Originally published in the January 2016 Issue of Cycle Source Magazine.
Article and Photos: Betsy Huelskamp
You can’t cancel Christmas, or Easter, or Thanksgiving! For the past 32 years the Love Ride has been a special holiday on the calendar. It has been a celebration of life and a shared passion of riding, freedom
and the open road. It has been a day to gather with old friends that have become like family who are united and are participating in doing something really special for many in need.
The Love Ride has been the largest and longest running one day motorcycle charitable fundraising event in the world! What a fantastic legacy, and they certainly went out with a bang. The 32nd and final Love Ride raised one million dollars to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. One of the best features of the Love Ride was that it always focused on bringing awareness to the charities they were helping. Some of my most memorable Love Ride moments were hearing the stories of those people who were brave enough to represent their charities by being present at the Love Ride. They told their stories to a sea of bikers, and met thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts first hand.
We all know that fighting for our country is one of the greatest sacrifices you can make. But every time I am fortunate enough to meet a soldier in our military or a Veteran, I am overwhelmed by their sacrifice and bravery. People often comment on my bravery in the life adventures that I take…but in my lifetime I will never know the kind of bravery a soldier has inside. When danger is present, they run at it while the rest of us are running away. For many wounded warriors, their bravery will continue for the rest of their lives, as they try to cope with their mental and physical injuries from battle. It was a very fitting cause for the final farewell of the Love Ride, and many soldiers and Vets turned out to participate. Jay Leno gave a heartfelt thank you to all of our Vets; in particular he thanked the Vietnam Vets who were not given the support they needed when they returned home. In fact they came home to insults and disapproval. So to all soldiers and Vets, past and present ~ a resounding THANK YOU for your service, your sacrifice, and Welcome Home!
The day began with rain clouds looming over southern California and sprinkling on the Glendale Harley Davidson festivities. But the rain did not dampen the mood or the enthusiasm of the crowd.
Celebrities and bikers from all over the world filled the streets of Glendale to celebrate the final hurrah. Jay Leno was present as he has been since 1985 to Grand Marshall the event. He brought his one of a “75th Sturgis” commemorative painting entitled “Free Spirit”, of which I am beyond honored.
There was Gourmet food, a bike show, and Raffle Prizes including a 2015 Harley Davidson Black Street Glide, an all-expense paid trip to the Harley Davidson factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a Tour of Jay Leno’s Garage. There were motorcycle stunts by the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps, and of course there was awesome Rock & Roll by Social Distortion and the Foo Fighters. The festivities started with our National Anthem by Lorenzo Lamas, whose voice is as outstanding as his good looks! The pretty, young military girl who was supposed to sing the anthem was stuck in traffic, so when she finally arrived, we were graced with yet another National Anthem, which was so beautiful that she brought tears to more eyes than just mine!
They introduced some of the Wounded Warriors, including Mr. Raymond “Doc” Andalio, who served as a Navy Hospital medic for 12 years. In 2003 in Iraq, Doc sustained wartime injuries including brain damage, respiratory disorders, many broken bones, and mental stress. Doc thanked the Wounded Warrior Project who has provided the support he needed and will continue to need in the years to come. “Doc” was given a Harley Davidson to help combat his post-traumatic stress syndrome! Check out his incredible inspiring story of how riding a motorcycle is his therapy at: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=dJx8eroSHq8
It was bittersweet to watch all of the celebrities come out for a final farewell to a legacy that has lasted over three decades. But then the Victor McLaglan Motor Corp started up their engines and changed that bittersweet energy to absolute awe as they did what they do best! They leave all of us speechless as we watch the stunts they perform on the dirt and grass field surrounded by a sea of bikers who always get amazingly silent during their breathtaking performance. They defy gravity by doing everything a body can do on or with a motorcycle!
Social Distortion took the stage and for the next few hours it was people laughing, eating, drinking, shopping, dancing, and enjoying the sunshine, rock & roll, and people watching with good friends. I have long been impressed by the top quality musicians that have graced the stage of the Love Ride. Social Distortion and the Foo Fighters provided an epic concert to complete the fantastic finale. Dave Grohl had his leg in a cast, so they made him a huge chopper with a chair for him to sit on while he performed. Even from his chopper chair he managed to move around like the energetic rock star that he is, with hair flying making it hard to catch of picture of him where you can see his handsome face!
All in all….another truly memorable day to add to the many, many, many good memories we all have of Love Ride’s gone by. I hope there will be more! I hope it’s like the Rolling Stone’s…and they keep on saying…okay…one more! I would like to personally thank Oliver Shokouh for being a friend, and allowing me and my friends to be a small part of the history of the Love Ride. I started covering the Love Ride decades ago as an assistant to my buddy Genevieve Schmitt, and when Genevieve moved away to Montana, I would cover it for various publications, but mostly for her online magazine www. womenridersnow.com as “Backroads With Betsy” where I have a monthly column. I feel truly honored to have been given media access to the event all of these years, and to have been able to include some of my friends as assistants. We will miss the Love Ride, and hope it comes back again someday!”
Oliver Shokouh was quoted as saying, It has been my honor to serve these causes for decades. I am eternally grateful for the outpouring of support that so many gave this year as we ride off into the sunset with over $1,000,000 raised for the Wounded Warrior Project, and a total legacy of over $25,000,000 for charities to date. Lives are changed because of your attendance and participation over these years, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. This has been a really great ride! For more information on the Love Ride Foundation go to: www.LoveRide.org Or for other Glendale Harley events go to: www.GlendaleHarley.com