As a general rule, I don't do poker runs too often. I've been on a few where it was a couple miles between stops and ya stayed at the stop for an hour or so. Now, thats not too bad if the stop had something cold to drink and had a cute barmaid to serve it up to ya. But there's been a few where the stops were out in the middle of nowhere and the grizzled old guy marking your poker hand smiled back behind two yellowed teeth. Nope... generally I don't do poker runs - preferring to keep up a steady pace on the twisties or out on the open road.
But I had heard that there was to be a benefit poker run for the families of military personnel in Durham and Wake County, North Carolina. OK, I'm in for that. The whole thing was being organized by Ron Childs, General Manager of a local car dealership, University Ford North in Durham. The proceeds of this poker run were to go to local military families left behind while the troops are oversears protecting our freedom to throw a leg and go riding out in the woods.
To help draw in a crowd, Ron recruited his riding buddy, Scott Riggs, NASCAR Busch Series Rookie of the Year for 2002. Scott lives a few miles north of here and rides the same roads we'd be riding on his Sundays off during the racing season.
I had a chance to meet Scott a few days earlier at a planning meeting and grabbed some shots of him at the dealership along with some Marine representatives who would be at the event, and the leader of the poker run, Bob Snyder (Pics #01 - 03). Scott, who drives for Nestlé Nesquik Racing, (Pic #04), brought one of the team cars to the dealership the morning of the event, under threatening skies. This first Annual Benefit poker run to benefit miliarty families in this area was looking like it might be a washout, but by ride time, the skies had blued up, the sun came out and it looked like it would be a great ride.
With State Troopers providing blocking in front of the dealership, the 40+ bikes rolled out onto busy Highway 15-501 and on to the first stop on this 100 mile run. Several dozen latecomers joined the ride over the next few hours. Unlike some of the runs I've been on, this group stayed pretty tight through the North Carolina roads, throwing out blockers at busy intersections to help keep the group together. With Bob and Scott leading the run, it resembled a NASCAR event with upwards of 50 bikes hurtling down the backroads at 80mph... errrr, I mean 55 mph.
While only one stop was a designated bar stop, we were lucky enough to be at gas stations and convenience stores for all the stops, so those of us thirsty for a cold one could sit and relax inbetween eye popping haul-ass rides to the next stop. If ya gotta do a poker run, this is my kinda ride. Second only to the Wakulla Waltzes (see archives) I've done in Florida where it was rarely more than a mile between bar stops and there were about 9 stops, some of them repeated as we wandered around the panhandle. (Don't anybody try this at home, we're professionals.)
Being a local boy and this area being big on NASCAR, Scott was surrounded by his buddies and fans at these stops. The barmaids at Munchin' Marvins hauling him out of line trying to draw his cards so they can snap pictures of him tucked in between themselves like starstruck groupies... OK, so they weren't quite that obnoxious about it - thats just me being envious. I tried to convince them I was his crew chief, but they didn't buy it... or didn't care.
I ran across a few really nice paintjobs in the parking lot, and found that several of the bikes on the run were painted by the same guy, Doug Pendergraph, of Tiny's Motorcycles. Doug was along for the ride too. Pic #20 is one of his award-winning creations.
At our last stop, I grabbed Scott away from the fans long enough to snap a picture and talk about his racing season. I'm not a big NASCAR fan but am envious of anyone who's got the balls to do it. Scott seems to be doing real well. Progressing through Late Model Stock cars, the Craftsman Truck series and now in the Busch Grand National Series; Scott had 34 starts, 2 wins, 8 top 5, 13 top 10, 2 poles and finished 10th in end-of season points, winning him the Grand National Rookie of the year honors. He can ride a bike fairly well, too! Hell, anybody who could keep up with Bob, the ride leader today, could say that about himself! Scott's Website is located at http://www.scottriggsracing.com.
Finally, at the end of the ride, we pulled in to the dealership for one last card draw... a pair of Kings was the best I could come up with out of five hands ... but the food alone was worth the entry fee. Some of the best BBQ, boiled potatoes and green beans I've had in a long time, followed by Lemon Coconut Pie. All provided by Fired-Up Catering and the local Coke people. Scott signed a ton of autographs, the Marines were seen forcing the little kids to do pull-ups and promise they'd join no other branch of the service, and the Nestle's Nesquick Ford Taurus was the backdrop of a couple hundred pictures. Then after a little electrical power problems, the Band got to rolling entertaining the crowd of over a hundred bikers, fans and onlookers. I didn't stay for the winner's announcements but I understand some nice prizes were given away at the end of the day.
Hope my couple of bucks went to help out some family nearby. Look for this one again next year. I'll try to remind you a month or so in advance.
Big congratulations to Ron Childs, Bob Snyder, Scott Riggs, and all the riders who showed up to support a good cause.
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