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Chrome And Leather: Fall Run Celebrates Silver Anniversary

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, September 13, 2006
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Fall Run founder and Custom City Cycle owner Michael "Mike" Robert
Adams - Road captain Buzzy Johndrow has spent decades riding on motorcycles. Johndrow, 74, plans to lead this year's Fall Run while riding his 1987 Harley-Davidson FLH. But on Sept. 12, the bike was in need of some technical assistance. The Run As A Hike? As Custom City Cycle owner, motorcycle repair expert and Fall Run founder Michael Robert evaluated the situation with Johndrow's bike, he glanced up at Johndrow. "I don't know, Buzz, you might not make it this year on this bike," Robert said, speaking rather woefully. Johndrow answered quickly. "I'll go if I have to walk." Over $300K Raised For Shriner's Hospitals The Sept. 24 Fall Run will mark the 25th anniversary of a motorcycle event that began in 1982 with 19 bikes and 39 riders as "the season's last ride" and evolved into a significant fundraiser. Since 1989, the "run" has raised over $303,000 for the Shriner's hospitals in Boston and Springfield. This year, the beneficiary is the Springfield-based hospital, which provides free orthopedic care to children. The Boston-based burn center delivers free care to young burn victims. Previous ride beneficiaries include the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, the United Way, the Jimmy Fund, and the Massachusetts Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Goosebumps On the morning of the ride, riders will gather at Bowe Field and at about 10:45 a.m., engines will roar to life; by 11 a.m., Johndrow is expected to lead a long line of bikes and riders away from the field and through downtown Adams. Crowds are often gathered on both sides of the highway and well-wishers clap, wave, and cheer as thousands of bikes [in 2004, 2,186 bikes participated] rumble along the planned route. The 60-mile ride will end at Mohawk Park on Route 2 in Charlemont, where an abundance of food and camaraderie will be shared. "Being right up front, this is what I get," Johndrow said. "I'll see kids on the side of the road, looking down, maybe playing, and they hear the bikes coming. And they start looking up and pointing; they get this look on their face. And then they are just watching. It's quite a feeling." The scene from his rear-view mirror is equally inspiring, he said. "Every year when I look behind me and see all those headlights coming behind me, I get goosebumps, every year." The ride is one of the year's most anticipated events for many people, including Williams College news office staffer Noelle Lemoine. Lemoine has accompanied Bruce Gelinas for about five years and is eagerly anticipating the upcoming ride, she said. "I love it," she said during a telephone interview. "When we ride through Adams, it's like a parade. It's such a good feeling; it's a good group of people and it's a good cause. Every year I get so excited on the morning of the ride, I tell Bruce 'this is better then Christmas.'" Special Events On Park Street Special silver anniversary events are planned for Sept. 23. Park Street will be closed to vehicle traffic and a "People's Choice" bike show is expected to rule the street from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.. Motorcycles will compete for trophies in one of four bike classes: trikes [three-wheeled bikes] vintage, custom, and choppers. The public-at-large will serve as judges and be able to vote for their favorite bike. Area motorcycle dealers have agreed to display new bikes and a 50/50 raffle, musical entertainment and refreshments will be part of the evening's celebration. There will be a Fall Run registration booth set up as well. Registration forms are also available at a www.customcitycycle.com Internet web site and registration will be offered at Bowe Field on run morning beginning at 8 a.m.. For the first time since the run began, commemorative t-shirts will be available prior to the run. The shirts are expected to be on sale during the Park Street bike event, Robert said. "We'll probably have about 300 shirts and it's a first, to have shirts before the ride," he said. A 2006 50cc scooter raffle is planned as well. The scooter is advertised as achieving 90 miles per gallon of fuel. A second prize is a $200 vehicle fuel gift card and a third prize is a fuel card valued at $100. 25 Years of Run And Memory Over the past quarter century, the ride has rumbled through some changes. The longest route covered 145 miles and toured through Manchester,Vt., but as participation grew and motorcycles began to pass the 500, 600, and 700 bike milestones, the route was shortened to make a more manageable trip. As more and more folks from out of the region [bikers have traveled from northern Vermont, far western New York, and portions of New Hampshire, Connecticut and New Jersey for the ride] began to attend, the route was changed to avoid some of the area's notoriously sharp road curves. For the most part, the rides have been dry and only once, in 2003, did the ride begin during a heavy rainstorm. Johndrow and Robert remembered that ride as cold and that rain as a deluge. But deluge or not, 200 bikes left Bowe Field and the riders rode the route, Robert said. "I think most of it was the staff," he said with a smile. "Up at the [Mohawk] Park, they had to move everything inside, the band, the food, everything." And while the number of bikes was "only" 200, the 2003 Fall Run donations poured in and over $13,000 was raised and donated to the Shriners. Always Looking For Kids To Help Shriner John Grant was the Fall Run Shriner's liaison for many years. Three years ago, he retired from the role and Shriner Mark Feder took over Grant's duties. Speaking during a telephone interview, Grant acknowledged the Fall Run's years of generous contributions. "The consistency of the donations, that's been just amazing to us," Grant said, and emphasized that the ride organizers and the Shriners were brought together by Shriner Frank Brozyna. "He's the one that got everybody together," Grant said. "What has made it so successful is that there was support from the Shrine. I know that the support is important to the [Fall Run] staff. And on the other end of it, I get to see the local kids who've been helped by these hospitals. There are literally hundreds of Berkshires kids who get treated, get free care at the Shriner's Springfield hospital, which is orthopedic. And a young person from Cheshire just went to Boston Shriner's [burn center]." Grant noted the enormity of overseeing a motorcycle ride with so many bikes and riders involved. "When you think about what a monumental task it is to take so many people and leave from Bowe Field in the morning and arrive at Mohawk Park in the afternoon, it's a lot," he said. Several local companies help generate revenues by offering donations that match employee or run rider contributions, Grant said. And the region benefits from the dollars spent by the riders, some of whom come to the area a day or two before the ride and stay at local motels and eat at local restaurants. At an upcoming Fall Run staff meeting, Ralph W. Sumb, the CEO of all Shriner's hospitals, is expected to meet with the group and express appreciation for the years of support, Grant said. The Shriners currently operate 22 orthopedic hospitals and three burn centers, he said. In addition to providing "first-class care" to children, the hospitals are training centers for doctors and also host research programs, Grant said. "We're always looking for kids to help," he said. "We want people in the community to know that the care is free and it is first-class care, and we want people to know that we want to give the care to the kids." Because the total of all donations has passed the $250,000 mark, the Fall Run and its organizers are expected to earn recognition via a plaque that will be posted along a donor corridor at the Springfield Shriner's hospital. Current plans call for a plaque presentation in November, when run organizers will travel to the hospital and deliver the monies generated this year. A Great Job Nearly all the run staff members have been involved since the first ride. Chris Samson is among the veteran ride officials and in 1994, the ride was dedicated to Jerry "Cree" Nimmons, who volunteered his services to the ride. Nimmons died in July 1994. "Most of the staff is the original crew," Robert said. "They all do a great job. And the police in the communities we go through do a great job. This year, the [Adams] Downtown Committee was real good to us. The bunch up at Mohawk Park always do a lot for us, we couldn't do this without them." Johndrow spoke up. "Everybody does a great job. I push 'em." Robert made a quick reply. "He doesn't push us, we push him." The good-natured verbal volley ended as a "tie;" Johndrow does lead the ride, but his bike was sitting on a lift. And Robert was the guy with the tools. Fall Run 2006 Leaving Bowe Field in Adams at 11 a.m. Sunday Sept. 24 Pre-registration during Park Street Bike Show 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Saturday Sept. 23 OR at Bowe Field beginning 8 a.m. Sept. 24 Registration Forms available on-line at www.customcitycycle.com All events to go on rain or shine Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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