By Karen T. Braeckel
HSPA Foundation

Mark your calendars for Saturday, June 11, 2016, for the Second Annual HSPA Foundation Charity Motorcycle Ride.

The inaugural ride Aug. 29 proved successful enough that organizers want to host it again.

Allow me to give a nonbiker’s description of the day.

Planning to arrive No. 2 right after organizer Dave McChesney parked his new bike an hour before the ride, I learned my second lesson of the day.

Almost all of the bikers beat me.

When do newspaper people ever come early? They function on deadline. Right?

Guess that just works at the office.

(My first lesson? Crawfordsville does have one-way streets. I took a little heat about being the city girl who drove the wrong way on one of them.)

As I got out of my car, some straddled their bikes as if they were ready to roll.

Others walked around munching on their buys from the nearby farmers market.

The Simbecks from the LaGrange area traveled farther to get to Crawfordsville than they did on the ride – more than 180 miles.

Sandra and Charles won the prizes for riding the greatest distance to participate and owning the most-coveted bike.

The couple rode a good-looking tricycle. (Did it technically qualify as a bike? Didn’t think to ask the rules committee.) I found out later Sandra sometimes drives it too.

The group wanted to award McChesney the most-coveted for his asphalt grey 2015 Ural Gear-up sidecar motorcycle.

But 1Up! donated the gift certificates for each award, so the company’s CEO graciously disqualified himself.

The six bikes, plus three passengers, fell a little short of the organizers’ aspirations, but head biker McChesney said the smaller group worked well for the first outing.

It proved the concept will work, and we know others want to join us on a different day.

Over the years I planned many events, from weeklong Pan American Games synchronized swimming championships to 10,000-student anti-drug rallies with the Colts in the RCA Dome – but never a motorcycle ride. I appreciate McChesney taking the lead on this one.

My assignment seemed appropriate. I drove the safety vehicle with a cooler of bottled water.

I threw in some Band-aids and jumper cables.

Later I read somewhere if you turn on the car engine when trying to jump-start a motorcycle, you can blow up the bike. And if anyone fell, we would need much more than a stick-on bandage. But I tried to cover the bases.

McChesney, on the other hand, added more important extras to his machine – most notably two extra 10-liter jerry cans of fuel.

Sometimes his Labrador rides in the sidecar. Since McChesney didn’t bring the dog, another biker suggested I ride there. After giving him my best former-school-teacher glare, I said I didn’t bring a helmet.

That brings up another point of the day.

The roads between Crawfordsville and Dana attract many bikers. Two large groups of riders passed without a single person wearing a helmet.

If you have a brain and want to keep it intact, don’t ride with these “organ donors.”

And thanks to this delightful day, I now know several hand and foot signals.

My favorite involves road-kill.

If it’s on your left, point down with your hand. On the right you point with your foot. (At that point I would dump the bike trying to spare my fellow riders from the road hazard.)

I picked up one signal not on the cheat sheet.

When one group of riders passes another, you hold your arm down at an angle – an aerodynamic wave. (I showed the bikers the Jeep wave I learned when driving my son’s old vehicle. It took practice to get the flick of the wrist just right.)

Once we arrived at Dana we had a private tour of the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum. Whether you visit at the end of a ride or go it alone, you always find fascinating information time and time again.

Thanks to all who participated – and those who wanted to but could not this time. We hope to see you next year.

Better Newspaper Contest Winners

The Foundation will send letters listing winners in the Better Newspaper Contest soon. Watch your mail for an envelope with a bright sticker on the outside noting the contents. Editors and publishers should receive these letters.

Some 78 newspapers submitted 2,824 entries in this year’s contest judged by the New Jersey Press Association.

Karen T. Braeckel is director of the HSPA Foundation.

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