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Backroads With Betsy: Live, Love, Ride

The 2011 Love Ride

By Betsy Huelskamp
2/16/2012


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After riding a motorcycle for 20 some years, I can honestly say I still love to ride. I love to ride, I love to love, and I love to live. Love Ride 28 took place this past October in Glendale Calif., and I think I have missed the event only twice in all these years. After the 2011 event, I have such sad and mixed feelings. I've ridden nearly every road this side of the Mississippi, and I still wave to every single biker I pass by when I am traveling. I believe all riders share a very basic love of experiencing the great outdoors and the freedom that doing it on a motorcycle gives you.
         
The Love Ride used to be the largest one-day charity ride in the US. In years past, there have been as many as 20,000 riders in attendance. In 2011, 3,000 riders made the journey. Over the years, the Love Ride has raised more than $13 million for its many charities, most of which benefit children’s causes. The most recent event raised $375,000 in pre-expense revenue, which will go to an organization called Autism Speaks. Autism is a challenging neurological disorder that now affects one in 110 children (and one in 70 boys). To learn more about autism, go to AutismSpeaks.org.    

The Love Ride begins with a ride on Interstate 5 from Glendale Harley-Davidson to Castaic Lake, a 55-mile jaunt. During this ride, I was directly behind a rider who went down. I could see that traffic ahead had come to a stand-still, so I was already slowing down when bikes started locking up all around us and smoke started rising. You could hear crashing noises and see parts flying, and then bikes started colliding and sliding and bodies were rolling. I remember thinking that the man I could see rolling in front of me was tucked very tightly—he almost looked like a stunt man, he rolled so well.

There wasn't a moment where I wondered whether I should pull over or not. Your brothers and sisters are lying on the road—pull over! I went running back to the scene and could see that, amazingly, in all of these bikes, only two had gone down. There could have been so many more. Both bikes had couples on them, and the two women passengers were up and standing. One of the guys on the ground sat up and said, "Hey, I know you!" I told him that was a good thing but asked if he knew his own name. "Yes, yes, I'm fine," he told me, and he got up and went limping off despite an arm full of road rash. He seemed more worried about his bike than himself.   

The other man was still on the ground, and several of us gathered around him to try and help. We were near the very front of the parade of bikes, so Jay Leno and Oliver Shokouh, founder of the Love Ride and owner of Glendale Harley-Davidson, were also on the scene. The man was conscious and able to speak to the paramedics as they took control of the situation. Paramedics told all of us who had stopped to get back on our bikes, as the 5 freeway was now backed up for miles.

Love Ride Grand Marshall Jay Leno, who took a break from his duties to accompany an injured rider to the hospital.
Love Ride Grand Marshall Jay Leno, who took a break from his duties to accompany an injured rider to the hospital.

We would not learn until after the event that, farther behind us, other riders were in trouble. When a big-rig truck slowed and swerved, its back end ran over and killed two riders. They were both pronounced dead at the scene. Oliver Shokouh issued this statement on behalf of Glendale Harley-Davidson and the Love Ride Foundation: "We, along with our family of riders, mourn the loss of our friends, Romarino Zeri and his passenger, Julie Cameron. Our heartfelt condolences and sympathies go out to their families and friends. We will keep you posted as we learn more information. Together we will honor our fallen."
   
After the accident, as we went to get back on our bikes and continue on to Castaic Lake, my friend Reg said, "That's it. I'm done. I'm going home to spend the day with my son.” And he did just that. I had driven in from western Colorado for the Love Ride. My friends Masyn Moyer and Duane had driven in from Boulder, Colo. Bean're rode in from Louisiana, and Sasha Mullins flew in from Nashville. Sasha even wrote a song for the Love Ride and was hoping to take the stage to talk about it. But standing on the side of the 5 freeway after the accident, my friends and I just looked at one another in sadness. 

My friend Reg Terrebonne with his son Skyler.
My friend Reg Terrebonne with his son Skyler.


My friends from Boulder, Colo. (left to right): Masyn, Duane and Reg.
My friends from Boulder, Colo. (left to right): Masyn, Duane and Reg.

Friends Sasha Mullins, the infamous Bean're, and the beautiful Jennifer Santolucito.
Friends Sasha Mullins, the infamous Bean're, and the beautiful Jennifer Santolucito.

The Love Ride didn't turn out the way it should have, and I can't imagine telling the story any other way. Jay Leno, the event's Grand Marshall, didn't even make it out to the lake to take the stage. Instead, he stayed by the side of the injured man in the ambulance and at the hospital. I can't think of anybody that I would rather have next to me on my worst day in a hospital room, a time when you could really use a laugh.    
  
The weekend of the Love Ride started out as a great one. The day before the event, a group of us did a beach and mountain ride that reminded me why so many people move to California. It is one beautiful state! We started off at the Venice Vintage Motorcycle Show in Venice Beach, featuring great old cars and bikes. My friends Kiwi and Carolyn Thomas from Kiwi Indian were there with their newest bike, which won first place in its category, as always!  

Kiwi Mike, of Kiwi Indian, and his classic build.
Kiwi Mike, of Kiwi Indian, and his classic build.


My favorite bike of the day.
My favorite bike of the day.

Me and my longtime riding pal Tommy Malone.
Me and my longtime riding pal Tommy Malone.

(Story continued on next page)
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Reader Comments


Sad story. I have always wanted to go on the Love Ride. Hopefully it will still be going when I get the chance.

Steve
Commerce City, CO
Sunday, March 04, 2012
As always, BH invokes a pitch perfect tone expressing the riding communities communal ache from profound loss at the 2011 Love Ride and its communal joy that the attendees were able to muster up in the emotional wake of those tragedies. A shared concern, as riders, will always be the possibility of a mishap on the road. Look out for one another as well as oneself. As Betsy reminds us, keep your head clear, your eyes scanning, your senses acute and ride within one's skill set, never beyond.

Keeping the rubber side down gives us the gift of another season doing what we all love to do more than anything, ride. Here's to sharing the road in 2012 darlin'.

Claudia Glenn Barasch
New York City, NY
Sunday, February 26, 2012
A very nice article but sad, also. I am 64 and have ridden for more than 30 years. I totally love to ride and love all other motorcycles and cyclists. It would be wonderful to meet you sometime, Betsy. Keep on riding and being safe.

Lee Fallon
Poulsbo, WA
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Hi Betsy,

Thanks for writing the truth about the Love Ride. I have been to many Love Rides in my 30+ years riding, and at every one there has been major accidents and/or deaths. I have never been asked to ride up front with the celebrities and such. Back in the masses, you have riders with all levels of skill. Many who never ride in groups. Many who have never taken a riders course. Accompanied with the mass exodus equals trouble!

The past ten years, all my friends ride ahead of the start. We still
wave to all the people on the overpasses and get there early to get good parking. The reason for the poor turnout is not only the economy but the monies raised, only a small portion goes to the charity. This has been on going for years. When they moved the Love Ride to the Pomona Fair grounds, so many were disappointed that they never came back.

Debbie Boyer
Ormond Beach, FL
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
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