by Mitchell Kirk Staff reporter
---- — Elaine Favors, 5, and Aubrey Vinson, 8, sat on their training-wheel-clad mini motorcycles, their eager eyes staring through their helmets at Jeff Lowe as he gave them pointers on how to head through the small course laid out before them.
Not far from where their engines revved, other kids their age got their faces painted and arms inked up with temporary tattoos. The smell of barbecue wafted throughout the tents housing sales for baked goods and jewelry and a silent auction.
Large logs were piled for a bonfire in the center of the clearing near the Old Ind. 25/U.S. 35 bypass outside Logansport Saturday afternoon. Beyond them stood about 10 tents of campers who came out for the weekend-long event hosted by the local chapter of American Bikers Aimed Toward Education, or ABATE.
Lowe, a 15-year member of the motorcyclist advocacy organization, rejects what he calls a stigma of bikers with tough, rowdy personas and said ABATE is more about education, charity and kid-friendly, family-oriented events.
“We’re about motorcycle safety, motorcycle rights — the fun part of it,” Lowe said, going on to describe the organization as a family.
While many of his ABATE family members have the tattoos and long hair some might associate with the biker stigma he spoke of, he said they get together to share in their passion for motorcycles and trade stories of their children and grandchildren.
Lynn Brown is co-representative of ABATE in Cass County along with Julia Manus. Brown said the nationwide organization offers safety courses and engages in philanthropic pursuits. The organization’s state charity is the Indiana Burn Camp, she continued, while the nine-county regional group’s charity is the YWCA Cancer Program, which she said they typically raise $2,000 to $5,000 a year for.
As Harley, her aptly named chihuahua/rat terrier mix, basked in the sun, Brown said ABATE has held events locally in the past, but this weekend marked the first overnight one in the area.
Earlier in the afternoon, about 19 motorcyclists took off on a 100-mile rally ride through Pike Creek Falls, Onward, Mississinewa, Peru, Akron and Rochester before heading back to Logansport.
Chuc Hunter, an ABATE member from Lafayette and former region director, spent part of the afternoon setting up events for the motorcycle rodeo. Brown joked Hunter’s first name doesn’t include a K for a reason.
“He’s got to be different, because he is different,” she said with a laugh.
Hunter explained that later on in the afternoon, older motorcyclists would participate in events like the slow ride, in which the champion crosses the finish line last. Then there would be a game called Roadkill, in which riders would drive through a course while a passenger scooped up stuffed animals with a net.
In the Weenie Bite, a driver cruises under a hot dog hanging in the air while their passenger attempts to reach up and nab a bite. Contestants would also compete in a game called Flaming Balls of Death, which Hunter explained entailed a driver heading through a course while their passenger picked up balls and placed them into a bucket. He joked because of insurance reasons, the game would feature “no flames and very little death.”
“We are a big family,” Brown said, going on to describe the members of other chapters throughout Indiana she sees at ABATE events across the state as extended cousins.
It was a theme repeated throughout the day.
“It’s about fun, family and friendship,” Lowe said, getting ready to take another group of kids through the mini course. “That’s the way it should be.”
Reach Mitchell Kirk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5130