The Abate Swap Meet in Monroe, WA was a blockbuster event. From the people attending to the vendors, a success was in the making from the get go.
By JD Gore and Jody Davison
I checked the weather repeatedly all week and Jody confirmed every dreary report. Rain was in the forecast, and so to better protect our equipment we were driving instead of riding our bikes the 300 miles to Monroe, Washington from our home in Oregon. We had one stop on Saturday in Lacey before we needed to be at the WA Abate Swap Meet held on Sunday, March 24th.
After getting through the Portland traffic our outlook changed about the weekend, as the more we drove north, the more the sun broke out. And half way up into Washington we knew the weathermen had missed it; the sun was beating down as the bikes catching our eyes increased. And with every bike going by, we look knowingly at each other and without a word, knew we should have ridden our bikes.
Our stop in Lacey on Saturday went extremely well and the numbers of bikes there made it even better. It was looking like T-shirt weather and we had only a ninety-minute drive to meet up with Abate’s Scott Robinson and get a run down on the Washington Abate Swap Meet that would start Sunday. We found our hotel, the Fairground Inn, unloaded our gear, and called. Scott said, “I’m just down the road from the Inn. I’ll park out front and follow me in, I’ll show you guys around.” We were excited to say the least, to not only meet Scott but to see the Abate Swap Meet we’ve heard so much about. The Fairground Inn was perfectly located, clean and very convenient, as the Evergreen State Fairgrounds was almost in sight from the Inn.
We quickly found Scott and he guided us around the back of a good size fairground, past tractors and into a lot that still had vendors unloading their goods. There was activity all around. You could feel the vibe. The anticipation for the swap meet to start was contagious. Scott introduced us to his wife, Micki, who was busy working at the vendor counter. Scott then introduced us to Tina and John Lawson who are, “An asset to the success of the Swap Meet, along with others I want you guys to meet.”
As we walked around, some vendors were setting up and others visiting, we could feel a tinge of electricity in the air to get the show going. We followed Scott around and looked over the 46,000 sq ft indoor area that the vendors filled and could see an abundance of apparel, parts and even complete bikes ready for display in the morning. Last year the Abate team had a trial run of using an additional adjacent building to house the increasing number of vendors. It was looking like the two buildings will be at capacity. We made plans to meet Scott in the morning before the swap meet opens. As Jody and I walked out, we ran into a cool young man unloading a 1926 Harley. We asked if he needed any help and he said he had it under control. His name is Paul Neff of Cispus Cycles. He and his buddy Marty of Capitol Speed Shop are going to compete in the 2020 Cannonball run. I was envious to say the least, but this is the type of experiences you have in the biker culture. Badass people around every corner.
8am came quick as we spent several hours Saturday night at a pub that’s a hop, skip and no jump needed from our hotel. At the pub Jody and I met a couple, Randy and Sue, now new friends from Snohomish who were there to attend the Swap Meet. Randy said he comes about every year with his group of brothers and sisters. I shared that according to Scott, this year’s Abate Swap meet is looking to be larger than any in the past. Knowing that, Jody and I were eager to take in the swap meet.
The spring morning came through our room window at the Fairground Inn, as bright as any summer day. At the fairgrounds we circled around back where Scott showed us the day before, and we noticed that the motorcycles in the reserved parking area had overflowed. There was a wide variety of bikes, many of the bikes belong to the Club members selling goods at their booths inside. We then ran into Micki and Tina working the counter where we had last seen them the night before. Tina shares that this is, “About the 35th + swap meet Abate has put on. The 31st at this fairground. And they’ve checked in 128 vendors to this years event. 47 of them are new vendors. That makes it the largest in Abate Swap Meet history.” After visiting with Tina we found Scott; he and his crew were busy as the doors had opened.
Jody and I ran into Jay and Sharon Doan, owners of Iron Horse Apparel. Their booth already had numerous customers and we wanted to visit more, but they had to take care of their fans. It was just the beginning of the day and the crowd was growing fast. Jody pointed out the boots at Iron Horse Apparel and she had to check them out.
I looked over and could see Jeff Carney of CyclPath Motorcycle & Machine Shop. He and his crew were surrounded, helping customers sort through all the bike parts to find just the right part. I asked Jeff for a moment to shoot the bull but he was being pulled in opposing directions from the crowd. The CyclPath guys were wading through the maze of parts they brought, looking for particular items to meet their customers’ needs. Anyway you look at it, Jeff and his crew were in their realm.
Everywhere you looked around the building, you could see a variety of bike parts like nowhere else. There were motorcycle fenders, tanks, bags, lights and engines. Everything from the smallest parts and gadgets, to frames to start your dream bike. The list could go on and on. And those attending knew they could find what they wanted if they kept looking.
The increasing crowd had a positive vibe. We stepped out to see and there were still lines of people to get in. Observing those arriving, their positive energy looked to only make the swap meet more enjoyable. Heading back in, we held the door for a couple with arms full. Maybe they found just the right part to complete a build? Some come more prepared or just experienced, pulling wagons. There were old and young bikers, families and biker clubs. The event was conducted with respect as there were different MC’s with colors showing but no issues ever arose. The respect given at this event and how its conducted speaks volumes to Scott and his team. The Abate Swap Meet is definitely an event anyone or any family can enjoy. John stressed, “The swap meet is neutral territory for these clubs.” John took pride in the fact that everyone can get along. And Tina said, “This is their 8th year in WA Abate. And they enjoy being involved.” John and Tina also enjoy riding their 2013 Street Glide. John has 56 years experience and together its 20 years on two wheels.
I was enjoying the two wheel feel when I see a couple dual sports with extra gear and goods for sale. When I saw those bikes, I felt this is truly a biker swap meet for any and all bikers. I love my chopper but, in the fall, (hunting season) and when it gets wet in Oregon, as it does all the time, Jody and I like to break out our dual sports to take in the roads we normally have to pass on.
With that in mind we went looking for other friends, JoAnn and Bob Gerbing of Gordon’s Heated Clothing. It wasn’t long before we found their booth and checked out their newest heated gloves and jacket liners. One thing for sure and Gordon knew this even though he didn’t ride. Comfortable riders ride safer. We owe Gordon much appreciation for making riding seasons longer and safer.
The day was winding down and so we ran by the Abate booth one more time to see everyone and thank them for their hospitality. We could hear Jimmy George announcing over the intercom that the Spring Opener was another must attend event for WA Abate, June 27-30. In the Abate booth we found the whole team: Koeta Imhof, Lyle Coyle, Jenny Rogers and Travis Herseim along with Scott, Micki, Tina and John. It was the perfect time to congratulate them on a spectacular job on this years WA Abate Swap Meet. “The whole ABATE story is a chance for me to give back to the motorcycle world I love and live,” shared Scott. He and Micki have been riding 25 years two up. Currently they put the miles on a 2016 Ultra Classic, two up.
Scott shared later that he can’t thank those he works with at Abate enough. I can tell the success of the Swap Meet reflects the quality of the people working in Abate of Washington. Scott also said that “Attendance was at 2,200. The largest turn out the Abate has had. I’d like to try to do more but not sure what, yet.” I can’t imagine what more could be done to the Swap meet. A week later I called Scott; he confided that next year’s Swap Meet will be March 22nd. And they are looking to include a bike show. A bike show! Just when I thought the swap meet couldn’t get better, Abate goes and adds a motorcycle show. What the future holds for Abate of Washington seems limitless. And exciting.