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CHAPTER ARTICLE
submitted by Fritz & Johnette Beter
Former Senior Chapter Directors LA-K

GOLD WING ROAD RIDERS
THE FUN & FUNDRAISING OF THE GOLD WING RIDERS / BY LEE HORVITZ

"Friendship, Fun, Safety, and Knowledge": that's the motto of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association. This international organization of Honda touring motorcycle riders includes Chapters throughout the United States, including Louisiana-among them, LA-K, in and around New Orleans.

The state Chapters were named alphabetically, but it seems possible that fate had a hand in New Orleans's coming up "K." What could that letter stand for? Kickball? No. Knockwurst? Probably not. How about Krewe?

Whether the marriage of motorcycles and Mardi Gras was ordained or not, when Members Mark Franko, Mike Sallinger, and others were brainstorming about how to fund their Chapter in the mid-1990s, give it a unique identity and, of course, have fun and more fun, the idea of riding in Mardi Gras parades was a welcome bolt from the blue. LA-K contacted the Krewe of Choctaw, and in year 1996, eight Gold Wing bikes rolled in the parade.

Impressed by the crowd-pleasing display, Fritz and Johnette Beter, pulling their model 1955 Chevy, lead the Chapter. Gold Wings and other bikes are decorated and lit like mini- floats and equipped with killer sound systems. Girard Mouton, the leaders of three other krewes had laid business cards on these groundbreaking riders by night's end. In only a few years, 65 bikes rode in Tucks. Within a few years more, riders rolled with 15 Carnival krewes.

You would see a phalanx-two lead bikes, the trailer with the Chapter banner and United Way flag, a trike (Gold Wing with two rear wheels), two bikes, a trike, two bikes, a trike, and so on-of rumbling road riders in Tucks, Druids, Nemesis, Pontchartrain, Carrollton, Centurions, and Corps de Napoleon this year. Fritz and Johnette Beter are Senior Chapter Directors of this group of more than 130 Members. Anywhere from 20 to 35 of them ride, depending on the parade. Fritz, who might have played linebacker in college, explains that some riders decline the invitation to ride because of the physical challenge. "Parades average about three hours, and you go only about three mph. Gold Wings weigh between 800 and 1,100 pounds. That's a lot to wrestle."

The motorcycles assume a pride of place near the front of the parade, but the reason has more to do with the rear: horses, you know. The motorcycles stop a lot during a parade, and no one wants to step in it. Even though the bikes are going at a crawl, the lead riders have an important safety function by pointing out obstructions in the road.

The effort pays off for those who ride and throw. A beaming Johnette exclaims, "It's like you're a celebrity. "

"You get a different perspective," Fritz says. "Riding on floats is exciting, but you're above everybody. Here, you're up close." Their faces light up even more as they agree that their favorite part of the ride is throwing beads, candy, and stuffed animals to the many children on the route eager for a prize. Once in a while, one or two lucky kids get hoisted onto a Gold Wing and allowed to drive-or at least to pretend.

True to the primary value of safety for all in the GWRRA, the children play rider only when the bikes are stopped. The kids' excitement is understandable. LA-K rides these marvels of motoring art and engineering in style. For Carnival, Members let it all hang out everywhere on the cycle, decorating their bikes and trailers with crepe paper, beads, stuffed animals, mannequins, and more in elaborate designs such as MardiGras masks. The year the Saints won the Super Bowl, Member Marielou Ray crafted a coffin with an Indianapolis Colts player resting in it and mounted it on her trailer.

The most enthusiastic riders light their bikes like Christmas trees. Take the Beters' bike, lovingly dubbed "A Wing and a Prayer" in flowing script on the back. The red, circulating "Ring of Fire" LED lights bring the front fender to life. Lights under the handlebars and side vents glow a radiant blue. The rear of the bike features multiple red and yellow brake and turn-signal lights. Little space is left untouched; lights even frame the license plates on both the motorcycle and the model 1955 Chevy to which the Beters converted the trailer pulled behind their cycle.

Of course the bikes come with killer sound systems. The fun-friendly Fritz and Johnette go for Mardi Gras music and Top 40. "We like something everyone can relate to," they explain. Because krewes pay the Gold Wingers to roll in their parades, riding in Carnival is LA-K's chief fundraiser. Nothing against paper drives and bake sales, but this parade approach really puts the fun in fundraising. Much of what they bring in promptly goes out to charity. Lucky recipients include the Second Harvest Food Bank-LA-K set a record for how many food boxes they packed in a day-and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.

True to both the spirit of southern Louisiana and the Gold Wing motto, Members also ride for free in a Kenner neighborhood parade, Driftwood. As the riders do before every parade, they work through their T-CLOCS (tires, controls, lights, oil, chassis, and side stand) 47-point safety checklist. Once all the vital organs are accounted for, there's nothing left to do but saddle up, fire her up, hit the lights, guide her out, crank the tunes, and roll. Road ride on!

Next year to ride in Mardi Gras parades with Chapter LA-K for FREE, get in touch with us through our website www.chapterlak.net, or email us at lakmail@chapterlak.net. Laissez les bons temps rouler!!!!! (Let the good times roll)

Chapter K of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association boasts over 130 Members.

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