Every November in Southern California, a very special motorcycle ride has taken place for the last 23 years. The Love Ride, started by Oliver Shokouh, owner of Harley-Davidson of Glendale, is unique for a variety of reasons. First of all, it is the largest one-day motorcycle fundraiser in the world. That is quite outstanding because, as we know, bikers are a compassionate group of people who hold fundraising rides all through the year all over the world, helping hundreds of causes. So for the Love Ride to have seen continual growth and success for 23 years and to have raised a record $1.56 million is quite remarkable.
In total, the Love Ride has raised $20,310,000, and this year benefitted 30 charities. The Muscular Dystrophy Association has been a major recipient of the Love Rides proceeds. Sadly, this year the former Love Ride Ambassador Chris Houle, who attended many a Love Ride in his wheelchair, always smiling and full of light, died of complications from Muscular Dystrophy on September 18th. Oliver opened the press conference by paying a tribute to Chris.
Oliver started the Love Ride as more of a small carnival out in back of his, then, small shop. He wanted to do something to give back to the community, so he began his first fundraiser in 1981. Over the course of 22 years hes had to change locations to accommodate the growing number of attendees and the events overwhelming success. I have personally seen it go from the more scenic rides to Lake Piru and the Calamigos Ranch northeast of Los Angeles, to the shorter, more frenzied ride up Interstate 5 from Glendale to Castaic Lake. Its a straight piece of crowded freeway on which we all have to weave in and out of inevitable gridlock traffic. Regardless, there is something unbelievably fantastic about being on the same stretch of road with 20,000 other riders all for one unified cause.
Curious onlookers crowd Glendale Blvd., both exits at Castaic, and every overpass in between. They bring their lawn chairs and picnic baskets and watch and wave at the several hour parade of unique chrome and leather. It is an incredibly impressive sight when you arrive at Castaic Lake, because its beauty is breathtaking all on its own. Even more amazing once you are there, is the sea of outlaw looking types that fill the grounds uniting to make a difference in the lives of some who are losing an uphill battle to fight for themselves. Bikers have huge hearts, and that is overwhelmingly apparent at the Love Ride.
Famous Faces in the Crowd
Contributing to the Love Rides success are the generous celebrities who join in to show their support. Famous actors, comedians, musicians, and motorcycle icons take the stage to entertain the crowd and share their love of motorcycling. And if youre wondering why its called the Love Ride, thats why – the love of motorcycling. As a motorcycle enthusiast, what could be more exciting than seeing, meeting, and sharing the road with motorcycle legends?
The Love Ride has become so exclusive, even the media has to fight to get backstage. The press organizers act as if we are some kind of groupies whove never seen a celebrity before. Oh, wait a minute. Get out of my way…Steven Tyler? Is that really Steven Tyler? OK, I#8217;m running. OK, so Im pushing…a little. Hes prettier than a girl, his butt is cuter than mine, and I just want to kiss those big luscious lips. How can he still look 30 years old? And that sexy, messy hair! Anyway, I dont know why they make such a big deal about these celebs. They are just people, right?
Grand Marshall Jay Leno, who usually shows up just minutes before he has to take the stage, isnt that perfectly groomed talk show host you watch every night. His hair is always askew, and his sleepy face is still on. He reminds me of an ornery little school boy not quite ready to get up and go to school yet. He always enjoys taking it out on the other celebs, making fun of their inability to entertain the crowd quite as well as he can.
Robert Patrick was on hand looking every bit as handsome as his early days appearing in “The Terminator.” Gilby Clarke of Rockstar Supernova and his wife won my unofficial award for rockstar couple of the year. They were simply gorgeous.
True biker entertainment, and hitting even closer to my heart, the Fryed Brothers got the show at Castaic underway. Ive been watching the Fryed Brothers in Sturgis as long as Ive been riding a motorcycle, and something tells me, they were doing this a long time before I came around. They truly represent our biker heritage. And as if that werent enough, Edgar Winter started the whole event by warming us all up on the streets of Glendale at the start of the long parade, with his white locks every bit as long as they were in the 70s. A blind trio of singers called Outasight performed the national anthem.
It was a perfect sunny, southern California day filled with interesting entertainment, nearly 100 vendors, good food, and riding with great friends. It just doesnt get much better than that. The Victor Mclaglen Motorcorps did their annual and always impressive motorcycle acrobatic performance in the middle of the crowd. On bumpy, lumpy uneven grass, they pyramid atop their motorcycles, and somehow make it look easy.
Motorcycles icons who usually grace the crowd with their presence but were missing in action this year were the great Easy Rider himself, Peter Fonda. Lorenzo Lamas, and Branscombe Richmond of “Renegade.” And the Willie G. Davidson family, of Harley-Davidson were noticeably absent. Hopefully we will see them back next year.
More Love to Follow
The Love Ride isnt the only fundraiser put on by Harley-Davidson of Glendale. Exactly one month later, rain or shine, the Los Angeles Toy Ride celebrated its 19th year this past December. Richard Wagner and Peter Daniels of the Glendale team organize the event which is sponsored by ABATE. More than 1,000 motorcycles loaded down with toys gather early in the morning parading their way through the side streets in downtown L.A. to the Fred Jordan Mission to hand out toys to homeless children who might not otherwise have any gifts on Christmas morning. The city of Glendale kicked in with police escorts, and the Glendale Fire Department provided an old 1954 fire truck following Santa.
Although it rained hard the day before, it was a brisk but sunny, clear California winter day. As we pulled in, I was overwhelmed to see how many families turned out to wait for their toys. It seemed like there wouldn’t be enough to go around, but once the mountains of toys began piling up, it ended up being enough, and then some. Richard tells me the overflow of toys stays at the Mission and is given away to more homeless children at their Christmas party.
Some of the kids arrive the night before camping out overnight on the sidewalk to have the first pick at the best toys. As the first few children are let into the fenced-off area, there is a mad scramble for the bicycles and skateboards. The cutest faces of every ethnic background are searching to make sure they got the best available toy to suit them. Then, the exit is crowded with kids who somehow are holding three toys, but sadly only get to leave with one.
A group of kids stopped to talk to me about my bike as I was pulling in. When they had gotten their toys, one little girl came over to show me her Memory Game. She asked me if she could go out and around, and then go back in to the fenced area to get another toy. I wanted to get some baby wipes and wash the entry stamps off her hand and put her back through the line. I told her that there were more kids just like her who should be able to have a toy for Christmas, too. She quickly pointed out that the line was nearing an end and that everyone had a toy and that there were still lots of toys left over. It warms my heart and breaks my heart at the same time.
Harley-Davidson of Glendale and the bikers in this area continue to do a lot of good for the community while enjoying the camaraderie of people of all walks of life, doing what we all love to do — ride!
To see more of Betsy, visit her Web site at BetsyHuelskamp.com.