Bikers 'bring a party'

August 24, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Dalton Riggs of Warfordsburg, Pa., met Jeff Wilkins at a motorcycle ride from Pennsylvania to West Virginia a couple of years ago.

Besides motorcycles, they had law enforcement in common. Riggs' father was a police officer in Arkansas. Wilkins, a Berkeley County bailiff, used to be a police officer with the Frederick County (Va.) Sheriff's Department.

So, when Riggs heard about Saturday's Martinsburg Bike Night, he got on his Dynawide Glide and rode over, along with some friends.


About 2,500 bikers from West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania had the same idea, according to a rough estimate by Wilkins, who organized the event and hopes it will be held every year.

Parked motorcycles - mostly Harley-Davidsons, but also assorted Hondas, Kawasakis, Yamahas and BMWs - packed nearly every foot of Martinsburg's downtown curbs.

Gleaming motorcycles lined King Street, from Maple Street north and from the square to City Hall.

The evening started with a fun ride that wound along Tuscarora Pike, Nollville Road, W.Va. 45 and Back Creek Road, up to W.Va. 9, and back into Martinsburg. It took about an hour.

Kenneth Lemaster, the chief deputy with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, said the parade line was four or five miles long.

At 7:25 p.m., Riggs, standing on a King Street sidewalk, looked up to see Wilkins on his Harley turning the corner from Queen Street, signifying the end of the tour.

Wilkins might have been a startling sight for those used to seeing the working man who wears a tie, dark blazer and no-nonsense expression each weekday in the courthouse.

Saturday, Wilkins wore jeans and an untucked, sleeveless white shirt under a black leather vest bearing the Blue Knights logo on the front and back. Wraparound sunglasses masked his eyes. Wilkins, the president of the local chapter of the Blue Knights, a motorcycle group made up people in law enforcement, raised his arms in triumph as cameras flashed.

Berkeley County Circuit Judge David Sanders - often seen during the day in a black robe, but Saturday wearing shorts and sandals - snapped a shot of Wilkins in front of his bike.

"Hey, did we bring a party to Martinsburg or did we bring a party to Martinsburg?" Wilkins called out.

The ride was a preamble to a motorcycle street festival, including vendors, food stands and beer. A stage was set up off the square for live music.

'Bikers Welcome'

Stores stayed open to accommodate the crowd. The Spring House Restaurant had a sign in the window that said, "Bikers Welcome."

Robert Andrew Evans of Bunker Hill, W.Va., was stopped by numerous people to pose for pictures. It was probably the deer antlers attached, with great care, to his helmet.

Evans, a Martinsburg native, said he didn't like seeing beer sold for $4, but he loved the ride. He praised the local police agencies for keeping everything in order.

"The police did a great job. They need to be complimented," he said.

It didn't matter how many people a biker knew coming into the tour, said Evans, who rode a Triumph.

"Oh, you're brothers. There ain't no two ways about it," he said.

Terry Hewett of Martinsburg had a motorcycle with ties to the police. His Harley-Davidson 1961 Panhead, which was parked near the Berkeley County Courthouse, was the last motorcycle used by the Martinsburg Police Department, he said.

He said he learned that the police department traded it in at a Honda dealership, which sold it to a man who then sold it to Hewett about 10 years ago.

"It was really rough," Hewett said. "I had to tear it down to the frame and start from there."

Hewett said former Berkeley County Sheriff Preston Gooden rode the motorcycle when he was a young officer.

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