It was noon and 90 degrees. You didn’t have to even move around to bring sweat to the brow. But still they came, more and more, in twos and threes, shouting greetings to each other, climbing off, shaking hands, giving hugs.
They paid to participate — $20 for a single rider, $25 for two people on the same motorcycle. All proceeds will benefit SOMC Hospice Services, which cares for patients who can’t be cured, eases the pain of their last days, both physically and spiritually.
“The only reason anybody is here is because of that hospice center,” Conley said. “I would say just about everyone here has had a loved one — parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, child, brother, sister — who has been touched and helped by the hospice workers. My father-in-law, Bill Johnson, who I still miss dearly, spent his last days there.”
Over under the big white tent set up on the lower end of the parking lot, SOMC Hospice workers and event organizers Sheila Riggs, Teresa Ruby and Loren Hardin were watching the crowd grow, too.
“We had about 200 bikers last year. We have a wonderful turnout so far today and we’re expecting more,” Riggs said.
She’s a claims and information systems coordinator for the hospital. Hardin is a social worker there who writes a weekly column in the Portsmouth Daily Times that often features the work of the hospice center and some extraordinary stories of patients who have been comforted there.
The ride kicked off until 1 p.m. The huge flow of cycles would make a 60-mile round trip, going up U.S. 23 to Lucasville, taking Ohio 348 over to Ohio 104, following 104 to Ohio 32, making a rest stop at Crossroads Marathon on Germany Road, then following Germany Road through the countryside, through Minford, New Boston and back to the starting point, where plenty of burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans and cold drinks awaited them under the canvas.
The Gypze Roze Band provided entertainment.
“The main idea behind motorcycles is safety,” said Conley, founder of the American Legion Riders in the Scioto County area and road captain for Saturday’s event. “There’ll be enjoyment to the ride, for sure, but with this many motorcycles grouped together it’s got to be structured. You can’ have everybody off doing their own thing.
Glen Anderson of Chillicothe, a member of James Dickey Post 23 American Legion, would lead the run in his three-wheeled Harley.
Riggs said the event was founded in memory of Ricky Bryan, a rider who she said started planning the ride before his death.
“He wanted to give back to the program,” she said.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236, or email@example.com.