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Archive for Sunday, September 5, 1999

BIKER RALLY DRAWSCROWD

September 5, 1999

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— Biker party participants spent Saturday afternoon saving up energy for Saturday night.

Going to an ABATE of Kansas National Labor Day Rally at 12:30 p.m. Saturday is like seeing a sleeping lion.

You get a sense of the animal, but you can't feel its power because you can't hear it roar.

The roar of the annual biker party comes when the bands crank up and the sun goes down.

On Saturday afternoon some bikers were still pulling in, road-weary and looking for a place to pitch their tents. Others who arrived Friday were coping with the lingering effects of the night before.

Everyone was conserving energy for the evening to come.

This weekend is the 24th time ABATE of Kansas has held its annual fund-raiser. The political group's acronym stands for American Bikers Aimed Toward Education.

About 1,500 motorcyclists had arrived by 2 p.m. at the peninsula known as Paradise Point. As many as 3,000 are expected before the party ends Monday.

The low key afternoon under fitfully rainy skies gave Cricket Stevenson a chance to philosophize on the changing nature of motorcycling.

Stevenson and her husband, Barney, have traveled for nine years to different motorcycle events selling specialized clothing and mementos, and participated in them long before that.

She said some of the changes have been for the better.

"It's a socially acceptable hobby now," she said. "I can stand right here and point out schoolteachers and doctors."

Stevenson remembers when motorcycle meant bad guy. She and Barney once pulled into a gas station and saw the attendant run inside and lock the doors.

"We had such a bad stereotype for so many years," Barney Stevenson said.

But bringing motorcycling closer to the mainstream has inflated motorcycle prices and eroded some of the camaraderie.

"It's made motorcycling an investment opportunity, not just a hobby or pastime," said Cricket Stevenson, who sells a T-shirt mourning the "death" of Harley-Davidson because of greed.

The Stevensons don't begrudge the weekend bikers the enjoyment of the open road.

"Here they are just all motorcycle enthusiasts," Cricket Stevenson said. "They have that in common."

You can hear it in the conversations, which never begin with the question: What do you do?

Instead, it's "Watcha riding?" and "How long you had it?"

The objects of their affection were lined up along the edge of the park's blacktop road and grouped in the grass.

There was not a neglected machine among them from the oldest chopper with arching handlebars and raked front wheel to the newest full-sized Harley-Davidson with tasseled leather saddle bags.

All the paint jobs shined, even in the cloudy weather, whether a custom painting of a skeleton rider, illustrated fire, stripes or just plain black.

Non-Harleys were few and far between.

But as the biker saying goes: "It's not what you ride. It's that you ride."

-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is kblackwood@ljworld.com.

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