Bikers Go Bats For The Blind

The Devils Disciples is  a new old club in Tucson. They’ve been around forever but membership has sometimes fluctuated down to the last man standing. They are currently fleshed out with lots of new blood and fresh meat but it’s not quite as grisly as it sounds. They are rolling strong and carrying on the new old tradition of having fun while helping others. On March second, in cahoots with well known independent biker about town Chopper, the Southern Arizona Association for the Visually Impaired and numerous local business sponsors, all pitched in for their first annual Born to be Blind Beeper Ball Fundraiser ( and hellraiser afterparty ).

According to Amy Murrillo, Head Blind Babe in Charge of the local SAAVI office, their mission is to assist the visually impaired to achieve independence, economic self sufficiency, and dignity. Funny, sounds a lot like what us 20 – 20 types want for ourselves also. Including the part about wearing cool shades. Proceeds of this years event will assist in sending local representatives to to the annual convention of the National Association for the Blind, to be held this year in Orlando, FL. Here, those who may still be learning get to interact with others who are walking the walk, succeeding despite their disability. Ever heard of beeper ball? Me neither, till now. Back about 1964 a guy named Charlie Fairbanks thought it might be fun for blind people to play baseball with a ball and bases that emit a beeping sound and a few modified rules. Turns out he was right in a big way and it caught on so well that a league was formed and teams compete to advance to the MBBA World Series. For this exhibition game the Southwest Slammers took on “The Bikers” or anyone with guts enough to put on a blindfold and play by their rules for a change. With the pros relaxed and patient, and possibly slightly amused, the rookies got to see what it’s like to be sightless – if that makes any sense. But the challengers came to play, swinging for the fences every time and mostly missing or running full steam the wrong way when they did manage to connect, confused by the multiple beeps. On defense they made a lot of spectacular diving stops. Actually, they all dove every time the opposing team got a hit with no real idea if any of those line drives were headed their way. What a hoot! Needless to say, though I will anyway, those ringers beat the rookies blind. Now who was that joker who left their pager on?

As is customary with weekend athletes, after a hard played game and a handshake for the winner, it was time to head for the bar to celebrate victory and console defeat, which are equal in terms of thirst. But this time it was done up biker style with the venerable Bashful Bandit welcoming all with vendors in the parking lot and cold beer everywhere. A blind lady took a crash course in bartending and was soon slinging suds like an old pro.The blind learn fast because they have to. A new career path, perhaps? Live music was laid down by Deacon and his Ever Evolving Jam Band. It’s like a floating crap game where the places and players may change but they always keep the dice ( rockin’ and ) rolling. There were cute girls getting wet in the dunk tank, another circulating with a tray of jello shots, some beer girls, and a few more looking good for no special reason. One big hearted little guy took a plunge in the dunk tank himself, just to make it fair. I do wonder about the blind gentleman trying to give away strings of Mardi Gras beads. How would he know if it’s working? Can I tell the joke about the bumps around a woman’s nipple being braille for “Kiss Me”, or would that be going too far?

There was a young man at the Bandit that afternoon I’d like to tell you about. Rick Sankey was indeed born to be blind, being sightless from birth. He is a graduate of the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind in Tucson, which has long been supported by the Old Peublo Riders, so it all fits together like pieces of some cosmic puzzle, sort of . Rick has been overcoming obstacles from day one in his ongoing effort to”achieve all that it’s possible to achieve”. But a recent experience presented him with a new challenge. While in Michagan to celebrate his twenty first birthday his uncle arranged for him to ride on a Harley with a friend of the family. Like the rest of us, he was hooked and had to have more. But how? He was sharing these thoughts with a new friend at the party. Fortunately he was chatting with V-Rod Christy (see the June 07 issue of QT if you can find one) who knew what to do and how to get it done. Before the music faded and the last dolly had been dunked all the arrangements were made, and so it was that she and Mike Gelertner met Rick at his apartment complex a few days later. Mike is a well seasoned rider and  all around good guy who eagerly volunteered the back seat of his 05 Road King Classic, the Iron Eagle. His wife Shelley was willing to give it up for one afternoon. No wait, I mean she was willing to share her man for an evening. No, that doesn’t sound right either. Well never mind, Shelley was cool with the idea so after a few loop de loops around the parking lot for practice they hit the open road in an inspirational display of True Biker Spirit. Right on, Rick – welcome to our world! Now you know why dogs like to hang their head out of car windows. That goes for guide dogs ,too Others have already offered more rides so this is just the beginning for one happy blind biker. Thanks to all the clubs, individuals,and businesses involved for their generosity and determination to make it a great day, no matter what – and for reminding me why I love motorcycles and the people who ride them.