Backroads With Betsy: Betsys Annual Toy Ride Jaunt

It's for the kids, sista!

By Betsy Huelskamp

I keep on thinking that when I get older Ill have more time to get to all of the “projects” I let pile up. But as it is, the project pile continues to grow taller as I grow older. And the time? I just dont know where it goes. I cant believe its already December, as I havent even gotten caught up from Sturgis yet! Havent written a Christmas card or even thought about presents. I did reach out to all of my friends who ride with the details of upcoming toy rides, but Southern California was finally getting its annual two weeks of rain, and nobody wanted to commit to riding in the rain. The SFV (San Fernando Valley) Hells Angel Toy Ride came up on December 6th, but all of my friends bailed out when it was pouring rain on December 5th.

The next weekend was the Glendale Harley-Davidson Toy Ride, and it was looking the same. The Saturday before was pouring rain and everyone I knew was backing out. So as I was having trouble finding the perfect skateboard for some unknown tot, I called the last girl on my list to say that I was throwing in the towel. And she said, “What? No! You cant! Its for the kids, sista, rain or shine! Sure as shit, they are going to be there rain or shine! So we gotta ride, rain or shine!”

Me and Richard Wagner from Glendale Harley-Davidson, organizer of the Toy Ride, with Santa and friends.

Now, if that message was coming to me from any other friend, I might have decided it would be easier not to go. It was going to be wet, and cold, and wed have to get out of bed early on a Sunday to ride downtown Los Angeles to Skid Row. Not exactly a scenically beautiful ride, just surface streets to a sad part of town. Not to mention I should probably pay one of those bills in that stack of “projects” I havent gotten to, instead of buying a skateboard.

Bringing my skateboard to Santa at the Mission.

But, the person on the phone was Carlana Stone. Carlana is my new friend who is one year new to the riding scene. She had never been to a toy ride, and she was super jazzed on the idea of going. I have really been enjoying getting to know Carlana, because it would seem that we have everything in common. We share a love of riding Harleys, and we have lived our lives way out on the edge. We both love to travel, ski, scuba dive and sky dive. We both love wildlife, and nature, and getting out into it. As kids we were both gymnasts and cheerleaders and prided ourselves on being physically fit. Only difference is that Carlana has been a paraplegic for 23 years. She was in a car accident at age 17 that left her legs paralyzed. One year ago, her incredible husband, John, along with Glendale Harley-Davidson co-designed the trike of her dreams. She has been on fire riding with a passion despite crashing the trike on her first time out, shattering her already fragile femur and tibia bones, among other injuries.

Carlana and her trike arriving at Glendale Harley.

So, if my new girlfriend wants to ride her new trike in the rain to Skid Row to take presents to kids who might not otherwise have any, then Im in. Not to mention that many of those kids dont even have homes to take those toys to. And then there is my buddy Richard Wagner over at Glendale Harley-Davidson who has been putting this toy ride together for 22 years. There are a lot of people out there who own motorcycles, but if youve been riding more than 20 years in the same neighborhood, there is a small group of friends you know just from riding those same roads for that long. Richard has been my friend for many, many years, and its important to support our long time friends, especially when the whole country is going through hard and uncertain times.

Me with Richard Wagner and Carlana.
Boozefighters gathering at Glendale Harley.

I dont know if it was luck or divine intervention when the clouds above cleared and the sun smiled down upon the day. It was a great turnout for what could have been a dismal rainy day. The ride over was actually sunny and warm and the streets were lined with families waving at every corner as we passed by. Its always interesting to see what people will turn out for the winter toy rides, and this one was no exception.

As we pulled into the streets around the Fred Jordan Mission, you could see the line of children waiting for blocks and then it disappeared around a corner. Every year I worry that there cannot possibly be enough toys, but then every year I am shocked as the bikers arrive and the mountain of toys gets piled to the sky.

Kids waiting in line for toys.
This lady was toting her bird on the back of her motorcycle!
How you doin#39;? Cool kids riding along with Dad.

As I looked around the sea of Boozefighters, Vagos, Mongols, and Christian riders, my heart was warmed. There were no movie cameras here, no big magazines. No naked girls on poles, no booze, no drugs, no burn outs. No drama or disharmony. Just a bunch of cool guys bringing pink bicycles, transformers and Nerf toys to underprivileged kids. Fred Jordans wife, Willie, got up on the podium and thanked everyone for their participation, but especially thanked the Boozefighters, Vagos and Mongols for their generous toys and support. There was no reason to be there other than sharing the Christmas spirit and the way it feels to see those kids happy with their new toys.

Members of the Mongols at the Fred Jordan Mission.
Members of the Vagos listening to Willie Jordan.
Me and some new girlfriends at the Mission.
Willie Jordan giving it her all.

As the stream of bikers were arriving and heaping their toys on the tables, Carlana and I went over to talk to the kids waiting at the front of the seemingly endless line. There was a mother in front with a large group of kids that said they had been waiting in line since 5 p.m. the night before in the heavy rain. Her little girl Rosa asked if I could adopt her for the holidays, and I was asking her what she meant. Her sister asked Carlana the same question, and Carlana was so touched that she hugged that little girl in her chair for the next five minutes. Their brother was the very first person in line, and he had his eye on the motorized scooter he saw go onto the pile of toys their moms stroller!

Once they open the gates and the kids run in, a bit of chaos develops, and somehow someone else beat that little boy to the only motorized scooter on the piles. I saw him leaving with the skateboard I had donated howling as tears streamed down his face. And here I thought that skateboard was so cool! I secretly got Rosas telephone number, and Carlana and I thought maybe at a later date we could see to it that a motorized scooter finds its way to that boy.

But plenty of kids were made super happy, and it was great to watch their faces through the maze of toys. For me its especially fun to watch the little girls getting their first bicycle. I guess no one forgets their first bike, or trike, or Harley-Davidson! Its also always a hoot to stand and watch the exit where the security guard enforces the one toy per tot rule. Theres always a handful of kids that try to sneak an extra toy under their shirt, or even somewhere on their moms stroller!

A family at the front of the line. The handsome boy on the right in the yellow Lakers T-shirt is Rosa#39;s brother.
Beautiful Rosa.
Carlana with Rosa#39;s sister.

Carlana got in on the fun of helping hand out toys with the other elves. Even when there were no kids left in line, Carlana wasnt able to leave the event until she had personally said Merry Christmas or Feliz Navidad to every man, woman or child on the street. Watching her interact with the kids was truly inspirational. Watching her enthusiasm for everything she does is inspirational. Just the way she is able to maneuver herself from her chair to her own Harley and ride it like she lives, wild and free, is nothing short of amazing.

Carlana and the Boozefighters handing out toys.
The event emcee and Santa#39;s helper.

Carlana told me she had never been to the Rock Store, the infamous Southern California hangout, so after the Toy Ride my boyfriend, Mark, and I took her for a ride in the Malibu Hills. It was late in the day, and the clouds were rolling back in, but we had a great time having the roads to ourselves. There was only a handful of other motorcycles at the Rock Store, so we sat inside drinking hot chocolate and enjoyed a late lunch. I had left the house that morning worrying about all of the things I was leaving undone, and came home feeling so grateful for everything in my life, even the unfinished project pile and the unpaid bills! 

Me and my boyfriend Mark Jordana.
Mark and Carlana clowning around at the Rock Store.
Last shot of the day before closing down the Rock Store.

Future Harley rider!
See you in Sturgis!
“Yup, I ride too!”

To see more of Betsy, visit her Web site at    

7 thoughts on Backroads With Betsy: Betsys Annual Toy Ride Jaunt

  1. I met Carlana last summer at Keystone, Colorado, (AMA Women's Conference). She is everything you say she is and more! What an inspiration to all those who have the words “no” and “can't” in their vocabulary. Those are two words that are clearly not part of her world!

  2. It's nice to see Betsy contributing again to WRN.

  3. I am soooo glad to see you back, Betsy! Love the article. I'm looking forward to the next!

  4. Yes it is truly more blessed to give than receive.
    Seems the more I give, the more comes back.
    Thank you Betsy for sharing.

  5. Thank you so very much for what everyone did to make things go smooth. I felt it went well and my wife and I realty had a good time. We look forward to next year.

  6. Met Carlana last summer at dealership. What a fabulous person and with a great passion to ride.

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