BY ROBERT SWEENEY • PHOTOS BY MONIKA SWEENEY
Las Vegas, NV – Many riders were looking forward to the first Las Vegas edition of the March of Dimes “Ride for Babies” with great anticipation. But as the December date for the ride neared, ominous portents began to appear in the local weather report. A storm front was moving in and the forecast was calling for a better than 50% chance of rain on ride day. Not what a biker wants to hear during an already chilly December. Friday’s rainfall had been short of predictions, but storm clouds were still threatening to wash out this first-time event on Saturday morning.
As it happened, the rains never came, but the threat of rain, along with temperatures that didn’t climb above the 40s until late afternoon, kept the turnout to 61 motorcycles, along with an unknown number of folks who came in cars. Despite the low attendance, March of Dimes, with the help of their sponsors, managed to raise over $100,000 from this single event. Not too shabby for any first-time charity poker run!
Registration for the run began at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 8:00 a.m., and Monika and I arrived promptly at 10-something. We took a few minutes to wolf down a couple of breakfast burritos we picked up on the way (Roberto’s Taco Shop makes some awesome breakfast burritos, by the way) and then ambled over to where a couple of riders were doing burnouts, apparently to warm up their tires for the run (at least the tires were warm, we were freezing our press passes off!). Two pastors from Bikers for Christ were blessing bikes and riders before sending them off to the first poker stop. Donuts and coffee were provided to the riders to help stave off the cold.
The run was to end where it began and volunteers were setting up tables and preparing to serve lunch to the returning riders. Outdoor heaters were set up under the awnings to keep everyone free of frostbite, but you had to be pretty close to one to notice any difference in temperature. Still, enthusiasm remained high among the volunteers and March of Dimes staff and everyone seemed to be having a great time.
Lunch was catered by one of the event sponsors, Harley-Davidson Cafe, which is known for their excellent food, and this was no exception. Riders were served delicious BBQ pulled-pork sandwiches and some really excellent chili and beans. If you haven’t been to the Harley-Davidson Cafe down on the Strip, you really should make a point to go on your next trip to Vegas.
Other event sponsors included Farmers’ Insurance, AMA and RideNow Powersports, who provided a Kawasaki Ninja 250 as a raffle prize. All sponsors have already signed-on for next year’s ride, which will be scheduled a few weeks earlier in order to avoid another weather conflict.
Three bands were scheduled to appear: West Coast Blues Conspiracy, Rick Smith & the Black Jack Blues, and John Earl & the Boogey Man Band, and all three braved the cold and impending rain to perform. Way to go, guys!
High poker hand was won by Nick Chapman, while Jason Harris took home the Ninja. A number of other raffle prizes were awarded as well. But maybe the best prize was won by those who raised $1,000 or more for March of Dimes. They got to take a Victory Lap on the Speedway racecourse, plus ride pin, patch, do-rag, key chain and messenger bag. A ride on the track has got to be one of the coolest things I’ve never done.
The weather undoubtedly kept many riders away and that is too bad, they missed a good event. But the ride was still a success and next year’s event should draw a considerable crowd. March of Dimes’ Kansas City ride pulled in over 8,000 riders this year and the MoD people are hoping to see the Las Vegas ride eclipse that in the future. Las Vegas could use a major charity biker event and March of Dimes is certainly a worthy cause. We’re looking forward to watching this one grow.
The March of Dimes is tirelessly working to stamp out birth defects and to provide care for premature and underweight babies. Truly a worthy cause and a great organization. Check out their website for more information on how you can help: www.marchofdimes.com.