Hundreds of bikers roll into Panhandle

August 15, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - In just one year, Steve and Karen Dubbs have put about 6,000 miles on the 2003 Soft Tail Trike they gave each other to commemorate the 10th anniversary of their first date.

So it seemed only natural Saturday for the Chambersburg, Pa., couple to add a few more miles during Motorcycle Mania 2004, which attracted several hundred bikers from all over the country to the fund-raising and fun-raising weekend.

After seeing a flier and hearing about the event from friends, the Dubbs jumped at the chance to ride and socialize with others who share their passion for motorcycles. And they weren't disappointed.


Organizer Jeff Wilkins estimated 1,000 bikers are participating in the second annual event, which continues today at Poor House Farm Park west of Martinsburg.

"We fought politics, Mother Nature and the weather forecasters and we won," said Wilkins, president of American Justice Freedom Riders, a motorcycle club based in Martinsburg.

The politics was getting permission from Martinsburg city officials and arranging for a police escort so they could ride their motorcycles through town Saturday without having to stop at every traffic light.

Mother Nature threw two tropical weather systems at the organizers, which caused Wilkins some concern since the event had been in the works since last fall. But dry weather held through Saturday, and a downgrade of Hurricane Charley to a tropical storm Saturday afternoon meant at least most of the weekend activities wouldn't get wet.

"People listen to weather forecasters and then they stay away," Wilkins said. "That really hurts us."

But every time someone called on his cell phone, Wilkins told them that everything was clear and dry in Martinsburg.

Aside from just riding for the joy of riding, the participants also were supporting several causes with the $5-per-person registration fee, Wilkins said. Beneficiaries include Bethany House, a shelter for homeless women; the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Boys & Girls Club; Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation; and West Virginia State Police Trooper Bobby Elswick, who was shot while in the line of duty in 2002.

Elswick was present Saturday morning for a special ride in his honor.

Proceeds from T-shirts also went to the fund. The "Motorcycle Mania 2004" logo was on the front, while the names of all the event sponsors graced the back of the shirt worn by Beth Whytsell, 10, of Martinsburg.

Susie Cushwa and her husband, Wayne, got involved in the event because their daughter, Crystal Mason, rides a Honda Gold Wing with her husband, Daryl.

"We are bringing up the rear in our truck in case anyone needs help," said Susie Cushwa as she registered riders at Martinsburg Mall, where Saturday's ride began.

"I've been riding for seven years and my husband, he's been riding nearly all his life," Crystal Mason said.

Helen Smith and her husband, John, of Williamsport, were one of the last couples to register before the motorcyclists hit the road Saturday.

"He was riding a motorcycle when we first met and that was 35 years ago," Helen Smith said.

Wilkins said people have thanked him for bringing the event to Martinsburg, so he hopes it will become a regular attraction.

"Our club is about 85 members strong and growing," Wilkins said.

Anyone interested in joining the American Justice Freedom Riders may call 540-869-3152.

If you go

What: Motorcycle Mania 2004

When: Today, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Where: Poor House Farm Park, west of Martinsburg, W.Va.

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