Chilly Turkey XII – for Riders for Health
My history with Riders for Health goes back 15 years. For why you should join me in supporting Riders, please spend some time at www.Riders.org.
When I began working for Cycle Barn, owner Jim Boltz invited me to dinner in Seattle with founders Barry and Andrea Coleman. He had been alerted to their work by steadfast Riders volunteer Bruce Scholten, who lives in England now but is a former Cycle Barn customer and WMRRA road racer. Jim had committed to supporting them with some of his money and a lot of my time, which was of course, more of his money.
An evening with Andrea and Barry is transforming, and will convince most anyone that you should be doing more with your life to help others in need. And so with me. I took over a raffle project for a Kenny Roberts Jr. helmet he wore while winning the Moto GP championship the year before. The project was going nowhere, but with some effort and a lot of generosity from folks it raised $5,000. The next year we tried going bigger, with a drawing where the winner would be off to the Day of Champions Riders event in England, with all expenses paid and the loan of a new Triumph and laps of Donnington Park Raceway. This was pretty much a flop for everyone but the winner (who had a fantastic time!), as we took in a lot of money but the prize took almost all of it.
After that I decided to go small, and created “eventlets,” designed to be carried out by just me without using any other staff time. I did not want to compete with the many large charity events in the summer riding season, and decided to extend the normal riding “season” (for many) with book-ended adventures where the weather would keep the numbers small and not be competing with summer events. In March came the invention of the “R-Ides of March,” held each year on the Saturday nearest March 15th, the Ides of March of Shakespeare fame. The fall effort became the “Chilly Turkey,” held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
The formula for these remained the same for many years. I’d lay out a ride route using a map book, and then drive it in my car, pausing here and there to create a question for the entrants to answer. Most of these questions were silly or weird, and my favorite was “What is the name of the road?” The answer was “Boat Ramp Road,” and it was 15 yards long. Another one asked for the address of the restroom, and I never found out why it had one.
I later rode each route on a motorcycle to make sure it was correct, and spent time collecting door prizes from wherever I could find them. On the day entrants were asked for a donation of $10 or more to Riders, and were sent off in small groups or by themselves to find the answers. I loaded the door prizes into my car and met them at the end.
Weather was always a factor in these, and on rainy occasions entrants might hand in answer sheets that resembled soggy toilet paper. You had to have a certain number of correct answers to qualify for a door prize, but I made sure that if you finished the event you were likely to qualify.
I made a serious error one year on the Chilly Turkey. Now working at Ride West, it was about 37 degrees at the start, which was enough, but it was nowhere near that where the ride ended in Granite Falls. My day started with an e-mail that began “If you were anywhere near the expert rider you claim to be you would not send people out on a day like today.” This took me aback, as I’ve never claimed to be an expert rider to anyone, nor would I. As it turned out, the writer was correct, but the entrants persevered through slush and ice and snow and nobody crashed. I resolved to be more careful in the future.
These events raised a few hundred dollars each time, and sometimes more, but were the only successful fund raising efforts for Riders in America. Now there are several Riders outposts that do a wonderful job, spread across the country. Major funds come from organizations like the Gates foundation and others. Since the very beginning Riders has received tremendous support from most of the Moto GP, World Superbike, and Formula One racing teams.
For a couple of years Cycle Barn was open 7 days a week, so I actually put on four events a year, doubling up on each event in the spring and fall. Along the way I lost track of how many I’d done. When I left Cycle Barn my computer was wiped clean, so I’m not all that sure that this year’s Chilly Turkey XII was actually #12, but does it matter?
In November of 2013 I retired, and thought I was done. However, a couple of years earlier I’d enjoyed coffee with Andrea and Barry on one of their rare visits. I took along Deb Shiell, who had expressed interest in their work. As with me, Deb was inspired, and asked if we could not put on a dual-sport event. She created the Riders for Health Scavenger Hunt to be held in August each year based at The Cove RV Park in Brinnon, Washington. Deb has worked very hard on this event and spent a ton of her own money and time to make it work. We also added routes for street bikes. In 2014 and 2015 I took part in this, of course, and it was great fun to attend an event where I did not have to do anything but enjoy the people and the rides. I did spend some time contacting old friends in the industry to secure door prizes.
The 2015 Scavenger Hunt was hit by an extremely rare weekend with rain of Biblical proportions. As a result, fewer people showed up, and I ended up with many door prizes that were not given out. As a point of pride, every one of these events, which now total about 30, has offered a door prize of some sort to every participant.
Post-event it seemed a good idea to put on another Chilly Turkey, if only to empty the door prize box and be done once and for all. Or so I thought.
I wanted to spend less of my time on this than when I was being paid, so I went for simple, with the addition of one very good idea.
Years ago I’d met Bob Mighell of Tilting Motorcycle Works, (www.tiltingmotorworks.com) and had the opportunity to ride one of his first “pre-production” bikes, based on a Yamaha V-Max. Basically a V-Max with two wheels in front instead of one, it was very impressive. It felt and acted just like a normal motorcycle, as the front wheels tilt in tandem so turning is the same operation as on a two-wheeler, unlike trikes and Can-Am Spiders. etc. If you did not look down you would not know there were two wheels in the front, with the added braking and traction advantages they offer. Plus a lot of other techno-trickery developed by Bob I won’t go into. His site is a worthwhile read. That same bike is now a two-time Bonneville Land Speed Record holder.
Bob had suggested a couple of years ago that I use one of the group rides I put on each month to visit his shop, but we had never gotten that put together before I retired. Now was the perfect time.
I put together a ride that would end at Bob’s shop, and then test drove it in our Fiat with Susan assisting with editorial changes to the route and mileage lengths for each section.
I knew I was on to something when we got to Bob’s. He launched into a 30 minute talk on the history of design of his bikes, and the many technological features that make it all work so well, and I felt sorry for Susan. She is a car and motorcycle enthusiast to some degree, but really. I feared her eyes would gloss over. On the contrary, as we left Bob’s shop she was so excited, and said “That was fascinating!”
The original thought was that this would be a tiny event, even for an eventlet. After all, I no longer had the use of the massive e-mail lists I had compiled at both Cycle Barn and Ride West. My original plan was that I would lead a small group on the ride, and Susan would drive our car with the door prizes to Bob’s shop. I dropped the questions and answers part for simplicity, replacing it with talks by Bob and his staff. Most handily, Bob’s shop has a brew pub across the parking lot for post-event relaxation, and the owner offered to bring in some non-alcoholic beer for people like me who do not imbibe alcohol when riding. Simple, and it seemed we were good to go.
And then, things began to grow. Vanaly at Ride West, who I’m proud to say I had hired as my assistant three years ago, created an event page on Facebook. Friends began to promote the event with Facebook and e-mails. Bill Hucks volunteered to create a GPS version of the route, and Bill and Deb offered to help with registration.
As the sign-ups grew, it became obvious that the initial plan to lead the group would not work. I’m comfy with a group of up to 15, but this looked to be at least 30 or more, so that would not work. Bill volunteered to lead a group, and then Bob stepped up and told me he would ride a tilting wheel Harley to Ride West (now called BMW Motorcycles of Seattle) and lead a group.
I worried about the weather for two weeks before the event, which featured cold, rain, and very strong winds. Several hundred thousand people in the area were without power for a few days, including us. However, by the time Saturday arrived we had clear skies and “brisk” temps – like in the upper 30s to low 40s.
I was not too worried about people staying warm, with the exception of me. A Triumph Speed Triple has very little in the way of protection. Although I have heated grips, most of me would be very exposed to the wind and the cold. I also felt a need to look somewhat nice, and wanted to wear a short sleeved black shirt with the Riders logo on it. I added a long sleeved turtle neck under that and black padded Triumph waterproof jeans and long johns. With my Fieldsheer jacket (my warmest), Rev’ It gloves, Rev’It boots and BMW socks, plus my new Arai helmet, I was set.
A couple of weeks before the event I was contacted by Tad Haas. He and I had taken an Adventure Riding class 5 years ago. This class taught me that I could ride off-road, but also that I did not really enjoy it all that much. Tad went the other way, becoming quite the passionate expert, including a ride of a year’s duration with partner Gaila that went all over everywhere, almost entirely off-road!
Last March he and Deb and several others volunteered their time to promote a March Moto Madness off-road event, supported by the GS Giants group. They were also able to use this event to raise money for Riders, and Tad informed me that he had a $1,000 check to add to the Chilly Turkey proceeds! Wow!
In a comic moment, Tad called me on the 14th, a week before the event. I was standing in the sun at Roaring Camp in California at the time, and he informed me that he’d made a teeny error – he was a week early to the event! He left the check with Vanaly.
On the day I arrived at BMW Motorcycles of Seattle to find a table set out with the registration sheets and Riders t-shirts, expertly laid out by Vanaly. Entrants began arriving, and I was very glad for the help of Deb and Bill, as many were kind people I’d not seen in two years, and others were people who needed to be welcomed. I was extremely busy doing very little, in other words.
When I did register people, I noticed that most of them ignored the $10 request in favor of doubling or tripling it, or more. A few people donated money that did not even go on the ride. Some offered a $50 or $100 bill. I don’t have the final total, as two people dropped off checks later in the day that I will drop by to pick up Tuesday, but at the end of the day we raised over $1000 dollars, sending the total I will send to Riders sailing past $2,000.
That amount of money will purchase a lot of health care support in Africa!
Bob led the majority of the group away on a gorgeous candy maroon Harley fitted with his two wheel front end, and then I suited up and followed with a few more. After the first stop at an I-5 rest area, we were on to the more interesting sections, and here I was worried that I had erred… again. Lots of frost, particularly in corners, and wet leaves, and sand, and gravel. I worried about 35 people I could not see, to such an extent that I blew through a stop sign. Fortunately we were in a deserted area, and Tony Basile behind me was laughing so hard I could almost hear him over the Termignoni’s on his Ducati.
We concluded at Bob’s Tilting Motorcycle Works shop, where he and his staff held forth to several groups about design and process and technology. He added a few shirts to the door prize pile, remnants of his successful Bonneville campaigns. His race number is 42, which will mean something to fans of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Susan and I laid out the door prizes. Some were of good value, and some were definitely toward the bottom of the box. I had a $25 gift certificate from Smokey Point Cycle Barn, and two $15 gift certificates from Café Veloce. Among the goodies were a selection of t-shirts from BMW Motorcycles of Seattle and Riders for Health. We also had a Velocity Chain Lube Systems kit, (www.chainlubersystems.com) as well as owner and inventor Pat Doran to answer any questions. In addition were some ROK staps, a large motorcycle cover donated by Deb Sheill, three of my own novels, and other miscellaneous items down to the “mystery’ door prize. This was a promo package from “Madvapes” that Jack Lewis (www.jaxworx.com) had brought back from Sturgis, and I still do not know what is in it. Jack is the well-known “Motorcyclist” columnist and regretted not attending. He was helping construct a tent city for the needy, and was excused. I refer to Jack as a “real” writer and highly recommend all of his books to you.
We do door prizes at these events with a random drawing of names, as I discovered years ago that what people want is not always the most expensive item on the table. Just as we started to draw names in came Annie Bratun and two friends. They had come a long way for the ride, and were delayed by mechanical issues, but persevered and were duly rewarded with door prizes. By fortuitous circumstance the first names I drew were people who had never been on one of these, and nothing builds a repeat entrant like a good door prize!
After the door prizes we adjourned to excellent food and beverages across the parking lot with Jennifer at Sound To Summit. (www.sound2summit.com). Compliments over her excellent food and beverages closed out the day.
I thought Susan summed it up pretty well – “That was so much fun. What wonderful people!”
Agreed! Only one problem – I STILL have some door prizes. Perhaps another “R-Ides of March” event will need to be held next spring.
Copyright 2015 David Preston