This is an annual migration for me: Returning to Glendale H-D each autumn for the Love Ride. I’ve gone through many changes over the last quarter century as has this event and I’ve watched it grow from a modest picnic outing to the world’s largest one-day motorcycle charity ride. And then…
Oliver Shokouh literally returned to the roots of the Love Ride, back to Calamigos Ranch in the Malibu Hills, joined by almost 2,000 riders with enough enthusiasm to continue this ride forever. The lush scenery of the ranch created an immediate sense of intimacy with the riders that was palpable. They would raise approximately $250,000—a tidy sum for a promising restart.
When I arrived at Glendale H-D there was no big stage in the street or hordes of bikes jostling for position on the boulevard. The motorcycles were quietly tucked away on the back streets behind the dealership. There had always been a sense of urgency when the ride reached its peak, and maneuvering through the crowds or wiggling into the showroom for a quick look-see could be a daunting task before jumping on the freeway to avoid the caravan crowd. Now there was a casual atmosphere; people were happy to be continuing the Love Ride tradition with a “We’re still here!” determination.
There was no elitist VIP treatment and the modest stage was merely a single-step platform. Jay Leno joined Oliver to welcome the faithful to the Retro Ride—no numbers, please—and introduced the various celebrities that included the Davidson family, Emilio Rivera (Sons of Anarchy), Lorenzo Lamas (sharing details of his bike and website with Leno) and others. The mayor of Glendale, Ara Najarian, promised a “motorcycle in every garage” and described our good weather as “sunshine on chrome.” Councilman Frank Quintero told how upon his return from Vietnam in 1965 he bought a Harley. The charities helped by this event have also changed throughout the years and Autism Speaks would be this year’s beneficiary, with Jared Schultz as Love Ride’s poster child.
For every $100 raised, participants earned a raffle ticket for an autographed guitar used by Bruce Springsteen at the 1996 Love Ride. You know, the one where everyone left early so Bruce played to a crowd of maybe 200! I came across a small group of friends busily filling out a fistful of tickets for their buddy Alex who raised $5,500. The prize went to Will Mynster, a school principle who works with autistic children, so he understands and appreciates the funds being raised at this year’s event.
Riders were given two route choices, a coastal route and a misnamed “fast & furious” route, which was slightly shorter but took riders through Mulholland, past the Rock Store and along the switchbacks. Had I checked the map I could have made the trip more directly and without testing my cornering abilities by taking Kanan Dune Road. But that’s OK!
Returning to Calamigos Ranch is a homecoming of sorts for me. I attended summer camp here for two years (and received my first kiss!) back in my pre-teen years. The camp cabins were gone as the ranch now hosts corporate events, weekend getaways, and picnics.
With that in mind, an egg toss contest was offered, with only two brave enough for the attempt, Teresa Hernandez and Mike Celestino, who made it to 25 feet. And ya can’t have more than two bikers without a slow race so Ernie Hernandez (first), Al Hantsbarger (second) and Rick Mitchell (third) demonstrated how it’s done.A People’s Choice vintage bike show for pre-1960 models fetched first place for Michael Anderson; second, Billy Panhead; and third Mark Vernan.
A ferris wheel offered a bird’s eye view of everyone down below, checking out the vendors which included KLOS FM 95.5 and Water Wellness Center with generous samples of their ionized water in a free stainless steel water bottle. Everyone feasted on barbecued chicken and tri-tip, corn on the cob, fresh fruit and various salads. We were well fed!
Annie the Yellow Lab made it safely to the picnic with partner Les Brown of Metalarts. I loved all the stickers on her carrier, some of which read: “My LAB is smarter than your honor student,” “I may be a bitch but I’m the pick of the litter” and my favorite, “If the bitch falls off the bike, stop me… I love her.”
In between bites of my lunch I had to dash to the stage to grab photos of Peter Fonda (who did the first Love Ride PSA in 1984) and each of two “Jim Morrison” lead singers for the Robby Krieger Band. Robby generously handed out guitar picks throughout his sets and, yes, I did snag one. He signed another guitar that was auctioned for a top bid of $4,000 by David Hovley of San Diego for his very appreciative girlfriend, Diana. A painting of Dick Butkus by Scott Medlock also went for $1,000 to the same gentleman, who generously donated it back to the Love Ride Foundation. That’s some deep pockets and an even bigger heart! Also brought up on stage was a million-mile rider, “Miles” Squire, with H.O.G. hash marks down an entire sleeve. Sadly, we learned that Love Ride artist Steve Koffman had died a few months previously.
Of course no gathering is complete without the talented riders of the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps Stunt & Drill Team. With many members retiring, the ranks are slowing being filled with new ones and the growing pains are showing. But they can still ride circles—literally—around me and every other rider out there. And Janice is still grinnin’ through each stunt.
It was a big surprise for me when Oliver introduced the owner of Calamigos Ranch, Grant Gerson, who at 90 years young was pleased to host the Love Ride yet again. When his photo was taken he feigned concern by asking, “Did the lens break?” I introduced myself as one of his campers from over 45 years ago (don’t do the math!) and his immediate response was, “Are you a member of the Star Society?” Of course I was! This was a five-point good citizenship program for each of his campers because Grant firmly believed in instilling good character and sound morals in all children. I’m looking forward to a reunion next May!
The rest of the afternoon was spent listening to music and talking to friends. I was asked several times if I was having fun. Hell, yes! I have finally landed a job after two years of unemployment and only need a loan modification to save my home. Likewise, the Love Ride has survived a rough two years but will continue in its modified form and from the looks of it can only thrive from lessons learned. Several years ago during California Bike Week I declared this event “near perfect” and today I still stand by that opinion. Big or small, this charity ride will not vanish. The riders of Southern California will never let that happen.