Having just moved to Colorado, I didn#8217;t know if I would be able to get back to California for the Glendale Harley-Davidson Toy Ride that rides to the Fred Jordan Missions down on Skid Row. But my friend Richard Wagner, an employee at Glendale Harley, helped start this small charity ride, along with others, from the shop more than 20 years ago to provide toys to homeless children that might not otherwise get a toy during the holidays. I saw on my local news all the bikers that showed up for the Grand Junction Harley-Davidson Toy Ride despite the bad economy and cold temperatures, and I was reminded of what a great joy it is to participate in making a difference for the kids. So I made a point to get back to California and join the same group of people I#8217;ve seen show up for this ride for the last two decades!
Unfortunately, the popular David Mann Chopper Fest landed on the same Sunday as the Toy Ride this year, and several of my friends wanted to head up to Ventura for that. So some of us went this way, and some of us went that way. But we all started out together on what turned out to be the most amazing, sunny December day with record 75-degree weather. The streets of Glendale were buzzing with a crowd that ended up being the best turnout Richard has seen yet. Robert Patrick, of Terminator fame and charter member of the motorcycle club the Boozefighters, showed up to lead the ride along with Santa in the fire truck and a huge pickup loaded with toys from those who were just dropping off and not riding.
The ride went off without a hitch, and the town of Echo Park, where we ended up, never looked more beautiful! Families lined the streets, waving as we passed by. Once downtown, a sea of Mongols and Vagos (bike clubs) waited with a mountain of toys alongside three city blocks of children waiting anxiously in line to receive their one allotted toy. Some of the families in the front of the line had camped out overnight just so their children could have first dibs on the toy selections. The Vagos had supplied 100 bicycles of different sizes and colors. There were so many bicycles that they made a separate section so the kids lucky enough to get one could go in and pick the one of their choice.
My friend Carlana Stone, a paraplegic who rides a trike (and a wheelchair), joined me for the event again this year, and she and I positioned ourselves to watch as each family made their way to the front of the line to pick out a toy. The organizers limit families to one bicycle, so it was sad to see families with several kids (who all wanted their own) have to decide which child would get the bicycle. Nonetheless, it was heartwarming to watch each child pick out their bike or toy. A handful of Vagos assisted families by getting the bikes and adjusting the seats. Whatever the children picked, their smiles told the story.
Richard Wagner took the podium and thanked everyone for making it the most successful Toy Ride to date. A member of the Vagos club, who I#8217;ve seen up on the stage many years now, followed him by saying that the Vagos intended to bring another 100 bicycles next year, and he invited anyone to meet or beat their generous donation.
By 2 p.m., the event was winding down, but the sun was still smiling down on the day, so I decided to head up the coast to Ventura to try and catch my friends who had detoured over to Chopper Fest. It was an amazing ride alone up the Pacific Coast Highway. I was reminded of why so many of us choose to live in California. I arrived at the event just in time to watch hundreds of bikers pour out of the Ventura County Fairground gates. But no matter#8212;I#8217;d already had a perfect day.
I got to enjoy the ride back with my friends as the sun was setting over the sea. It truly doesn#8217;t get much better than that. We closed the day with a salad at the Sagebrush Cantina. A little bit of music, and as always, a lot of laughs. It was a great way to say goodbye to 2010! And that was just the start of my week in California. I went on to demo test the new Harleys with Genevieve midweek and joined her at the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach all weekend. So look for those stories still to come!