PETALUMA, CALIF., OCT 5–By all accounts, William “Chilly Billy” Walsh Jr. was definitely one of the cool guys who, unfortunately, was taken way too soon. He was an accomplished rider who wandered wherever the winds pushed him, and folks who knew him best cherished every second they got to spend with their gregarious and charming friend. After an extended illness, he passed away in 2005 and his friends continue to love and respect him to this day. So much so that for the past seven years his riding buddies from the Rip City Riders have held an annual biker bash and car show that rocks the city of Petaluma each October.
Riders kicked off the 2013 memorial event by sharing coffee and doughnuts at Michael’s H-D in Cotati before blasting off into the beautiful coastal countryside for a short poker run and then cruising into the Petaluma Fairgrounds for a day of fun in the sun. For some of Chilly’s closest clan, including Jimmy Clark and Dan McCarthy, the morning included a stop at his grave to deliver flowers and recall times spent riding together before they cruised over to share the day with his club brothers.
The RCR crew works hard all year and does a great job at putting together a truly classy affair that includes selected vendors, killer grub and a car and bike show that has grown by leaps and bounds. Preregistered entries were over the 300 mark weeks before party day and last-minute entries just showed up at the gate and cruised on in, making this the largest turnout the club has had to handle to date. The area normally reserved for the show was so crowded that last-minute arrivals had to be accommodated by expanding the show turf across most of the 60-acre facility, which meant attendees could spend their entire time at the fair just ogling cool classics and not even see them all. We know because we tried. The bike entries are still just a small part of the massive show, but included a great variety of quality motorcycles.
One of our favorite vendors was the Fabulous Frickle Brothers booth where samples of deep-fried dill pickles were offered alongside dipping sauces, but one could also get fried green tomatoes or a $2 pickle stick to nibble on as you tapped your toes to the tunes from the live bands that played all afternoon.
Local singer and friend to the Rip City Riders Stephanie Keys returned again this year to knock the music lovers among us off our feet and the Gregg Rolie Band flew in from Texas to spend the day in the NorCal sunshine. The nine-piece ensemble required kicking out the stage a few feet, adding to the RCR’s already-heavy workload and the club worked late into the night to set it up. The crew, however, was thrilled with the experience and put it all together in their typical professional manner. The whole production seemed to come together without a visible hitch and the hot licks had folks dancing on the tabletops when the dance floor got too crowded.
As is the case each year during the bike giveaway, the winner of the motorcycle drawing was not present to receive the bike, which this year was a 2013 Road Glide, but Jon Toews was eventually reached via phone. Also not present was one of the two charities the RCR awarded with a gob of cash. Foundation 21 founder John Christopher, however, was on hand to accept a giant check in the amount of $15,000.
John and Karen Christopher, to honor the life of their 21-year-old son Jonathan who died tragically in an automobile accident in 2003, formed Foundation 21. Understandably despondent over the loss of their athletic and outgoing child, the Christophers found a way to honor their son while providing assistance to their community at the same time. The foundation offers a variety of youth support including athletic scholarships as well as providing sports equipment and support to local Little League, high school and junior college baseball programs. For more information on the various programs and scholarships, go to www.foundationtwentyone.org.
Each year the Rip City Riders consider a variety of local charities to contribute to and then sets about the task of raising money for the chosen group. Rob Anello, the RCR founder and president, had this to say: “You know, we used to really have to work to find charities to donate to, but now the word’s gotten out that we really do give away cash, and lots of it, so it’s all different these days. They come to us now and it’s really a good feeling to get to help these local groups. Lots of others are stepping up too; we have a lot of really great sponsors who help us with this. We keep our donations right here in our community, it all stays here, and we have a great time raising money for them. We get to give away money; what’s not to love?”
Attendees genuinely love this event and the main reason is because they love the Rip City Riders and what they stand for. The RCR members are a bunch of guys who are about riding their motorcycles and having a good time. Bikers ride out to spend their disposable income to support their favorite club as they work to support their community, and the feel-good factor is an impossible thing to ignore. The RCR are firmly rooted in not only the Bay Area of California, but also Oregon and now, reportedly, branching out into Nevada. “We’re going to meet with the Coalition of Clubs next week to discuss a Reno chapter so we should know soon, but we do expect that to happen,” Rob shared. “We’ve got some really good guys living up there and I think they’ll do a great job. Be sure to check out our website for news.” (www.ripcityriders.org)