Off The Press
May 11, 2010
By Greg Farrar
These cycling angels are the heavenly type
They’re rebels. They flout the rat race. They’re revolutionaries. They question authority. They’re ornery and feisty. They’re nonconformists.
And every six months, these residents of the Providence Marianwood Nursing Center invite the Eastside Harley Owners Group club for a social hour, a luncheon and a round of motorcycle hell raising.
Apparently, birds of a feather flock together!
Each Harley Day visit, such as the one May 8, begins with an average of 20 Harley-Davidson motorcycle owners blasting into the parking lot with a groundswell of high-decibel noise, shiny sparkling chrome, decorated helmets, abundant beards, bandannas and ponytails, and leather duds emblazoned with skulls, eagles and Harley logos.
But don’t let that scare you. The HOGS include professionals, such as accountants, lawyers and computer software workers.The residents return the greeting wearing bead-and-motorcycle necklaces, big smiles, riding jackets and heartwarming stories of some of their own motorcycling “Easy Rider” days.
The visiting wild ones bike in from mostly Eastside towns, but some arrived from much farther. John Cournoyer comes all the way from Arlington.
“There’s no such thing as too long a ride,” he answered with a grin.
For several club members, the pilgrimage to visit the seniors is a family affair. Greg and Jan Still, of Bellevue, and their son and daughter-in-law Chris and Dodi Still, of Maple Valley, ride in on their bikes not only for regular visits with residents, but to have quality time with each other.
For lunch, everyone gathers in the main hall for good food and conversation.
“This sounds funny, it’s kind of a hackneyed phrase,” said Grant Ringel, of Sammamish, “but we get more out of it than they do. They just love us, and they’re very interesting people.”
Ringel, with Puget Sound Energy, has had his motorcycle “ever since my wife allowed it” and has been attending Harley Day and giving rides since 2002.
Marianwood residents relived past years, when some of them were avid motorcycle riders themselves, and shared stories about riding motorcycles around Europe or careers as Boeing engineers.
Then, it was time for riding laps around the parking lot. Residents, their relatives, staff and bikers sit in picnic chairs lining the sidewalks as 18 of the residents sign up for a ride. Each time a motorcyclist and his or her passenger begins their turn, big cheers and clapping hands add their encouragement.
“Are you flirting with my husband?” jokes a biker’s wife on the sideline as he speeds off with an octogenarian female passenger.
Another resident, Ellen McDaniel, is prepared for her ride, being strapped behind Ringel on the motorcycle seat. She takes a question: Are you going to North Bend and back?
“Don’t I wish!” she replies.
The afternoon was over far too soon for everyone as the party wound up. But when it was all over, the best of good deeds had been done from the heart, between strangers who have become friends, on one of the happiest days of the year for Providence Marianwood residents, the staff and their blessed HOGS.
Greg Farrar: 392-6434, ext. 235, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.