Yesterday was the Eric Wells Memorial Ride, and about ten friends of ours met up with us early Saturday morning to participate with hundreds of other bikers in memory of Eric (you can read my blog entry from a few days ago to get caught up with the purpose of this ride). It was actually cool enough at 7AM to put on the thicker leather jacket and head out to a gas station that would be our gathering point. Heading up I-69, we took the Pendleton exit and a couple of miles later, we pulled into the American Legion parking lot to stage for the day’s ride.
This won’t be the usual ride report, because while the ride’s cause was worthwhile, what many of us saw in the first couple of hours led our group and other small groups to leave the ride at it’s first stop. Our arrival to the Legion showed that from the start, this ride was not well planned out. I’d have to pause for a second and state that the volunteers at the location were friendly, but from there, concerns continued to mount. A year or two ago, I blogged my reasons for not participating in local motorcycle poker runs anymore, and just about every negative reason was prevalent during this particular ride.
So, if you are considering ever setting up a motorcycle ride, for a large group or for a charity’s cause, read further and heed these observations.
The parking lot at the Legion is fairly small…maybe parking for 30 or so vehicles safely and comfortably. It was not designed for the 350 or so motorcycles, the two local television station vehicles, vendor tents, volunteers’ cars, and the 400+ people walking around. Add to that taking up space for “off-limit” areas, barriers to direct motorcycle traffic to parking, volunteers standing everywhere, 6 or so port-a-potties on the parking lot and not in the grass, and people congregation areas, and it was a mess. Motorcycles were jammed into the lot as tight as in a sardine can, and after awhile, the volunteers couldn’t keep up with the traffic flow coming into the lot and bikes started getting parked at different angles. Instead of starting a second parking location, or using the breakdown lane of SR-38 in Pendleton to hold motorcycles, people were forced into the lot to participate.
The registration process was cumbersome, but did flow well. First station, sign the release form. Move on to second station where they took your release form. Go to third station, give them your donation money for participating. Go to fourth station, get wrist banded (so they know you paid). Go to fifth station, get your gift bag (7 pieces of candy, pamphlets about the Memorial organization and the homeless kids we came to support, and 3 advertising cards). No t-shirt (had to pre-register I guess), and nothing else. No problem…there to help, not there to get presents. Walked past the sixth station, where the 50/50 tickets could be purchased. Seventh station, see the door prizes and avoid the volunteer repeatedly trying to get you to buy a ticket for a TV the Legion was raffling off (but not for this day of course).
Eighth station, get coffee (actually, pay for coffee if you wanted it). Ninth station, pay $6 for a spoon of cold powdered eggs and what they called biscuits and gravy…and a slice of toast that had been produced many minutes earlier. Orange juice was free (with paid breakfast)…weird they charged for very cheap coffee, but not for the more expensive orange juice….and the juice was the best tasting of any other food or drink offering.
The speaker system utilized in the parking lot was pathetic. Most of the lot couldn’t hear, and as the presenters would scream “can you hear me now” into their microphone and get positive responses, they’d immediately lower their voice and create the same problem repeatedly. So, instructions about the ride path, safety procedures, and how to group ride together was not heard by most of the riders.
The ride was slated to leave at 10AM. The last I looked at my watch, it was 10:20AM…and we were all still standing next to our bikes. The consensus was that we were waiting for police escort to arrive. After all, who would organize a ride for 350+ bikes, and NOT having it police escorted??? Well, sure enough…this ride wouldn’t be police escorted.
When we started leaving the lot, whatever time it was, everything went to shambles. Instead of pulling out by rows, people just took off and tried to merge through a 20 foot wide exit. Nobody thought to remove the safety cones blocking much of the exit, so we got to watch motorcycles in front of us running over them on their way out of the lot. Hey, either move over and run over a cone, or have the moron not waiting their turn next to to you run into the side of you…easy choice I guess.
My biggest peeve of doing unorganized group rides is you get some idiot or drunk who wants to ride right next to you, and not control their motorcycle very well. For the first leg of this journey, there had to be 8-10 morons who wanted to ride narrow country roads right next to me. We’d shift up, down, and do everything to get the person away from us…only to have another high school reject do the same thing. Seriously, this is why there are so many accidents in these group rides!
Remember when I said it wasn’t police escorted? Well, about 40 or so bikers ran their way to the front of our large pack…and proceeded to start illegally blocking traffic when other vehicles had the right of way. The ride went through Fortville, Geist, Fall Creek, and then into Indianapolis. Out in the country, it’s not so bad. But then they started blocking major intersections, which cause city drivers to get angry. Eventually, we ran out of people willing to block intersections, so we’d all stop at a red light. However, when the light turned green and then back to red eventually, the line would just barrel through it.
The procession of bikes went past the site that Eric Wells lost his life to the drunk police officer. This was the second year of this ride, and apparently they did the same last year. A rev of the engines is the biker salute, and most gave it as they rode by the location.
While many people driving past the other way or standing in their yards would honk or wave, we saw numerous people at intersections giving us all the middle finger, or trying to edge through vehicles through the line to get to the other side of the intersection. Some memorial ride, huh? By the time we arrived at our first stop, an American Legion near 38th and Post, my wife and I were D-O-N-E with this ride. What we encountered at the first stop made everyone of our personal riding friends also back out if they had any doubt still in existence.
Eric Wells died from a drunk police officer hitting his bike while he was stopped at a stop light. Three other bikers were severely injured as well…due to somebody drinking and driving. Each of the stops planned for the day was at a Legion location. Many American Legion members are motorcycle riders, and will participate in worthwhile causes. It’s great that they use their facilities as a place to take a break throughout the journey. However, each of the Legion locations I’ve ever been to have a bar…and that’s where a large volume of the riders immediately went to.
This particular location has a large bar area, and most of us were standing in lines running next to it waiting for the bathrooms. Everybody at the bar had drinks in front of them. We had all arrived perhaps 15 minutes before, and one of the bar patrons I recognized from being involved with the ride. In front of him was a glass full of beer…and two empty ones he had already downed in this short amount of time. All the stools at the bar were full of riders, all with alcohol being sipped or gulped. And…this was the first of at least 4 Legion stops.
So, we were done. And, our small group of ten also were done with this ride. The irony was that we were doing this for another biker that had lost his life to being hit by a drunk driver, and here’s a large group of our memorial riders slamming down alcohol before they’d get back on their bikes to go to the next stop where more alcohol would be served to them.
The way our day ended was sitting in the lot, and remaining there while the procession headed out again. We ended up in New Palestine for lunch at B&C’s Hideout, a fantastic restaurant/pub that definitely has one of the best tenderloin sandwiches around. Other’s had fish and chips, nachos, and other offerings…all found to be excellent. Afterwards, we split up into two groups…my group headed to Westfield to check out a airport that was having a fly-in, and the other group checked out more asphalt roads heading east out of the Indianapolis area.
So, if you read this far…and want to plan a motorcycle ride event, here’s some quick notes:
- Plan your main staging area in a lot that can support a large number of bikers that may attend. They knew this ride would be big…it was on most of the news channels. The lot in Pendleton chosen was way too small.
- If you are going to serve food like breakfast, and charge more than Waffle House charges for it, then make sure people get decent hot food. We have done many rides where a decent breakfast was $3, hot, and filling. I’d pay $10 for a decent breakfast…but cold, tasteless, and little amounts of food are worse than not serving food at all.
- A police escort is a must with this many bikes involved. Somebody will end up seriously injured or dead because of the illegal blocking of intersections. No signed waiver is going to save you in court when a good lawyer tears it apart because of your lack of planning and pre-awareness of safety issues you neglected.
- Plan stops without alcohol. There’s tons of ways to do this. Or, offer alcohol at the last stop, when the ride is over.
- Heck, just read all of the above…you’ll see all the problems.