The R-Ides of March XII March 15th, 2014
In about 2001, while employed by Cycle Barn, I invented two fund-raiser events for Riders for Health. I had become interested in Riders at the urging of Cycle Barn owner Jim Boltz and long-time customer Bruce Scholten, now an ex-pat living in England and a tireless supporter of Riders. The chance to have dinner with Riders for Health founders Andrea and Barry Coleman sealed the deal – they are two of the most inspiring people you could ever meet.
The original intent was two-fold. We wanted to raise some funds, and also wanted to extend the riding season for people who might need an excuse to go for a ride on a day with less than ideal weather. In addition, I did not want to compete with customers who, at that time, were involved with several big charity rides held during the summer.
I came up with the “R-Ides of March,” held each year on the Saturday nearest the 15th of March, which is the Ides of March on the Roman calendar, and made famous by references to it in Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar.” The fall event was the “Chilly Turkey,” to be held the Saturday before Thanksgiving each year.
Both of these were termed (by me) “eventlets,” which was a word made-up to refer to customer events I could put on alone, not involving other company staff or resources. This has the added benefit of creating a 100% return for Riders on the amounts raised. The cost is time and fuel, etc., was covered by Cycle Barn (Ride West BMW from 2010 on) as a part of my job duties.
To make it possible for the event to be done with a staff of none I would lay out a route months in advance, using a Thomas map book. I would then drive the route in my car on a day when I had some time, making notes and corrections to the first draft and finding likely places to pause so people could find the answers to questions I created that were odd or silly, or merely appealed to whimsy. My favorite question ever was “What is the name of the road?” Contestants at that spot were facing a road sign that read “Boat Launch Road.” Boat Launch road was 15 yards long! Another personal favorite asked contestants to write down the street address number of a large out house, which had one for reasons unexplained.
I would then drive the route a second time a week before the event and make final corrections. On the day, people would donate a requested $10, and it soon became a tradition for many people to donate more than that. The idea was more to raise awareness of Riders than to create a huge windfall of funds. When folks returned from the ride they would hand in their answer sheets, and if they qualified with enough correct answers they were eligible for a prize. The rides usually ended at a restaurant, so I’d register people for the event and the dealership and then later drive to the finishing restaurant with my car full of door prizes.
This year Ride West BMW staged the “R-Ides of March XII.” The number is not exact, as in the beginning I did not keep close track of how many of these I did. Some years there were two of each, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. I can’t really look up the information, because the finer minds at Cycle Barn wiped my computer clean after I left at the end of 2009. In 2013 the Chilly Turkey was not held, as I was in the process of retiring and it was all a bit much. In other words, this year’s was probably the 12th, but why get hung up on trivia?
This year’s R-Ides of March was different in a couple of ways. There was no longer the need to pause to find the answers to questions, as setting that up required more time than Ride West staff had available. Instead, people could sign up for a ride of 100 miles that I would lead, or go on a scavenger hunt to take pictures of items related to “Julius Caesar,” with a very liberal interpretation of what would be allowed. For example, a picture of a dog, because at one point Julius Caesar utters the phrase “let loose the dogs of war.” Both groups would return to Ride West BMW, where they could fill out a lottery ticket for one of 14 door prizes. In this manner only those who completed the ride could win, which was a very good idea.
For a route for the people who wanted to ride with me, I took the intended route for the Chilly Turkey event of 2013 that was not held and changed the title and removed the pauses to ask questions. For the first time ever I chose to pre-ride the route on a motorcycle, and I was thrilled when 5 friends came along to assist! That was a good move, as there were several errors in the route directions, and I had time to fix them. Further assistance came from Laura, who prepared a GPS version for people so-quipped to use, even though she was not in town for the actual event. Some of the friends on the check-out ride pre-paid for an entry on Saturday, in case they were not able to attend.
The event was very well promoted and organized by Jessica at Ride West, with technical and graphic design assistance from the fabulous Vanaly, her assistant. In fact, the event was better promoted and organized than any of the previous two dozen I did.
On the day, things were just about perfect. The weather was remarkably good for mid-March in Seattle, with temps in the high 40s to low 50s and some scattered rain drops but no actual storms. Ride West provided me with a lovely 2014 BMW F 800 GT and a full tank of fuel, and we were set. Over 30 people showed up, which was impressive, and were greeted by a display table with registration and route sheets handled by volunteers Deb and Tracy and others. The hour and more before the event was wonderful reunion with a lot of people I used to ride with when I was employed full-time.
Pretty much everyone chose to go for a ride with me, which was humbling. One group of five chose to do the scavenger hunt AND follow my route. After a riders’ meeting we geared up and were out of there.
How can one motorcycle lead a group of 25? Quite simply, it cannot be done. I have written elsewhere about small and subtle tricks of the trade you can use to help keep a group together, but keeping 25 motorcycles together for 70 miles to the lunch stop through urban areas, freeways, and winding back roads with occasional stop signs and miscellaneous turns? Can’t be done. Which is why I was astonished to get to the Buzz Inn restaurant at the Snohomish Airport and get off my bike to see that pretty much the entire group was still with me! I do not think we lost anyone on the day, and again, that is not possible.
The Buzz Inn is a great place to use for these sorts of things because it has a big and level parking lot, the ability to absorb 25 people or so who do not have a reservation, and enough informality that the potential situation of 25 people in heavy gear that is dripping wet can be accommodated. Fortunately, we were all pretty much dry.
After lunch I had a smaller group with me, and the last section was more open, so the speeds crept up. Perhaps “shot up” would be more accurate, but it was terrific.
All in all over $900 was raised, which is stunning. May not sound like a lot, but when you’re supporting health care infrastructure in Africa, $900 can go a long way.
The event was such an adrenaline spike and was so moving in many ways. Thanks to the many people who added a little or a lot to create a memorable event. Thanks to the supporters who provided terrific prizes, as well, including Ride West BMW, Nelson-Rigg, Touratech, Café Veloce, and Sound Rider magazine.
As to Chilly Turkey XII for this fall? We’ll see.
Copyright 2014 David Preston