I’ve known Rich Shira for quite a while. Once in a while we even ride together; not as much as we should though. He does the state inspection on my bike and frequently does my auto wrench turning when the need arises. A few years ago, Rich and I went to the Packard Museum bike exhibit opening together and we stopped for pizza and conversation on the way home. I’d like to think that was the first time that Rich shared his vision of bringing area bikers together for the common good. For certain, it was the first time he’d shared it with me.
Not long after that, Rich found himself in the lead role of gathering area bikers together for monthly bike nights at a local church, which eventually led to a spring bike blessing in the center of our town square. Around here, we call the town square “The Diamond,” which is really a square with a 90-degree twist, but that’s irrelevant because in reality it’s shaped more like an ellipse anyhow.
That led to a relationship with stone mason-turned-pastor Chris Kauffman, who had just bought the church on The Diamond that was constructed in 1863 and renamed it the Family Worship Center. So the monthly bike night moved to the Worship Center and the next year the bikers continued to do outreach projects for the needy in the community.
This year, the meetings were moved to an area restaurant called the Crane Room Grille largely for convenience’s sake, because the Crane Room Grille cooks for a living and the dinners the bikers had been having at the Worship Center were delicious, but took their toll on the volunteer cooks who prepared them. The meetings are only held during the winter non-riding-season months, and I managed to squeeze the last one of the year into my Friday night schedule.
There were roughly 100 guests there; so many, in fact, that the group had to set up in the restaurant’s adjoining banquet hall. For $10, you got a delicious meal with choice of fish, beef or chicken, side dishes, fresh rolls, salad and soft drinks. Alcohol was not included, but was available at the cash bar.
The entertainment for this gathering, which to my knowledge has no official name, was a variety of speakers taking their turn at the mic to promote various items of interest to riders in the community, all from a variety of riding groups. It was kind-of like an Open Mic Biker Calendar Night! Big Bob from Lawrence County ABATE took the time to tell those in attendance what the organization actually does. ABATE Chapter Legislative Affairs Director Jim Conner spoke about proposed Pennsylvania legislation in memory of his friend Dan Gallatin. Dan was run over and killed from behind by a texting driver two years ago as he was about to turn into his daughter’s driveway on his motorcycle. The resulting light penalty has resulted in the proposal of Pennsylvania legislation to allow for more severe penalties in distracted driving cases that result in death or serious injury.
The Christian Motorcyclists Association reviewed their purpose and explain how the money they raise is used. Who knew that a sizeable portion was spent to provide basic transportation as in bicycles and small motorcycles—to pastors in third-world countries so they can better serve their communities?
There were various ride promoters telling about rides that honored local veterans, rides that provide toys for the area crisis shelter, rides that raise money to help feed the hungry at the City Rescue Mission, bike blessings, dirt drags at Echo Valley and more. There were, in fact, so many area rides that I felt defeated before the season even began, knowing I’d be lucky to make half of them! But the room was rockin’ with bikers old and new, grizzled and clean cut, men and women. The group is decidedly Christian and makes no apologies for that. It’s easy to be accepting of like-minded people, but Rich’s grace lies in making everyone feel welcome. There was even the announcement of a new summer bike night by the restaurant.
Hats off to Rich Shira and his ever-present wife Katherine for organizing such a positive motorcycle gathering during the months when there isn’t much to do. The group’s third annual blessing will likely be over before you read this and it provides another opportunity for the riding community to have a positive impact on the non-riding community.
I wouldn’t sweat naming the outfit, Rich; you’re doing the right things for the right reasons and that’s the most important thing.