Sunday, October 9, 2005 got off to a chilly start, and riders were bundled up as they arrived at Habanero’s Mexican Restaurant in Lee’s Summit, Missouri for the Highway Hammers Tool Run to benefit Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity. Motorcyclists participating in this annual ride cover a specified route with stops along the way, but instead of drawing cards or poker chips, they draw stickers picturing various tools (hammers, screw drivers, drills, etc.). They fasten their tools to paper “tool belts” that they purchased when they registered for the ride. The price was $20 for the first belt and $10 for additional belts with a limit of three belts per motorcycle. The objective is to draw matching tools. It’s a unique way to conduct a charity ride and is especially appropriate since the purpose of Habitat for Humanity is to partner with needy individuals in the financing and construction of affordable homes.
Ben Helt, the event coordinator, planned a route with legs of 37, 23, and 24 miles with stops at MidAmerica PowerSports Plus in Independence, the Old Town Village Center in Grain Valley, and
Bullseye Bar & Deli
in Lee’s Summit. Additional sponsors included Finch Bayless Crane Sales and Service and Cycle Connections Online Motorcycle Magazine. Activities along the way were sponsored and/or conducted by Cycle Connections, Gold Wing Road Riders Association Chapter K, MidAmerica,
Rolling Wheels Training Center, and STAR Touring and Riding Chapter 227. Riders participating in the activities not only had fun, but had the opportunity to earn extra raffle tickets.
When I arrived at MidAmerica PowerSports Plus, I learned that there were two activities to choose from. Those unwilling to risk life and limb on the mini-bike obstacle course could opt for a memory test. Memory is not my strong suit, and I assumed that the skills I developed over many years of riding full size motorcycles would carry over to mini-bikes, so I chose the obstacle course. That was my first mistake. Watching Curtis Fisher, one of MidAmerica’s co-owners, deftly maneuver the mini-bike through the maze of tires and across a mini-bridge, I assumed it must be pretty easy. That was mistake number two. When my turn came, I confidently straddled the little beast and entered the course. I quickly discovered that throttle response and balance on a mini-bike are radically different from anything I have experienced in the last thirty years or so. I managed to avoid falling off, but I’m sure I didn’t impress anyone with my riding skill. Now that I had been through the course once, I figured that I would do better on my next try. That’s three! This time I was a little faster, but equally wobbly, and I nearly ran over a bystander at the end of the course. Fortunately the riding activities at the other stops were conducted using the participants’ own motorcycles.
The activity at stop number two was a test of balance. A lane fifty feet long and two feet wide had been marked, and those who were able to ride between the lines for ten seconds or more received a raffle ticket. The longest times exceeded twenty seconds. After my third drawing, the tools now on my belt were all different, so I assumed that I was out of the running for any of the really nice prizes. That was my first correct assumption of the day.
The last leg of the ride ended at Bullseye where a large section of the parking lot was roped off for motorcycle parking. To earn an extra raffle ticket, riders were challenged to complete a figure eight inside a box marked on the pavement. Then they could move on to the Cycle Connections booth and throw darts for even more tickets. While at our booth, they could buy T-shirts, visit with magazine staff, and even get an autographed Cycle Connections cover featuring our October model, Ginny. At another booth, participants drew the final sticker to complete their tool belts and received prizes according to the tools they had drawn. Inside, a band played, cool items were auctioned off, and raffle tickets were drawn for some very nice prizes. The lucky ticket holder for the grand prize was Khrome Cowgirl Loraine Ray, a.k.a. “Insane Loraine.” She won a two-night stay at the Swiss Village Inn and dinner for two at Shawbee’s Big Dog Salloon, both in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Have fun, Loraine!
While at MidAmerica PowerSports Plus, I had the opportunity to visit briefly with Gina Elkins, Executive Director of Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity.
CC: What do you have to say about this event?
Gina: It’s fantastic! One of the things I like most about it is that it brings out people who maybe don’t normally do Habitat stuff to have an opportunity to learn more about what we do, and it’s been great in helping us get new volunteers and donors to Habitat’s program, which is great.
CC: It’s good exposure.
Gina: Yes, it’s very good. The other thing is that the event itself is really fun. Ben has done a really good job of coming up with fun things to do on the route as well as making the route pretty scenic and nice to ride.
CC: While holding the sticker bag, you’ve been watching the mini-bike riders.
Gina: Yes, it’s neat to see everyone getting involved in watching and supporting the other people who are riding. It’s great!
CC: Did you give it a try yet?
Gina: I haven’t, and I don’t think I’m going to. The easier bike of the two has been set aside for maintenance, and I have my doubts about the other one.
CC: What do you have to say to the bikers who participated in the Tool Run?
Gina: I would just like to thank all of them for coming out and making this day great. We really appreciate the support!
CC: Thank you, Gina.
Ben Helt later informed me that there were about 75 registered bikes on the ride and several others that joined us at Bullseye. He thought that the NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Kansas Speedway may have had an adverse impact on attendance. He was pleased that gross proceeds for Habitat amounted to around $4,000.
We commend Ben and his supporting cast of volunteers who worked hard to make this an enjoyable event. Each year, Ben follows up with an e-mail to ride participants inviting them to comment or suggest ways to improve the ride for the next year. We’ll be looking forward to participating again next October.
Story and photos by Stripe