Toys for Tots Toy Run 2004

by on October 20, 2004
in Ride Reports

I distinctly remember sitting in my car at an intersection about 10 years ago, trying to get to Sunday Dinner at my Grandma’s house. We were held up because a column of motorcycles was being allowed, with Police escort, to proceed through a major stoplight intersection en masse. As the thunder rolled and the light changed from red to green many times over, I noticed that the column of bikes stretched quite a ways down the road – and I noticed that each of these big, burly, bearded “hardcore bikers” sported a brightly-colored box or large teddy bear strapped to their bike.

I didn’t know the reason at that moment, but the image of those tough guys and their teddy bears made me smile – and made me wait a little more patiently than I might have, suspecting as I did that something I didn’t fully understand was going on. When I got to my Grandma’s I mentioned the bikes to my sister, who informed me that the motorcycle group was called ABATE (A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education) and the ride was a benefit for the United States Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots organization. I had just seen my first Toy Run.

2004 toy run at state capitolOn October 10, I got to experience the Toy Run from inside the column – and not as a passenger, but as a rider. Although I’ve been riding my own bike for three seasons now, this was the first large-group ride I’ve been on. I can assure you that getting my first glimpse of the sheer strength of our column gave me chills – we were over two thousand bikes, and at one point our column stretched the entire 10.2-mile distance of the Toy Run route: the first wave was arriving at the destination as the last wave was leaving the State Capitol where we had gathered.

The biggest challenge as a rider was getting out of the big parking lot at the gathering point – it seemed like all 2,000 of us were trying to leave at once. I found that if you just staked out your spot and held your ground, everyone else was doing the same and so the whole group just kind of moved as one. Once we were out on the street, things spread out a little – we rode two bikes wide in a single lane of the four-lane street – but you still traveled closer than normal to the bikes around you, so paying full attention (and toy run 2004often riding in only 2nd or 3rd gear) was a must. The police escort was there to block every intersection so we could proceed as an uninterrupted group. I’m certain that some of the folks in those cars were ticked off, but hey – one hour out of one Sunday a year isn’t asking too much, is it?

I’ve posted a few photos in my Webshots album, but believe me: they don’t capture the thrill of being part of something so large, so loud and so big-hearted. If you have a chance to ride in a local Toy Run, please do – you’ll be helping the Marines reach nearly 7 million needy children nationwide who don’t always experience the magic of toys at Christmas. And, if you don’t have a local Toy Run, consider contacting Toys for Tots to get one started. You’ll find you’ve got a lot of soft-hearted bikers right in your own community!

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