Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The patriotic pride of Harley riders August 16, 2012

Bikers and others gather for a post hospice ride party at Faribault Harley-Davidson.

LONG GONE, at least in my mind, is the image of Harley riders as rough outlaw types roaring along our roadways, storming into towns, raising hell.

When they travel in a pack now, it’s usually for a purpose, like last Saturday’s fifth annual ride to benefit the Faribault Area Hospice.

While my husband and I missed the ride (he doesn’t have a Harley anymore, his 1977 Sportster being totaled more than a decade ago by a teen who ran a stop sign, plowed into the bike and sent Randy to the hospital), that didn’t keep us from checking out the post ride activities and bikes at Faribault Harley-Davidson.

I’ll be the first to admit that attending a biking event isn’t exactly on the top of my to-do list. But sometimes wives go along for the ride, just like husbands accompany their wives to artsy happenings that they’d probably rather skip.

As always, I carried my camera with hopes that maybe, just maybe, I’d find something worth photographing beyond the rows of bikes I knew Randy would be eying.

The Harley dress code: black leather.

Well, it wasn’t the masses of Harleys which caught my attention, but the details on individual bikes. I hope I didn’t make any of the Harley riders, who can appear intimidating in their black leather, nervous. I threaded my way among the parked bikes, bending, crouching, occasionally setting my camera onto the freshly seal-coated asphalt as I snapped photos.

The unique skull kickstand. Any significance to this skull, readers?

And as I wandered, a picture began to develop of the men and women who ride Harleys, or at least those in attendance at The Ride for Hospice party in Faribault. Except for the skulls on one bike and the boney foot kickstand on another, I found nothing particularly unusual.

The flag on the left honors SPC Mathew Kahler, killed in Afghanistan in 2008.

Rather, I discovered a common theme of patriotism among bikers who have served their country and/or want to honor those serving. It was heart-warming and uplifting to see such support.

One of two blessing stickers I noticed on bikes.

Equally pleasing were stickers I spotted on two bikes indicating they had been blessed. I expect blessings were flowing all around on Saturday as these bikers opened their wallets and their hearts to help hospice, an organization which, at some point, touches nearly all of our lives.

Another patriotically adorned bike and a Vietnam veteran’s jacket along with Ernie from Sesame Street.

Proud to be an American and driving an American made Harley-Davidson.

Patriotic patches seem a popular adornment on Harley attire.

These boots, sitting next to a bike, reminded me of the phrase “boots on the ground” when soldiers hit the ground running.

The yellow flag represents the Minnesota Patriot Guard.

Patriotism displayed, right down to the license plate on this bike.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling