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Love Ride 21

Written by  November 30, 2004

In retrospect, my first experience with this charity event was Love Ride 14, and I was stoked to be returning to California to see how much this event had changed and grown. And as luck would have it, this was the first Love Ride in several years that wasn’t fouled by bad weather. Suddenly, I heard a voice, “Step away from the bottle of Jack.” It was my conscience. Crap! I hate when that happens. Having covered the Jesse James No Love Party all day, I knew I had better get to bed early, as the festivities for the press started at 6 a.m. in Glendale, California.

So, on Sunday, November 14, I was out the door by 5:30 a.m. I arrived just before the celebrities started showing up, but not before hundreds of bikers, who were waiting for the ride to commence and mugging for a chance to see a celebrity. As I remembered, this ride is a cluster flock of unparalleled proportions; to an extent. With so many riders with various abilities, experience and intoxication levels, it’s a little scary to be out riding in such a massive pack. Between dodging cars, other bikers, bikers splitting lanes at 70 miles per hour due to the northbound Sunday traffic, and the speed demons who want to be there first, but didn’t roll out of bed early enough. I seen so many close calls, it’s just amazing there weren’t any major accidents. And after witnessing the mayhem, I really didn’t mind the time constraints that prevented me from riding or trailering my bike from Kansas City. So, I opted for one of my friend’s cars, which put a very different perspective on the ride. But don’t get me wrong; there were a lot of good riders out there, which is why there were no major accidents; just a few bad apples.

A Little Ride History
Oliver Shokouh, the owner of Glendale Harley-Davidson, started raising money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) back in 1981 after Harley-Davidson had become an official corporate sponsor. So Oliver decided to do his part by throwing the first Biker Carnival at his dealership, raising a whopping $1,500 for MDA. Not a great start, but still a start, which was the precursor to something quite special. The following year, the Biker Carnival got a little bigger and better, raising $3,000. Both events were a success, but Oliver needed to take off a few years to concentrate on the dealership. So in 1984, after a two year hiatus, he started the 1st Annual Love Ride for MDA, and it has been a hit ever since, with attendance growing from 500 to nearly 25,000 participants and over 20,000 riders. Since its inception in 1984, the Love Ride Association has raised over 16 million dollars for various charities. All proceeds from this ride will benefit Reading by 9 (a charity that encourages and helps children learn to read by the age of nine), along with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, City of Hope and others.

About The Ride
With pre-registration being offered online and through the mail, registration lines were the shortest I’d ever seen at an event, and there were lots of volunteers just waiting to get you signed up and collect that $60 fee. Ouch! But hey, this is the largest single day charity run in North America and for a good cause. And with the number of bikers who show up, they obviously think so too. Your donation includes a lot of stuff, starting with a pre-ride concert at Glendale Harley, a BBQ lunch, a concert by Lynyrd Skynyrd at Castaic Lake, a motorcycle trade show and live stunts by the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps; all the while, benefiting a good cause. Seems to me, that equals just one hell of a good time. And if you do your own fundraising, there is a multitude of swag you can win, besides the raffles at the lake for some huge prizes.

Glendale Harley-Davidson
Getting ready for the day, I grabbed a cup of coffee and a donut and headed up to the stage to wait for the band to start rockin’. That’s where I met Bill Sterne with the St. Louis Chapter of the Wind & Fire Motorcycle club. Bill handed me two of Charlie Brechtel CDs, and I thought, “How cool is that?” Damn; my day is already smoking. The Charlie Brechtel Band hails from St. Louis and started at 7:45 a.m. The band has performed at countless biker events across this great nation and I’m sure many of you have already seen him. His music depicts the biker scene and the soul of the biker like nobody else I’ve ever heard. Mickey Jones even got on stage and jammed with Charlie. Watch for him at the next rally or bike show you attend, or just check out his web site. Trust me; you do not wanna miss this band.

During the morning kickoff party eBay Auction Fundraiser, Mark Silver, had a Dyna Wide Glide that I'm sure almost every celebrity autographed. Every photographer there was trying to get a picture of the signings by Jay Leno, Lorenzo Lamas, Peter Fonda and Willie G. At 8:45 a.m., the celebrity press conference was held, so I was hanging with the likes of Jay Leno, Peter Fonda, Karen Black (who announced that she is working on a Easyrider II movie), Kaptain Robbie Knievel, Lorenzo Lamas, Dan Haggerty, Mickey Jones, Willie G. and Nancy Davidson, Steve Natt, host of the Speed Channel’s “American Thunder,” plus a slew of others. Check out my pics at the bottom of this page to see how many celebrities you can name.

Leno was on top of his game that morning; cracking jokes and poking fun at the other dignitaries who were present. It seemed to be a trip and fall festival as Robby Knievel was called to the stage and tripped upon entering, which gave Jay an open window for good rib jabbing. But when Mickey Jones also tripped, it seemed to lose its humor as the carpet covering the stage was obviously loose. Everyone played it off well cuz’ “That’s showbiz.”

Speaking of Mickey Jones, make sure to join him on May 14, 2005 for the 2nd Annual Heart and Halo Ride he sponsors for the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles.

Time to Ride
After the conference I ran like hell to the car to beat the onslaught of bikers who were soon to be leaving the area. Again, past experience dictated to be in front, especially since I was driving. But alas, I failed and still got stuck as you probably already figured out by my aforementioned comments. The throngs of bikes were led by Grand Marshal Jay Leno and Honorary Grand Marshals Peter Fonda and Robert Patrick of “Terminator” fame.

And away we go! The ride kicked off at 9:15 a.m. from Glendale Harley-Davidson and ran 50 miles up Interstate 5 to Castaic Lake. All along the route, the freeway overpasses were loaded with people waving American flags and "Tthank You" signs wishing all the riders well. Very cool.

Castaic Lake and the Concert
Upon arriving at the lake, I headed straight to the vendor area to check out the booths and bike displays. There were some kick-ass custom bikes from Ron Sims of Hayward, California, and some equally cool paint jobs by Rock & Roll Custom Paintworks. So while I was having fun checking out all the propaganda, my stomach started rumbling and I remembered FREE FOOD & BEER backstage! And like a pig being called to the trough, I was off and running. After my feeding frenzy and smoozing with all the celebrities backstage, it was time for the concert to begin and get back to work.

There was really no place for the media to take pictures from, so a photographer from Easyriders and I scoped out a path and creeped underneath the stage to a small area between the fence and PA speakers. We were less than four feet from Skynyrd and it was awesome. They kicked ass right from the start and it seemed as if they were playing just for us. Soon, every other media hound saw us and followed suit. After about 45 minutes we all were asked to leave the impromptu photo pit at the front of the stage, and since the battery in my camera had quit, I knew it was time to make a dash for the door. Since the concert was almost over, I decided it was time to get my sorry ass back to Huntington Beach and the ocean front house of my friends before the freeway was a mess with everyone trying to get back home.

Post Mortem
A big hug to Melody, Jayne and Kristen for providing transportation, feeding me, and giving me a room in which to stay. And a special thanks to Oliver Shokouh for putting on a fantastic party, and to Kathy Wattman, who did an awesome job coordinating the media and providing equal access to all.

The Love Ride Foundation reached a new record in 2004 by raising $1.275 million dollars.

Grand Prize Winners:
James Carnes - 2005 FLSTSC Harley-Davidson
John Tucker - A Tanker of 76 Gasoline
Kelly Barry - Ladies of Harley Quilt
Irwin Rosenberg - Steve Kaufman Painting
Joe Howard - Steve Kaufman Painting

Congratulations to the winners and to Oliver Shokouh of Glendale Harley-Davidson for reaching further for those less fortunate.

Story and photos by Wayne Thompson