Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From southern Minnesota: Hardy Harley biker November 30, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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WITH TEMPERATURES IN THE LOW 50s here in southern Minnesota on Saturday, the unseasonably warm weather presented another opportunity for some bikers to hit the road before winter settles in for good.

This die-hard Harley rider passed us while we traveled northbound along Interstate 35 in Owatonna early Saturday afternoon.

The biker lowered his left hand here, presumably to warm his hand.

He looked cold to me with his head hunched into his leather-clad shoulders while gripping the handlebars of his windshield-less bike. With his gloved hands in that high position, no blood flowed warmth to his fingers.

Exiting Interstate 35 in Owatonna.

Randy guessed the windchill on that bike to be in the mid-20s based on the air temp and highway speed of 70 mph. Brrr. Now that’s cold, even for a hardy Minnesota Harley rider.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Note: I took these photos while a passenger in our vehicle.


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


In Faribault, bikers and vets honor our Armed Forces May 20, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:27 PM
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Veterans and bikers commemorate Armed Forces Day at the Rice County Veterans Memorial in Faribault.

ON MAY 20, 1950, our country celebrated the first Armed Forces Day in a big way with parades in Washington, D.C., New York and Berlin and with air shows, open houses and receptions.

Sixty-two years later, in my community of Faribault, veterans and a group of Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders gathered Saturday, on Armed Forces Day, to honor those who have served or are serving in the military.

The Color Guard stands ready as the bikers arrive.

I am almost ashamed to admit this—especially as the daughter of a Korean War veteran—but I was unaware of an annual Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday in May or of Armed Forces Week, which ends today.

That was until yesterday, when I spoke with several veterans as we waited for the bikers to arrive at the Rice County Veterans Memorial at the county courthouse.

Bikers participating in the Faribault Harley-Davidson Harley’s Heroes raised $2,800 on Saturday for the Disabled American Veterans. In 2011, the Faribault dealership raised about $2,200 and earned status on the Harley’s Heroes Honor Roll as one of the top six fundraising dealers in the country. Thirty percent of Harley customers are active or retired military vets, according to the H-D website.

Around 4 p.m. the bikers, who were participating in the annual Harley’s Heroes nation-wide event to raise monies for the non-profit Disabled American Veterans, rumbled across Fourth Street, circled the courthouse and pulled into the west parking lot, American flags waving from the backs of their Harleys.

The bikers and the vets, my husband and I, and a photographer paid our respects in a short ceremony that included a gun salute, playing of the taps and a brief explanation of the vets memorial.

I am almost ashamed to tell you this, but no one else in my community paused or pulled off the street or took a break from their work or activities or fun to commemorate Armed Forces Day by attending this short ceremony.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders were among those in attendance.

Said General Omar N. Bradley, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on that first Armed Forces Day celebration in 1950:

The heritage of freedom must be guarded as carefully in peace as it was in war.

We would all do well to remember that, especially each year on the third Saturday of May.

I spotted this bumper sticker on the vehicle of a Vietnam veteran who had come to the ceremony.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling