Morongo Sleigh Ride Toy Run

By Jerry Nichols

A toy drive to benefit the JJ Johnson Foundation, this second annual event was held on December 8th, 2018. The Foundation’s objectives are to improve the living conditions of those in need and to provide employment opportunities through education and training. To accomplish this they work with various government and private agencies and organizations, local and beyond, wherever there is a humanitarian need.

The largest groups of riders came in from two different directions to arrive at Morongo Casino Resort & Spa. From the north came riders from Top Rocker Harley-Davidson of Canoga Park. Leading the ride was Frank Kramer from Los Angeles radio station 95.5 KLOS. Since Frank lost his home and his motorcycle in the devastating Woolsey fire in November 2018, Top Rocker H-D supplied him for the ride with a beautiful dark red bagger, the 2019 CVO Street Glide, complete with a sweet stereo system he enjoyed on his ride in. “We keep on riding, it’s what we do. This bike is a dream to ride and it handled perfectly,” said Frank. The first 25 riders who signed up for the run with Top Rocker H-D received a free ticket to the event.

From the south the riders departed from event sponsor Palm Springs Harley-Davidson. Their group was escorted by Mr. Paul Yaffe and his Bagger Nation “Kiss” bike.

Arriving at Morongo Casino Resort & Spa which is located adjacent to the 10 Freeway in Cabazon, CA, it was a perfect 70 degrees. We as riders in southern California are so fortunate to benefit from year round optimal riding conditions, unlike other states where some of my friends don’t have that option. Life is good; go ride!

The snow-dusted mountains made for a majestic view behind the event. In just its second year, helmets off to the host. They constructed an event village capable of housing the Olympics. Riders arrived and were greeted courteously by casino and event staff. In the village there was everything one would need at a bike run, there were vendor tents with jewelry, t-shirts, sweatshirts, flannels and leather goods. There was an ATM for your convenience, also a food booth and bar outside with a nice selection of beer, mixed drinks and refreshing beverages. And for your comfort there were stand up tables to mingle, and Yes! Space heaters, what a great idea and a much utilized amenity.

Meeting Frank Kramer was a privilege; he was a quick wit and very entertaining to be around as I could see by the comedic atmosphere among his Top Rocker H-D rider family. Frank spun the prize wheel and won a Morongo scarf for the ride home, which he quickly donned and paraded around the event area making people smile. Good times.

Inside the huge event tent there was plenty of room for everyone and then some, tables were plentiful and with table cloths, that’s class right there. There were bars on either side of the indoor arena that had delicious pulled pork sandwiches with all the fixins. Palm Springs H-D also had  a booth in the event tent with four bikes on display. Eye candy!

From my vantage point I could see many people were enjoying themselves especially with the photo booth!

The bike competition gave out many awards. Outside near the vendor tents was the motorcycle viewing and judging area. The bikes were all clean and sharp; so many great ones to see. A green Street Glide really stood out and made for a beautiful photo of one of the judges with her long hair gently blowing in the breeze. Life is good, shine it and ride it.

Like most rallies I’ve seen, the Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys spokesmodel ambassadors were sporting their 1-800-4 Bikers and RUSSBROWN.COM gear.

Back in the event tent I was enjoying the tattoo contest; this is always interesting, to see people’s ink and why they have it. Everyone has a great story, don’t we all? Specifically the contest winners, a mother-daughter tattoo which had the mother’s departed son’s ashes in the ink. What a way to honor your loved one, very touching story; the mother was one of the singers from Steel Wool who played the event.

As I was leaving the tattoo contest the MC Jack Dagger, a knife-throwing wise-cracking magician/ entertainer, was recruiting folks to join the Beer Belly competition. I was spotted and cordially invited into the contest. I chose to bust a flex of my well vested masterpiece of a gut and challenged anyone to meet me on stage for a “belly off.” Result, I didn’t win- Whew!

The music for the evening started with Steel Wool who had two beautiful energetic lady vocalists and great guitar sounds featuring a surprisingly talented young boy who was very brave to get up there on the stage in front of a crowd of leathered up bikers and do his thing, well done young man.

The next band, Second Sight, opened up with one of my all-time favorite songs by the Rolling Stones, “Gimme Shelter,” and they nailed it! Their sound is like a southern rock/ classic rock band. Perfect food for my ears.

The third band Gethen Jenkins, a favorite of KLOS 95.5’s Frank Kramer, is a great group of guys with lots of character, sporting some long beards, cowboy hats, and a stand-up bass to accent their rustic honky tonk sound. And what a great warm-up for the headliner Rodney Atkins, but wait- there’s more… between sets we started hearing Kiss music? And a motorcycle fire-up, what is this? The stage filled up with smoke as Paul Yaffe from Bagger Nation rolled in on his phenomenal Kiss tribute bike they built for the band. This bike screamed hard rock and roll, from its smoke-billowing front air deflector and CNC cut 45 record to its microphone grips; the bike also has a lighted gas tank and tail. Technology is really taking off these days; I was truly astonished, it looked like a real “space bike,” not of this earth.

The last band and headliner of the night was Rodney Atkins. I’ve seen country bands before and don’t necessarily listen to that genre often, yet I was truly impressed with this group’s energetic sexy down home American country sound. His hits “Take a Back Road” and “Farmers Daughter” really grabbed the crowd and had them all up and dancing, I guess I shall order some of his music, it had me going too.

Once again Morongo Casino Resort & Spa came through with a high quality fun-filled evening which quenched my riding soul. Go ride, go see and go live.

Morongo Casino thanks all who came out to the Sleigh Ride with toy donations. “We had a total of 295 gifts donated averaging about $15 each, for a total of $4,425!” for this event which benefits the JJ Johnson Foundation. Doing good for others!