If you’re like many riders I know, there are special places that invoke memories of long-term friendships and fun rides from past years every time you visit them. One such place for me is a little roadside park next to the Des Moines River just west of Bonaparte, Iowa. My first visit to that spot was on Friday, June 19, 1998.
Joining me on the trip were Mouse and Troy from my former stomping grounds in western Kansas. It was a trip home for Mouse who had grown up in Washington, Iowa. Our friend Zick had invited us to visit him and ride along on the annual Baldy Run. Every June, A.B.A.T.E. of Iowa District 14 has a memorial ride from Fremont to Whatcheer to honor the memory of Wade “Baldy” Lentner who founded Lentner’s Harley-Davidson in Ottumwa. During the ride there is a memorial ceremony for all of the district’s members who are now riding on a much-higher plane. At the conclusion of the ceremony, motors are revved, and exhaust pipes send out a salute that can be heard for miles.
We decided to arrive a day early, so that we could spend the Friday before the memorial run taking a riding tour of southeastern Iowa. Our buddy Chad and Zick’s nephew Rogan joined our group for the ride. The weather was perfect, and we had many of the Iowa backroads pretty much to ourselves. We made a few stops at small-town pool halls along the way. At one of the stops, we talked about choosing a scenic spot for a group photo. Someone suggested the park near Bonaparte. I wanted to get a shot I could send to Paisano Publications for possible publication in Easyriders or In the Wind. When we got to the park, we lined up the bikes in a spot with the river and a bridge in the background. Rogan was kind of the “rookie” of the group and was riding the only Honda, so we put his bike at the far end of the line behind my Heritage. It wasn’t that we had anything against Rogan or his bike, but we thought the photo might have a better chance at being selected for publication if we appeared to be an all-Harley group. The strategy must have had some merit, since the photo appeared in “In the Wind” Number 93, the May, 1999 issue.
Since that time I have made many trips to the area and have revisited the spot on several occasions. Each time, the mix of bikes and riders has been different. Each time, it has been a glorious ride. One of the thumbnails below is a photo from September 1, 2002. On that occasion, Troy and Mouse had made the trip again, along with our buddy B.C. who, like me, had relocated from Dodge City to the Kansas City area. This time we had made the trip in order to attend the Thunder in the Sand Rally at Conesville and the Davenport Antique Motorcycle Show and Swap Meet. After breaking camp at Conesville and dropping off our gear at Zick’s house, we added Bruce to the group and retraced our 1998 route and once again set up for a photo op. This time B.C.’s Honda 350-Four was the lone metric scoot. The exact spot of the original photo was overgrown with tall brush that obscured the view of the river, so we moved west a bit for that photo.
After last year’s Conesville Rally, there was another group ride with another stop at Bonaparte. This time we had two metrics, Darrell’s and Ron’s Yamahas. I managed to get into the 2005 photo, thanks to a volunteer photographer who happened to stop by. I know that there will be many such rides, and many such photos in the future. I look forward to the fellowship and the fun and the making of more memories. The place will always be special to me.
Story and Photos by Stripe