Auburn, Calif., Feb. 12—The weeks prior to the C&E 37th Sweetheart Run were filled with some of the heaviest rain and back-to-back storms we have seen here in Northern California in decades. The reservoirs are at capacity as to what they can hold and how much they can release, rivers downstream are spilling their banks and crews are working around the clock to repair levee breaches. We all have ridden in the rain, but it does put a damper on things; the road is slicker, you must watch out for the painted lines on the street, and do not get on the brakes, or lean over in a turn going across a manhole cover—wet steel is very slippery. Don’t get me wrong, we desperately need the water, and I sympathize with my friends, and those who live in climates of ice, snow, and freezing temperatures that keeps their bikes parked most of the winter months, but here in the land of fruits ’n’ nuts we are used to getting our throttle time on a regular basis. With all this wild weather I was starting to wonder just how wet the run was going to be, and to what lengths I would need to go to keep my camera dry.
Cupid’s arrow must have hit Mother Nature’s heart dead center because the day of the ride was as nice as one could hope for: dry, warm with sunny skies. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one suffering from cabin fever as 453 motorcycles and over 800 people filled the parking lot along with the street in front of C&E Indian. All the riders were happy for the break in the storms, catching up with friends, soaking up vitamin D, and enjoying the coffee and doughnuts supplied by the Boy Scouts for a small donation.
Right in the middle of all the commotion was Dave Frey, the founder of Veteran Charity Rides, an organization that states their mission as “getting wounded and amputee veterans outdoors, back into the environment, experiencing life and living again.” A worthy mission indeed, so much that to date the Indian factory has provided Dave with six bikes which are then fitted with Champion sidecars by Craig Arrojo out of Garden Grove, California. This gives them the largest fleet of Indian sidecars in the nation for qualified riders to take wounded and amputee veterans on a much-needed and appreciated ride in the wind, for many of them, their first ride since being injured, and for others the first ride ever. Dave told me that it takes some tall talking to get most of them into the sidecar, but one ride later he practically has to pry them out, and even a full-face helmet can’t hide their smiles. Dave himself served our country as an Army Arctic Paratrooper, and has garnered the support of Hollywood’s Mark Wahlberg, Jay Leno, and others. Check out his website at veteranscharityride.org.
Think for a minute: What were you doing 37 years ago? Personally, I wasn’t of legal drinking age yet. That’s how long Carlo and Emma (C&E) have been putting on their Sweetheart Run, now operating out of their second shop after the original was taken by fire. Emma says they were blessed, and extremely pleased to find a new location within their budget to continue the path that life had chosen for them. Picking up the new Indian line in 2014, their showroom is modern, but down home; there is a fireplace with chairs a sofa, and a big screen TV. It is also filled with the latest offerings of Indian Motorcycles plus all the swag to go with it, and there is a full-service shop to keep your Indian or Harley motorcycle in tip-top running condition. It is said, “If you love what you do you never work a day in your life.” It doesn’t take too much conversation with the Lujans to realize they love what they do and that attitude permeates throughout their business, creating a genuine family atmosphere.
As the hour of departure neared it had warmed up enough that almost everyone has peeled off at least one layer of clothes, and sunblock was applied perhaps for the first time in 2017. No matter how many times I hear a few hundred Harleys fire up it still sounds cool to me. The CHP was kind enough to stop traffic so the over 400 motorcycles could exit the parking lot. Banking briefly to the northeast, the route worked its way through Auburn to Forest Hill Road where the pack would cross the Forest Hill bridge that spans the north fork of the American river. The bridge has the distinction of having the highest deck height of any in California, and the fourth in the U.S. We descended toward the confluence of the north and middle forks of the American river, an impressive and ominous sight this year. The water is running higher and faster than it has in recent memory, the sound of it easily heard over our motorcycles. Crossing the raging tributary, we pick up Highway 49 that in my humble opinion is one of the best motorcycle roads in California.
Ascending out of the canyon, the going is slow due to the hundreds of cars parked along the narrow shoulder, their occupants on foot to get a look at, and a photo of, what could be a once-in-a-decade torrent of waters. The Coloma Club was to be our stop for the day, a local bar/grill known for friendly service, cold libation, and food worth stopping for. From here, like most stops along this old mining trail, your options for roads are plenty, all of them excellent for some good ol’ peg dragging. Happy Valentine’s Day!