St. Paul, Minn., Aug. 21—The sky seemed to be holding steady on the last day of the second annual Indian Motorcycle Bike Week, a welcome change from the rest of the week. “I didn’t think I’d be buying rain gear for this ride!” laughed Pete, who had ridden from New Jersey to be here. “My bike’s gone a year and a half without seeing rain. I came up here with no gear, and 30 miles away from here, I got stuck in a downpour! I ain’t never seen rain like that.”
Though this was the final day of fun at the dealership, the air was abuzz that morning about the 14th annual Ride for Children’s School Supplies, and the record-breaking lineup that took place the day before. 265 Indian motorcycles had lined up, carefully counted and documented, before riding just over four miles to break the previous world record of Longest Parade of Indian motorcycles.
“We went 4.2 miles just to be sure!” local rider Sarah laughed. “There were so many bikes, we were worried bikes would still be leaving when we were coming back.” Everyone who had been a part of the lineup the day before was excited to tell me about the amazing feat.
Though this morning wasn’t about record breaking, the cause was just as exciting. As the bikes rolled in Jim Muier, a volunteer with Education Minnesota, an advocate group for public education in Minnesota, told me more about why Art Welch, the owner of Twin Cities Indian Motorcycle, had invited us all out here today: “This is the 14th year of the run, but only the second run we’ve partnered with the dealership. Art didn’t have the resources for getting all the supplies, but he had the audience, so we teamed up to help.” In 2015 with a goal of $75,000, they raised $83,000. This year they exceeded their goal of $85,000 and raised over $170,000, filling almost 1,000 backpacks and donating innumerable supplies. Teaming up with Education Minnesota and Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux community, these backpacks were destined for schools around the state, including reservations like Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth. Some backpacks even going as far as South Dakota. “It’s great to have that kind of reach,” said Jim.
“We’re really happy,” said Art in a later phone interview. “Next year I’m hoping to hit a quarter million [dollars].” Though the kids might not be so happy about the impending homework, the impact on families and schools in the surrounding communities is undoubtedly great.
The bike week and final run had drawn in people from not only all over the country, but all over the world. License plates were spotted from Canada, the Midwest, and as far away as Florida and California. I met Jo from Alabama, who asked me in her sweet, southern drawl if I had met the couple from Australia, as Jo and new friend Linda fed a granola bar to another rider’s peckish macaw, Cinderella. Linda and her husband Tom, “the lone Indians” as they called themselves, had ridden from California after hearing about the ride while stopping in Ohio the way back from Maine the month before.
After much buzz about the pair, I did finally meet the far-traveled Australians, David and Jackie. They and their vintage Indian had been invited out by Art all the way from Perth, Australia, to join in the fun. “He’s very persuasive,” David noted. “Even with all the rain, we probably had more out of towners than locals,” Art said. “We’ve already got people from Switzerland and Sweden asking about next year.”
As the parking lot filled with bikes, Lone Indian Linda stood next to her bike, Lone Feather, and beamed, “Normally, you’re always the lone Indian in a sea of Harleys, but we’re all Indians here.” She was right. Row upon row of bikes harbored only a handful of Harleys and other brands, and as the wrap-up ride of Indian Motorcycle Bike Week, nothing seemed more fitting.
Time ticked down closer to kickstands up, and Art could only be caught jetting around the dealership and was often heard saying, “Walk with me,” as he finished preparations for the ride and special guests. The guests, of course, were Emilio Rivera, Max Martinez and Rusty Coones from TV show Sons of Anarchy, TV and movie actor Danny Trejo who also appeared in Sons of Anarchy, and 13 Hours author and Benghazi survivor Mark Geist. When the guests did finally arrive, Art lead them out to applause and warm welcomes before getting them all on bikes to join in the ride.
The ride was held up about 15 minutes while the courteous and smiling Trejo took photos with fans atop his borrowed Indian Scout. He laughed as he fastened his helmet, “They said I have to wear one ‘cause I’m over 70!” But finally, kickstands went up and with a growling rumble of engines, the parking lot slowly emptied as one by one, a new parade of Indians rolled gleaming out of the lot.
The sky stayed clear and the breeze let up for the approximately 50-mile ride. When riders returned to the dealership about two hours later they were greeted with food vendors like Route 65 Pub and Grub, various bike and clothing vendors, and live music from Mr. Whoopee. Riders rejoiced in the beautiful day and great atmosphere. They could also be overheard commenting on the celebrity guests’ riding skills, and according to the patrons of the run they would be happy to ride with the celebs again.
The last few hours of the day were spent with Trejo, Coones, Martinez and Rivera posing for pictures with guests, shaking hands and smiling for the cameras while Geist signed copies of his book 13 Hours. Riders milled about with their hamburgers, fried cheese curds and drinks, and said hello and goodbye to new and old friends alike as the second annual Indian Motorcycle Bike Week wrapped up just right.
As for next year, Art is already thinking big with his charitable goal, as well as expanding to a new, bigger venue and new events.
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See video of the record breaking parade here.