller raffle prizes.

As usually happens on group rides, a solo female rider inspired Anna. This time, it was an older woman named Clare from Warwick, who said she bought a new motorcycle after she survived cancer. Manny and I talked with a guy from the Elks Riders chapter in East Providence, R.I., which is Manny's hometown.

Not long after we finished breakfast, my fellow Romans 8 Riders decided to go to a barbecue fundraiser in Warwick for the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. I was still full from breakast, so Anna and I stayed where we were until they held the raffle drawings at noon. Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, who drew the winning ticket for the new Street Glide, joked, "I may lose a lot of votes," but one man in the audience shouted, "you'll gain at least one vote." (I'm still riding Annabelle, my 2002 Wide Glide, so I was not the winner.)

After the raffle, Anna and I decided to go on a longer solo ride, since the four-mile group ride that morning didn't satisfy our appetite to ride. Anna had the foresight the night before to buy some of those hand warming heat packs you unpackage and shake to activate, and they kept her fingers - which are very susceptible
to cold - toasty warm. I hadn't used mine, and by the time we rode from West Warwick to Narragansett, my fingertips were going white and numb. Even though it wasn't that cold (low 50s), it was damp, and that combination is enough to affect blood flow to my fingers. But, a stop at Panera Bread in Wakefield was just the ticket to thaw them out.

(Below is a video clip of our entrance into the West Warwick High School Track)

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