Rockin’ the Red Horse

Written by Beryl Kelley & Diana Olmstead

Photos by Beryl Kelley & Nicole Crossett

The Red Horse Diner, a favorite destination just off I-90 in Ellensburg, kicked off the riding season with a huge party, swap meet, and motorcycle run known as “Rockin’ the Red Horse”.

The Red Horse Diner is a one of a kind, 50’s style diner set in a meticulously restored 1930’s Mobilgas station. Inside, you’ll find the walls are adorned with automotive, motorcycle and Coca-Cola memorabilia from years past.

The Crossett family that owns the Red Horse Diner became enchanted by the motorcycle scene many years ago. When

 Nicole and Breanna were little girls they would ride on the back of their family friend’s motorcycles. Flash forward to 2008, the girls were all grown up and their dad, Bruce, asked Nicole if they should buy a couple of bikes. Of course she said yes! That next week they went to the Spokane auto auction and they each bought a 2004 Heritage Softail. His was all custom and chromed out, hers was stock. He was 55 years old, she was 22 years old. Currently Bruce owns and rides a yellow ‘05 Road Glide and Nicole has an eye popping orange ‘12 Street Glide. They have ridden all over the greater Northwest together as a family. Nicole said “Our lives changed since the day we bought our bikes. We became a part of a whole big community and we have made numerous friends over the years.”

Their love of motorcycles and community is what prompted them to put on the first annual “Rockin’ the Red Horse” rally in Ellensburg which was quite successful. 130 bikes rode down the Yakima River Canyon on the run Saturday, and more than 500 riders came out for the swap meet and live music on Sunday.

A fierce wind descended on Ellensburg Saturday, but that did not stop riders from heading out for adventure. The sun was out, the route was well planned, there were prizes to win, and there was music to dance to at the end of the ride.

Bikers started rolling in to register before the 9am opening time. A few wandered into the diner to order breakfast, while others roamed the side lot to check out the swap meet vendors.

Registration was located inside the new onsite Nodding Donkey bar, which had formerly been the gas station office of the original Mobile gas station from more than 70 years ago. The over 21 room was an instant hit with riders. With booth seating, tables, bar seating, and french doors leading to a generous sized deck, there was plenty of room to spread out and review the large route maps on display.

The route was about 110 miles, with stops at 4 locations. Riders could choose their own route and stop order, or follow the suggested route map. The only requirement was to make all four stops and return in time to have your last draw at the Red Horse in time for scoring.

Our first stop was in Kittitas at The Timeout Saloon. The staff was happy to greet riders, and managed to handle two different runs on the same day.

The next stop was Van’s 1885 Bar & Grill in Naches, about 60 miles away along the recommended back roads through the Yakima River canyon and the orchards between Selah and Naches. While taking I-82 would have been faster, most riders chose Hwy 821, the famous Canyon Road that follows the Yakima River for about 25 miles. This road was the first designated scenic byway in Washington State and it remains a popular route. Curves, hills, raw steep cliff faces, wild flowers, deer, big horn sheep, eagles, the river, and more create an ever changing and thrilling ride.

We hopped on our bikes and headed out on Highway 12 past Yakima to the Red Rooster in Selah. The busy freeway and town was a change after the jaunt through the country.

Stop number 4 had us heading back to Ellensburg. My group of riders headed back up Canyon Road and straight into town to check out the Blue Rock Saloon. We paused before going in to get photos of the pistol door handle on their front door.

While we were all out on the road for the day, a few riders had remained at the Red Horse to shop the vendors at the swap meet and listen to the live music that started at noon. Jay and Some Guys started off the music, until Slim Chance took over. Later, The Nortons took the stage and rocked the Red Horse until about 5pm or so. By then, more and more riders had returned from the ride and began to fill up the Nodding Donkey room and the beautiful outdoor beer garden.

What was fun about this motorcycle run was that the card scoring was a game of chance, riders had to throw a dart to determine their card, rather than just drawing a card at random. Some of us are better at darts than others so it was a lot of fun to watch.

The motorcycle run winners were announced before Rusty Cage went on stage. High hand winner Chad Betts took home $350 or at least what was left of that after he paid his bar tab in the Nodding Donkey room. Chad said the ride was “fantabulous,” and he will definitely continue his tradition of partying with friends at the Red Horse Diner.

Julie won $200 for low hand. Randal shared the Saturday 50/50 with the VFW Post 683, taking home $312. Harold Nendrick was the lucky winner of the queen size motorcycle t-shirt quilt. The quilt included a 1988 Sturgis shirt and shirts from Harley dealers from around the US and Canada. The quilt raised $815 to support Nerdy Girls, a local non-profit organization that teaches girls to build and program robots.

The Rusty Cage band kept the music going until late. People were wandering around the diner, in and out of the Nodding Donkey room, and dancing around the bonfire in the beer garden in front of the stage.

Sunday morning the wind had subsided and the sun was out. Temperatures rose to 80 degrees by afternoon. Dwayne from Owens H-D attributed the change in the weather to his decision to attend church earlier in the morning before heading to Ellensburg from Yakima.

Bikes were coming and going all day Sunday. Small groups arrived, people checked out the swap meet, and then went out to the beer garden to listen to the band Power House rock the stage. As bikes rolled out, more bikes rolled in, such as the large group of Indians and Victorys from Tri-Cities.

The Sunday afternoon raffle raised over $475 for Harrystock, a benefit to support rider Harry Nelson. Harry is a member of The Willies, a local band from Cle Elum, and he was in a serious motorcycle accident last fall. The winner of the 50/50, Red Horse owner, Bruce Crossett, generously donated his share back to Harry because that’s just what bikers do.

All in all it was a great weekend in Ellensburg. Everyone enjoyed a fun day of riding with beautiful scenery and live music on both days. We found hidden gems at the swap meet, such as old and new Harley parts, great prices on shirts, patches and patch sewing by Motorcycle Outfitters, and delicious fresh cooked doughnuts.

If you didn’t make it to the Rockin’ the Red Horse motorcycle rally be sure to stop by the Red Horse Diner this summer for a delicious burger or kick back with a cold beer in the Nodding Donkey bar.

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