San Marcos, Calif., May 17 — Cooler weather prevailed for this year’s annual May Ride hosted by Biggs Harley-Davidson of San Marcos and its founder, Clint August, who is also widely known around town as an on-air personality for San Diego’s 101 KGB FM. In the days leading up to this event about a half-dozen wildfires were burning in San Diego County as it experienced an extreme heat wave with dry Santa Ana winds. San Marcos in particular was hit the hardest, its fires only contained at 50 percent on this day. It was looking more and more like this event would be postponed this year, but with clear routes in and around Biggs Harley, the show went on.
Upon arriving I was surprised to discover what seemed like a larger crowd than ever before at this year’s rally, which raises funds that benefit military personnel and their families. I had expected to see smoke in the sky and an empty parking lot, but to my surprise it seemed that people were taking advantage of this opportunity to decompress from the stress and anxiety caused by the fires. The event was chock-full of vendors and events including raffles, bike shows, car shows, live music, stunt shows and of course it wouldn’t be complete without the presence of the beautiful Clint’s Babes and Bikes models. The afterparty kicked off with the unfurling of a giant 40-foot-tall American flag for the national anthem, followed by an incredible stunt show by the Unknown Industries riders that was amazing. This show had an added element that made it especially interesting. Apparently one of the event organizers has some friends in the California Highway Patrol and convinced a couple of them to surprise the Unknown Industries riders during their performance in full uniform complete with lights and sirens. It’s not every day that you see a motorcycle cop behind a bike doing doughnuts and smokin’ the tire; it was a real hoot. By the end of the show I was covered in chunks of rubber from head to toe. If you ever get a chance to see these guys in action, do it!
I ran into former Biggs H.O.G. director and current safety officer Chris Wickersham. Chris had helped to lead one of the dozen or so groups of around 40 bikes through the area on a last-minute poker run put together on the fly, avoiding burning areas and potential hazards. “We had to quickly deviate the route in the last few hours because of the fires,” said Wickersham. “We turned it into a 53-mile route down from 90, with three poker stops [on the route] and two poker stops here at Biggs. I’m thinking there has to be 500–600 motorcycles here alone. It took a lot of jumping through hoops at the last minute. The route was going to take us through a lot of the roads that are now closed because of the fires so we had to reroute it. We had a lot of good guys jump on it who knew the area really well. We got together some poker stops at churches and it all worked out. We like to have more time than this usually, but we did what we had to do to support Clint August and the May ride.”
Among the attendees were a couple of Smoke Eaters MC members, who particularly stood out on this day with more than a half-dozen fires burning out of control in the San Diego area. The Smoke Eaters are comprised of paramedics and firefighters, and I asked member Monkey if he’s received any accolades from the crowd. He explained, “People know that we’re all paramedics and firefighters. They know who we are and come up to us and thank us, telling us things like we ‘saved their houses,’ and ‘you guys are great.’ It’s nice that people recognize what firefighters do, but we do it because that’s what we love to do. Being recognized for it is great, but it’s a job for us, and it’s a job that we love.”
I managed to break Clint out of his sprint between duties and appearances to gauge his composure in dealing with the added element of the fires in addition to his already-overflowing load of responsibilities to put on an event of this magnitude. Although Clint seemed a bit stressed, he was taking it in stride. “I know it sounds cheesy; I say it over and over that we can never repay our heroes in uniform past and present, but I think we owe it to them to try.” Clint continued, “The last few days we didn’t know we were doing this; it was insane. You see in the media that San Marcos is burning, so to know that we could do this for the troops is sweet.”
Clint estimated that there were almost 550 riders this year in comparison to around 450 last year. “I’m blown away that we had an attendance like that. We didn’t know if we were going to have an event, but people were coming out and were very supporting. I think they needed the relief just to take their minds off of what’s been going on.”
Clint gave huge props to the Biggs H.O.G. chapter and Ken Kane of the Black Sheep, who was integral in the process of remapping the poker route in the eleventh hour. Clint was especially grateful to Howie Wahl, Biggs H-D’s marketing director. “I called him, trying to let him off the hook,” said August. “I told him, ‘If we need to postpone we will.’ I was heartbroken; I thought his answer was going to be yes. He was evacuated and in a hotel with a suitcase, his wife and his cat. That man right there really deserves accolades along with our troops, their families and the first responders.”
Buckets accepting donations for the Escondido Humane Society were placed around the event. “My buddy Thomas didn’t think anyone was thinking of the shelters that are so overloaded with animals, and we just thought let’s just go for something no one’s thinking of. They really need it,” said August.
All in all, the event was a great success and a ton of fun. Each year not only does the number of attendees grow, but there are more activities and shows as well. I can only imagine next year’s rally will be larger and better than ever. Kudos to Clint, Biggs H-D and everyone behind the scenes who made this into such a huge success.
(This article Diversion Tactic was published in the July 2014 issue of Thunder Press, West edition.)