By: Maryanne Erikson
Jen Dragon and I made it to Chicago today to meet up with all the folks that will be riding on the by now famed “Ride for the Relay”. I only say that because most likely not too many people have heard of it, nor would I have heard of it if I hadn’t been invited to participate because I’m part of a Route 66 yahoo email group.
When I first got the invitation to go on a 12 day road relay on Route 66, I wanted to go, but wrote if off like I have most every cool thing I’ve ever wanted to do during the summer because of our catering business. “I can’t do that right now, we’re too busy”. But then I really looked at it for myself. I’m turning 64 this year and I’m proud of it. At what point in my life am I going to say – “hey girl, get your butt in gear and start doing the stuff you really want to do in your life?”. That was the point that I said “yes” to the rally. If not now when? There comes a time in one’s life when putting things off because of ….. whatever work-related stuff – just begins to seem less important? burdensome?
So I said “yes”. And I enrolled my husband Richard in saying “yes”. He didn’t want to come due to previous challenges with back injuries, but invited me to follow my dream of exploring all of Route 66. Why? Because over the 30+ years that I’ve been watching the slow decline of all the great old roadside attractions and Americana that I’ve loved, nothing in the world could compare to the Great Mother Road, Route 66. Here people have invested time and energy to SAVE relics from the past. And many many people flock to the road every year from around the globe to see a portrait of how America used to be. With my commitment to saving images from the past, why wouldn’t I want to prioritize a trip like this more than anything in the world! So it was a done deal – I was going.
Then there was finding a suitable teammate. I asked a few folks that I thought would be great and no one could make it happen. I was committed, but who would it be? Then along came Jen – into my focus. What I knew about Jen was that she was a lot of fun! I suppose you could say that was key. She is also an amazing artist and we have wanted to collaborate on projects together in the past, but hadn’t done so. So what the heck, I asked her and guess what, she said “yes”! And here we are now: Jen just opened the most amazing gallery in Saugerties a month ago called Cross Contemporary Art – and she has left it in trusted hands to come on this trip – and I have left my business Bistro-to-Go to many competent hands to run in my absence (my husband Richard primarily). So we’re off!
Jen and I will be writing a blended blog here – we will share our insights and photos of this amazing adventure we’re about to embark on tomorrow morning. It’s going to be such fun for both of us – and a creative challenge that we’re both welcoming to combine our efforts.
For this evening, here are my insights from our first encounters with our new group of teammates on this fabulous journey on Route 66:
We arrived at the hotel around 2:00 and as we pulled up to the entrance noticed several really amazing tricked out motorcylces in bright colors like I’ve never seen. There was also a huge trailer and a special parking area for the rally with a big sign welcoming us! OK – this felt good! I already knew that I was going to want to do portraits of the people who own these bikes ON their amazing machines. (In case I didn’t mention it, there are 80 participants in this ride and we are only one of two cars!!!! So this is basically a motorcycle rally!)
After we all checked in and got settled there was a big meeting to set out the agenda for the ride. These folks are really reverent. They have a blessing of the bikes and the road every morning before they take off. And most mornings the group leaves by 7:00 am – no slackers here! And more than that what I was deeply touched by was the commitment of the group to finding a cure for cancer. That is at the heart and soul of their mission. Their fundraising goal for the ride this year is to raise $30,000 for the American Cancer Society and from what I could tell at the meeting they are within $5,000 of meeting thisl – and will do so by the end of the ride. Everyone on the ride is invited to have someone in mind that they are devoting their ride to. Mine is our dear Bistro Bubby, Claudia Ainsley that we are praying for every day.
Now to what I’m fascinated to learn – this will be a huge window for us into biker culture. We will be traveling with a large group of bikers, most likely between the ages of 50-70 – men and women – and many of the women ride their own bikes.
There were fascinating discussions about – road kill ideas – how do you cook an armadillo? Really! Wow!!! Not something we have ever considered in the northeast!
Next a huge round of applause for the Road Kill Cafe in Seligman, Arizona. Duly noted!
Next – if you’re on this rally you better have a CB radio if you want to be connected to all the juicy stuff going on with the riders. They have conversations and share all kinds of tidbits around the route – not to mention the best ways to go – over the airwaves. Jeez – when was the last time I even heard the word “cb radio”? It’s been a while! I guess we should really look into it if we want to be hip with the group –
So so far here’s what I’ve derived from conversations about the membership of this group – there are: lots of vets, lots of love and compassion for cancer survivors and being touched by those who have fallen, and lots of heart about how these folks are all connected to Route 66. I’m not sure I really understand the connection at this moment but I think that most of the people on this ride are completely committed to who they’ve dedicated the ride to. (meaning someone who has either survived or died from cancer).
So to end this evening – before we set off on this epic adventure, I’m deeply honored to be a part of this group of heartfelt folks that ride their motorcycles deep into the heart of America – for a cause that they’re all very passionate about. Jen and I are not bikers, but by the end of this ride, I know that we will have a much deeper respect for the passion that they all embrace. Who knows, maybe next year for their last year of this great ride, we will be riding motorcycles too! What a funny thought!