By Tracy Smiles. Photos by Tracy Smiles & Jeff Thomas
Rarely do I get many opportunities to get out of the local area that I live in and be a part of events that are a little further away. So, when I was invited last fall to ride out to Southern California in December to attend a particular toy run, I was all over that! I made vacation plans, rescheduled some business meetings, and took care of general basics on the home front to ensure that when I left for a few days, I would be able to do so worry-free.
I was excited on a few different levels to be able to go on this weekend journey. I had never been to that part of California before, with the exception of just driving through, many years ago. I have wanted for a very long time to ride some of the beautiful destinations that I’ve only seen in pictures and heard stories about from friends.
I was also going to be able to catch a concert of a performer that is one whom I’ve loved and listened to for at least twenty years. Then the topper of this weekend was this toy run that was the main event which got me out there to begin with.
I was very fortunate to meet a friend almost two years ago at a major event in the Phoenix area. Throughout the course of almost the past year, that friendship has had an opportunity to flourish. A few road trips to destinations that were originally just bucket list items were taken by us, and I was finally, FINALLY starting to really live the life I have always wanted to live. On the road, on my motorcycle, with a friend that I could call a true friend, whose passion for such destinations was just as enflamed as mine.
I left on my journey on a Thursday morning, and rode towards San Diego, where I would be meeting up with Jeff Thomas for the weekend. After going to our concert that evening and a good night’s sleep, we arose the following morning and headed to Sunset Cliffs to snap off a couple of pictures. Now the ocean is one of those very mystical, magical places for me. My soul and my heart become immediately soothed when I get sight of the ocean, can hear the waves, feel the sea splash, and smell the salty air. I knew we wouldn’t be there long, so I did the best I could to soak up all I could and bottle it away in the core of my soul. Its mystical magic wonderment worked without fail, as I felt completely at peace and probably had a smile on my face for the rest of the day, even as I was splitting lanes in heavy traffic (which is something I am inexperienced at… THAT is another story in and of itself).
Making our way north towards the Greater Los Angeles area, which would be home base for the rest of this adventure, I was anxious in my thoughts as to what the rest of the weekend would bring. That Saturday Jeff took me to “his” Harley dealership, Victorville Harley-Davidson. This charming little dealership has a very hometown feel to it. The “Cheers” of Harley dealerships, so to speak. We parked our bikes alongside the signature orange wall and made our way inside where everyone knew his name. He was stopped and said Hello to, at least a dozen times, and that was just by the staff. Joe Pedersen, the GM, warmly welcomed me into the dealership and made sure I was well taken care of. Sarah Fischer assisted me in checking out the leather gear where I tried on a beautiful grey leather jacket. Everyone I met, Lauren Rodriguez, Jason Ouellette, Sheryl Gutierrez, and everyone else, really made me feel like “part of the family.” I definitely will be back, and maybe I’ll even buy that jacket next time.
Afterwards, we took the most scenic, gorgeous ride up through the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains towards Silverwood Lake and Big Bear. The twisties and hairpin turns got my heart beating at a happy pace as we glided through the pines and blue skies with the crisp December air nipping on my face. I thought I had actually died and gone to heaven. We stopped off at an overlook that was just miles and miles of canyons and natural beauty unlike any other that I’d seen before. It truly was a treat and something else that I was able to tuck away into the memory cache of my life.
The next day though, is the day I had been waiting for. The ultimate reason I was out there. We got on the road early and headed towards the meetup spot. The event that I’ve been leading up to was the 4th Annual Boozefighters 101 MC Toy Run. The Boozefighters actually started out doing this event as a part of another toy run a few years back. Actor Robert Patrick (from CBS television show “Scorpion” and also of “Terminator 2” fame) is a part of the BMC 101 crew.
After some conversations with his priest from the Episcopal Church, St. Thomas the Apostle in Hollywood, he decided he wanted to branch off and do something that would be able to reach out a little more, touch a few more lives. So he took the ideas that were formulated between him and his priest back to the club brothers and they ended up creating their own toy run, which would provide children of the Hillsides Residential Treatment Services Children’s Center in Pasadena with toys they might otherwise not receive.
We met up at the Boozefighters Clubhouse in Santa Clarita, in the high desert about 35 miles north of Los Angeles. It was another bitterly cold and windy morning. The bright sun and blue skies were deceiving just a bit as to the true element of the moment. When we got there, Jeff introduced me to the president of the club, and then shortly after to Robert Patrick. They made their way inside the clubhouse, and Jeff and I were outside with probably about 150 other riders who were there for the event. People were visiting, swapping stories, showing off the toys brought and discussing who had the better toy. It was awesome!!
Then the club president came back outside and walked right up to Jeff and I and said “You two, come with me!” Holy crap! I thought I had done something wrong and was in trouble!! He took us inside the clubhouse where there was a smoky haze throughout. There were less than a dozen people in there, in various spots throughout, talking and carrying on conversations. Robert Patrick was leaning against a post in the middle of the room, smoking on a cigar, and just kind of watching us as we walked in.
It was a rather surreal moment in time. Gamer (the club President) looked at us and said, “We just wanted to bring you inside, get you out of the elements for a few minutes. There’s Robert Patrick right there, if you’d like to ask him a few questions, take this moment to interview him.” A little chuckle could be heard from someone behind me. I felt like, “Ok girl, here’s your chance… no pressure here!”
I started asking him a couple questions, and then I noticed that every single conversation in the clubhouse had ceased, and everyone was listening to this conversation that Robert, Gamer, and I were having. Again, I kept myself composed and just kept firing questions off.
I asked about the toy run, and what brought them to want to do it, and someone responded (and it may have been Gamer) “We’re all just big kids inside, who just want to give toys to the littler kids who don’t have any.” Of course that was met with a round of laughter too. These people were some of the most genuine, kind, and sincere people I have had the opportunity to talk with.
Then it was time for the club to start getting some safety briefings and route information disseminated out to the rest of the clubs and people who were waiting outside to ride! I gathered my cameras and headed out to my bike to pack up and get staged to roll. We rode the distance in pack formation from the clubhouse to the Hillsides Children’s Home in Pasadena. I was very impressed at how well everyone was able to maneuver through freeway traffic and still stay together the whole distance.
Once we got to the center and got parked, I walked up to the main office area where Robert was. There were about four truckloads of toys that were being unloaded by all the bikers. A lot of the toys had been donated by the cast of “Scorpion,” where Robert plays Homeland Security Agent Cabe Callo. Robert and his wife Barbara also had a lot of fun shopping for quite a few of the toys as well beforehand. They ended up filling about four carts full of toys at the local toy store to bring for the run. In addition, all the other bikers each showed up with at least one toy (many with more than that), and there ended up being enough toys to completely overflow the front waiting area of their main office.
There were children that were outside talking to and visiting with us as well. Their eyes were huge as saucers as the toys were unloaded and carried inside! One young girl was heard to say “I want that doll over there!” And behind that girl was a person taking note of her wish. Some of the kids were helped to sit on a few of the bikes and were also given the opportunity to get their pictures taken with Robert as well. The Boozefighters even showed up with their very own Santa Claus, decked out in a Boozefighter green Santa suit! This event is one of the major highlight of the year for many of these kids! (the big kids AND the little kids!!)
This was an extremely heart-warming event, and one that I would ride to every year. I love road trips, and 350 miles really isn’t that far to ride at all. Especially when the reward is to see the overflow of love and happiness pour out of everyone that was there. It was over abundant in both the adults and the kids!
We went for lunch with Robert and a few of my other new friends, then made our way back to the high desert, where I spent the last night of my California weekend, relishing in the memories of everything that I got to experience, and everyone I got to meet.
I can’t thank Jeff enough for the invitation to be a part of something so special and meaningful, and I look forward to many more years of being a part of this toy run with him. The weekend was TOP notch, and showed me love on a few new levels.