Trabuco Canyon, Calif., May 4 — Once again I find myself cruising Santiago Canyon Road on a sunny Sunday morning headed for the annual late spring bike blessing at Cook’s Corner, that venerable bastion of V-twin enthusiasm located in the westernmost foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains in central Orange County.
Monsignor James Smith again made the trek down from nearby St. Michael’s Abbey carrying a goodly supply of holy water. This would be the 13th year the good Father donned his striking white robes to wend his way up and down the rows of bikes located in the parking lot at Cook’s, administering the holy rite to those who would request it. I learned years ago that the Monsignor has a wry sense of humor, so it came as no real surprise when, with a twinkle in his eye, he told me, “I once splashed holy water on an Italian-made scooter and smoke came off the thing.”
There’s really no good way for Father Smith to bless all, or even a large portion, of the assembled bikes at once. Plus, even though the event is blessing-specific, a significant number of secular riders attend each year. That’s why our enthusiastic cleric decided at the first event that he would need to visit each bike whose owner/operator wanted a blessing.
Each year Cook’s General Manager Rhonda Palmieri donates the proceeds from the sale of event-related items like run pins, T-shirts and tank tops to the Second Harvest Food Bank. The benevolent organization helps feed the needy in Orange County. Though most people around the country don’t associate The O.C. with poverty, you better believe it exists. And you better believe the needy in Orange County could use all the help we can give them.
Throughout the years, the Second Harvest Food Bank has presented Rhonda with plaques in recognition of her hard work in coordinating the blessing. The plaques also represent the food bank’s appreciation to the owner of Cook’s Corner, Costas Papacharalambous, who makes a personal donation each year. Rhonda wanted to let all the vendors and volunteers know how grateful she was for their participation. Although she takes on the lion’s share of the responsibility for expediting the event, she freely admits that she couldn’t throw the best biker parties in The O.C. without the help of her crew and the volunteers.
The annual blessing typically draws somewhere around 2,500 bikers. It’s normal for members of a dozen or more motorcycle clubs to show up in their cuts at Cook’s during a major event. This year the list included the Valkyries, Hessians, Boozefighters, Viet Nam Vets/Legacy Vets, Capistrano Eagles, Dynasty, Devil’s Rejects, Lords of Chaos, Mongols, American Legion Riders, Nantes (France), Elite Bikers, 10 West Bikerz, Templar Militia Templi, Vagos, Ceristeros Choppers, Cochinos, Baby James MC, and Soldiers For Jesus.
(This article Pass the Holy Water was published in the July 2014 issue of Thunder Press, West edition.)