Story & Photos by Randy Twells
January 22, 2012, it was very simple. Just show up. Carlsbad Police and CHP estimated 4,500 motorcycles caused a 7-mile backup on San Diego County freeways; the CHP said this was the biggest traffic jam they’d had in Southern California in the past 6 years. All for a 13- year-old boy who just was hoping that 100 bikes would come by his house in Carlsbad for a visit!
It started back in August 2010 when PJ Byrne, a biker who’s been riding for 47 of his 61 years, a past HOG Chapter Director, had organized the Ronald McDonald House Poker Run. Josiah who suffers from spina-bifida, happened to be across the street in Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego recovering from whooping cough. His Dad Jessie and Mom Elsie were staying at Ronald McD’s house, met PJ, telling him how crazy their son was about Harleys. Could PJ possibly come on his bike to visit Josiah later at home? PJ now had a new mission, visiting Josiah every 3 months or so bringing up to 40 other bikers along too. Last time with 47 bikes, Josiah said, “I love you PJ, next time can you bring 3,000 bikes?!” PJ said, “This isn’t Sturgis! How about 100 bikes?” Josiah was cool with that.
So PJ started getting the word out, working with 101KGB Radio’s Clint August and social and biker media. The biker community responded, and next thing you know, Australian and British bikers got rides going too, to coincide. The Laffing Devils MC were in a production on the Clubs by Discovery Channel who brought their helicopter with air & ground camera & film crews. KUSI and KFMB TV San Diego sent crews out. Bikers staged at many locations; I started from Coffee Corner in Santee with Clint, the Saddletramps & many other clubs, El Cajon H-D riders and GM Eric Diaz who brought his camera guy in a side-car.
Arriving at Rady Children’s Hospital at Ronald McDonald House in clear dry weather, thousands of bikes occupied the entire length of Children’s Way. Kids on upper floors at the hospital windows waved to the bikers below. PJ spoke from the balcony- “Josiah’s family said, if we could bring 100 bikes they would feed us.” (crowd below dissolves into hysterical laughter) “So folks, when you get your hot dog, break it in half and share, OK?” (more mass giggling) Then a moment of silence as the thousands below bowed heads for Josiah and the safety of the riders today.
In Carlsbad 30 miles up north, the freeway exit was backed up a half mile with bikes. More bikes staged at Children’s Hospital for a second wave. Carlsbad Police closed Tamarack and the surface streets to the house which is across from a park- great for receiving all these bikers, for sure. At Josiah’s house, over 40 volunteers/family friends helped serve the donated food and the ECHD donated cases of water. KGB Radio brought a booth and an autograph tarp on their van which everyone signed. Bikes rode past as Josiah watched, part of the time outside under a canopy in his special chair. PJ knew Josiah liked a special tv show about ‘deals’ so he came up with “Josiah’s Deal”, with his 5 favorite models represented nicely- and prizes including an RC H-D Fat Boy, his favorite motorcycle! Clubs and individual bikers gave him things including: Saddletramps t-shirt & hat, Laffing Devils vest, a H-D handmade quilt, CD’s- the DJ played his favorite Beatles music and, “Come Together” which said it all. And remember the story of 5 loaves and 2 fishes? Food for 100 transformed into enough for all, and, someone put a box on the table that filled up with donations including $100 bills and checks too. Cool Cycles Ice Cream gave out free ice cream and turned over $100 in donations to the family.
PJ says Thank You to all, for helping him with this, the ‘pinnacle of my life’. Josiah has a Daddy- Jessie, a Nurse Daddy Gordon since he was 3, and now PJ is his Biker Daddy. And Josiah has 4,500 new biker friends too.
Josiah was overwhelmed- and says a big “Thank You” to all who came out and the wonderful gifts you brought, most importantly BEING there. Each bike and rider made a difference. CAN WE TOP THIS NEXT TIME?