Tuesday, May 21, 2013
AUGUSTA — If the bikers who gathered Sunday at the Augusta Civic Center for Sunday’s 31st annual United Bikers of Maine Toy Run needed more than the crisp fall air and collection toys to get in the Christmas spirit, then all they had to do was visit Richard White.
Motorcyclists roll out of the Augusta Civic Center at noon on Sunday at the commencement of the annual United Bikers of Maine Toy Run. Augusta police estimated a couple thousand bikes road from the ACC to the Windsor Fairgrounds to donate toys.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy
Hundreds of motorcyclists joined others on I-95 in Waterville on Sunday for the 31st annual United Bikers of Maine Toy Run, which provides toys for Maine children during the holiday season.
Staff photo by David Leaming
White, of Pittston, dressed up for the ride in full Santa Claus garb, replete with a real, snowy beard. There, attached to White’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle, was a miniature sleigh, replicating the one used by jolly St. Nick himself.
Even his last name — White, that is — was enough to call Bing Crosby’s holiday classic to mind.
“I used to ride it right up to Christmas Eve,” said White, speaking of the Harley, rather than the sleigh.
White’s red Santa suit contrasted sharply with the black leather and blue jeans preferred by most of the riders, but such superficialities hardly outweighed the kinship the riders shared through their love of open road and desire to brighten the lives of children, come Christmas morning.
“It’s a great time to see old friends you don’t see all the time and meet lots of new people,” said John Hodgdon, of Madison. “There are a lot of great people who ride bikes.”
Thousands of bikers from across the state descended on the Augusta Civic Center for the scheduled noon departure to the Windsor Fairgrounds. The bikers brought with them toys, many of which could be found strapped to handlebars or seat backrests, to give to children of impoverished families come Christmas.
There was no official tally for the number of bikers who showed up — the United Bikers of Maine typically claims a crowd of around 17,000 — but there were noticeably fewer bikes this year. Augusta Police Lt. Christopher Massey, offering his best guess, thought a few thousand bikers turned out.
“We cleared the parking lot within 15 minutes,” he said. “It’s one of the quickest I’ve seen in years.”
Fewer bikes meant less disruption to traffic on Civic Center Drive. Massey said the ride caused no real traffic problems and there were no accidents or incidents connected to the ride. Rescue did respond when a motorcycle hit a vehicle at Weeks Mills and Ward roads, but the crash appeared to be unconnected to the toy run, Massey said. He did not know if there were injuries associated with the crash but the motorcycle rider reportedly was up, walking around and complaining of hip and back pain. According to a police log, he was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta.
Massey said toy run organizers to whom he spoke suggested rain that continued to pelt northern and eastern sections of the state Sunday morning kept numbers down. Peter Robichaud, of Corinna, who has taken part in the ride since the 1990s, agreed the rain took a toll.
“We know of three or four different people who didn’t come because of the rain,” he said. “There are a lot of fair-weather riders. The only time I don’t come is if it’s raining when I get up.”
Skies were mostly sunny, but temperatures still hovered in the mid-60s, which riders agreed can feel chilly when barreling down the road.
“This is one of the coolest days for a toy run in a long time,” Massey said. “There were lots of people with gloves.”
Robichaud, riding a 2011 Harley-Davidson trike, said he recalls runs that were so hot, it was uncomfortable waiting in the civic center parking lot, waiting to head to Windsor.
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