Home > RALLIES & EVENTS > 3rd Annual Luck of the Irish Poker Run: Raising Some Greenbacks for Veterans in Need

3rd Annual Luck of the Irish Poker Run: Raising Some Greenbacks for Veterans in Need

By PJ Hyland

San Marcos, Calif., Mar. 15 — For the third year in a row the Pioneer MC, a clean and sober club, has partnered-up with Biggs Harley-Davidson in San Marcos to present the Luck-o’-the Irish Poker Run. “Easy,” president of the Oceanside chapter, let me know that he was pleased with this year’s turnout. The crew at the registration booth told me that nearly 100 riders had signed up. With moderate temperatures and clear skies inviting them to venture forth, the better-than-expected turnout wasn’t all that surprising.

Pioneers MC

Pioneers MC members with Jerry Johnson (green outfit).

Proceeds from the run will go to benefit causes supported by the Pioneer MC, including Stand Down, a national coalition for homeless veterans. Traditionally, in a combat zone, a “stand down” is a relatively safe area located some distance from the front lines where battle-weary soldiers can relax, rest up and receive medical care before returning to the fray. I followed Easy’s suggestion and went to www.pioneermc.com, clicked on the “Stand Down” icon and found out how the stand down concept applies to homeless veterans here in the states. I watched a well-produced nine-minute video filmed at a Veterans Village of San Diego (a Stand Down location), which answered all my questions regarding the event and its history.

“Rodeo” Ray Tewksbury

Renowned motorcycle racing legend “Rodeo” Ray Tewksbury.

Every July since 1988 a committee comprised of veterans service organizations, homeless shelter programs, health care providers, California Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and a number of other groups, sets up a tent city in a field on Pacific Highway in San Diego County and invites homeless veterans to come and receive free health care, dental care and psychological counseling. Professional people are also on hand offering free legal services, job counseling, access to housing information, haircuts, blankets, clothing and all the hot food they can eat. The field has been named “Veterans Village,” and for several years running Pioneer MC members have enthusiastically volunteered at Stand Down in a number of capacities.

When you consider that our government tends to abandon many of our veterans, especially when it comes to psychological care, it should come as no shock to anyone that fully 25 percent of the homeless population in this country is made up of veterans. While Vietnam vets are the predominant group represented in this demographic, Iraq and Afghanistan vets, as well as Gulf War vets, represent a growing segment of the homeless population. Charitable organizations, such as Stand Down, do a great job of helping our veterans all across the country, but their funds are limited to the point where Stand Down is typically presented only one weekend per year at each location countrywide.

Does Stand Down sound like an organization you’d like to get involved with? Go to the Pioneer MC website and click on the “Stand Down” icon to find info that will help you get involved. While you’re on the MC’s website, you’ll want to navigate the whole thing. There are five Pioneer MC chapters: Oceanside (the mother chapter established in 1993), San Diego, Central California Coast, New York and South Carolina. I found the philosophical offerings on each of the different chapter sections to be practical as well as uplifting.

Howie Wahl

Howie Wahl (marketing director) and Jerry Johnson (sales), with high hand winner Ray Oliver and low hand winner Chris “Tramp” Johnson

Jerry Johnson, a driving force in the sales department, displayed his Irish spirit. It was impossible to miss the son of Erin who paraded around the establishment, resplendent in his leprechaun costume. Though he wore Wranglers, and while all of the legendary “40 shades of green” may not have been in evidence, the outfit featured multiple gradients of the hue and a Mad Hatter-style top hat that stopped traffic. As a result, I made sure JJ was front and center in several of the photos I took.

It seemed only fitting that “Gravel,” a member of the San Diego chapter of Pioneer MC, sought out the dealership’s own leprechaun to close the deal on a 2001 black Ultra Classic, which he’d had his eye on. Over the course of the day, of the 10 bikes sold three were purchased by members of the Pioneer MC.

K's Handbags

The lovely Kathy Wiltfong shows off her custom-made K’s Handbags.

The itinerary for the poker run had riders taking off from Biggs H-D in the morning and heading west on Route 78 toward Oceanside where they dropped in at Kennedy’s Custom Cycles. From there the group headed south down Route 5 to Morland’s Choppers in the tiny seaside community of Solano Beach. Then it was back up north to the third stop, S&S Coast Cycles on South Coast Highway, after which riders hooked up again with Route 78 east back to the dealership. The route covered about 60 miles and favored participants with some of the more visually rewarding ocean vistas to be found in northwest San Diego County.

Ray Oliver of Anaheim, aboard his ’06 burgundy Heritage Softail, managed to collect the prize money for the high hand in the poker run, while Chris “Tramp” Johnson, a hard-ridin’ member of the Inner Circle MC (also a clean and sober club), walked off with the cash for low hand.

When I dropped in at the Schapiro & Leventhal Motorcycle Attorney’s booth, I saw “Rodeo” Ray Tewksbury, a renowned racer and frequent companion to Steve Schapiro. A towering figure at 6’4″ in height, his image is further enhanced by the jaunty top hat he typically wears. As usual, he greeted me with one of his bear hugs. I can’t complain, though; I didn’t need to visit my chiropractor for the better part of a month after that enthusiastic embrace. Ryan Palser was the wallet dispenser that afternoon (Schapiro & Leventhal hands out wallets as part of their promo campaign), and as we were hanging out he made a not-so-subtle gesture that directed my attention to a redheaded lady holding forth at K’s Handbags in the adjoining booth. Have mercy—what a striking woman! And, as it turns out, “K” is Kathy Wiltfong, who is as charming as she is beautiful. Considering the innovative designs and the quality of the handbags, it came as no surprise that “K” reported sales were brisk that day.

The Tighten Ups, an R&B band that plays soul music primarily from the 60’s and early 70’s, brought out the funk in everyone within earshot on that sunny, early spring afternoon. What a treat to hear original arrangements punctuated with horn riffs from a three-piece horn section.

Howie Wahl, Biggs H-D’s marketing director, had every facet of the event well coordinated. His accommodating personality enables him to work well with individuals from various organizations at every event Biggs H-D hosts. Of course, the hospitality you’ll enjoy at the Biggs dealership is a direct function of owner Richard Lillibridge. The man adds immeasurably to any project or situation he may be associated with.

(This article Standing Up For Stand Down was published in the May 2014 issue of Thunder Press, West Edition.)

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