John Springstube wheeled "Honey II," his 1979 FLH Harley Davidson Classic, out of the west lot at Centennial Park at high noon a week ago Saturday, heading up a train of 15 other bikers.
Miniature American flags attached to the bikes snapped in the wind as the group, members of District One of ABATE (American Bikers Aimed Toward Education) of Kansas Inc., unfurled their third annual Flag Day run.
Cruising through Lawrence, they headed south to Ottawa, west to Pomona, back north to Overbrook and then to Clinton Lake, for a rainy camp-out that rounded out the day.
As part of the effort, each rider brought along a toy to be donated to the Salvation Army.
ABATE, a 14-year-old statewide organization, is headquartered at 650 Elm in Perry and has a membership of about 1,800. In this district, which includes Douglas, Franklin, Anderson and Jefferson counties, some 100 bikers are on the roster.
Springstube, of Lawrence, is District One president. He said the group's primary aim is motorcycle education, but members also like to get together for rides and just to have a good time.
He said he also traveled by motorcycle to monthly district meetings all over the state, most recently in Wichita and Dodge City.
His cream-colored Harley got its name from his wife, Joyce, whom he's always called "Honey." When he bought the bike, he said, she observed he'd gained "a new honey," so he christened the machine "Honey II."
Kevin Maxon, Lawrence, rode his metallic blue 1973 Harley on the Flag Day run but pointed out, "You don't have to ride a Harley to be in ABATE."
PRIMARY membership criterion is an interest in motorcycle safety, not a bike, he said, but the showy Harleys predominate within the group.
Maxon explained Harleys are now the only American-made motyorcycles; Asian bikes include Hondas, Suzukis and Kawasakis, and European bikes include BMWs and Triumphs.
Maxon bought his flashy blue model "from a guy in Ottawa who decided he was too old to ride.
"It's been a real dependable bike. A lot of people comment on it."
Ervin "Lucky" and Jeannie Bass, Tonganoxie, rode his shiny black 1989 Harley Ultraglide, a birthday gift to him from her last year.
Bass planned the route for this year's Flag Day ride held the day after the observance's calendar date and he helped launch the annual run three years ago.
"When we first started doing this," he said, "people were kind of complacent about the flag.
"We thought we'd get out and remind them."
MRS. BASS, whose sister, Vicky Cullison of Shawnee, also was along for the ride, said, "People who like to ride (motorcycles) are also very patriotic. Most are veterans."
She noted a cross-country motorcycle ride called "Run for the Wall" that begins in California with a club named Double Thunder and draws riders from all over the country to the Vietnam Veterans' War Memorial in Washington, D.C., for Memorial Day.
Mrs. Springstube said that last year, when Run for the Wall riders came through Kansas, local ABATE members rode to Abilene and traveled back through Kansas City with the east-bound contingent.
She added club members like to do the toy run, as well as adopt a family at Christmas and donate canned goods to the needy to counter an old image problem.
They also participate in the state-operated "Adopt-a-Highway" program, keeping clean the stretch of U.S. Highway 24-40 from Teepee Junction east about two miles to the highway's intersection with Kansas Highway 32.
NEXT SUNDAY, they'll serve as escorts for the KC Metro Triathlon, formerly the Jackie Johnson Triathlon, at Lone Star Lake.
Earlier this month on a run to Wichita, Mrs. Stringstube added, local ABATE members conducted an extra toy collection to their agenda. This one was for the children of Andover, which was struck by a killer tornado this spring.
"We all have children too," Mrs. Stringstube noted. Mrs. Bass added that many people have negative images of bikers but "we want to get the positive image of bikers out."
The major emphasis with ABATE, though, they said, is motorcycle safety.
Member Betsi Walters, who rode a motorcycle "tricycle" in the Flag Day run, said ABATE members were the only recognized motorcycle instructors in the state. At 52, she was the oldest Flag Day rider, and her daughter, Serenity Walters, 17, was the youngest.
MRS. SPRINGSTUBE said club members conduct their safety clinics at the Lawrence Municipal Airport, where runways give them adequate riding space.
To thank airport operators for providing the facility, the bikers recently cleaned and now maintain the giant "L-A-W-R-E-N-C-E" sign placed in the ground at the airport for aerial traffic to see.
Noting she's probably the only mother anywhere who ever willingly bought motorcycles for her boys, Mrs. Stringstube said the educational emphasis of ABATE brought her into the fold because of her two teen-aged sons.
She said her husband taught her to ride, bought her a motorcycle and gave her the confidence she needed to embark on her first over-the-road trip last August to Sturgeon, S.D.
"That was an adventure," she said. "If you do it right, it's fun."
ONE OF THE Springstubes' boys, 21-year-old John Mark, joined his parents for the Flag Day run.
He said ABATE's safety emphasis includes a freedom-of-choice policy on helmets, a hotly debated subject between bikers and lawmakers in some states, and noted that Kansas law now requires anyone younger than 18 to wear a helmet while riding.
For information on safety clinics, which are taught at different levels, call ABATE headquarters in Perry, 597-5140.