Motorcyclists gathered on Saturday June 25 for what they hope will be the first of an annual motorcycle safety awareness event. The 500 for Life rally started in Orange at the community church and ended at the Cowboy Harley-Davidson dealership in Beaumont.
Cowboy Harley-Davidson co-sponsored the event with Columbanus Motor Sports of Orange. Keli Borel of Columbanus Motor Sports said 500 for Life emphasizes motorcycle safety. “Motorcycle riders are one big happy family, and we’re part of that family on the orange side. We’re very committed to motorcycle safety. We tell our customers about it, we tell everyone who visits, and we want to help to raise awareness that there are bikers on the road and everyone has to look twice and see that biker,” Borel explained.
The local chapter of the Harley Owners Group or HOG in the Golden Triangle helped promote 500 for Life. Van Jordan, Chapter Manager, Tony Nunez, Assistant Chapter Manager, and other members like JW Dalton of Top Deck worked to organize the rally and get as many motorcyclists as possible to participate in this first event.
Spreading the word to their fellow event runners was a major goal for the organizers. “We had to put it on social media, let everyone know and use word of mouth starting with the Harley store, through Columbanus and at Dalton to bring everything and everyone here. We are grateful to have enough people here to show support for motorcycle safety,” Nunez commented.
Every 500 for Life attendee registered and signed a waiver with the organizers on Saturday morning. They were given wristbands to wear and raffle tickets which were later used at the end of the rally at Cowboy Harley-Davidson to give out prizes to the lucky recipients.
Henry Gaus bought his first motorcycle in 1979 shortly after getting his first job. Gaus kept an unofficial count of the runners when they registered on Saturday and thought there were at least 250 registered when registering at Orange. “We’re aiming for five hundred this year. At this point in the game we’re almost halfway there, so we probably won’t get to five hundred this year, but it will happen in the years to come,” Gauss replied.
The term family has been used by many 500 for Life participants to describe the relationship between other riders. Samantha Jordan is Van Jordan’s wife and a new motorcycle rider. Samantha shared: “It’s about family, friends and everyone coming together as one who all loves motorcycles. I just love hanging out with everyone and hanging out with my husband and everyone.”
Marty Boddie is a pastor at a few churches in the Beaumont area and gave the group a blessing before leaving the community church parking lot and heading to Beaumont. Boddie also mentioned the term family in reference to how they feel when one of them is hurt. “Our Southeast Texas biker community is a family, so when one of us gets hurt, we all get hurt. Unfortunately, we’ve had way too many motorcyclists killed in the last two or three months, we so we’re trying to raise awareness about motorcycle safety, and of course our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones,” Boddie shared.
Law enforcement in the Golden Triangle cooperated with the 500 for Life. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office had vehicles to help escort the motorcade from the church and through the county. Pinehurst, Vidor and Rose City also provided escorts along the way. The Beaumont Police Department Motorcycle Division led the rally as the bikers drove off.
Motorcyclists came from other communities in Louisiana and Texas to participate in the rally on Saturday. Many motorcyclists, however, are members of the locally based Cowboy HOG Chapter 4974.
Chapter 4974 received special recognition from the Harley-Davidson Company located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to be part of the company’s 120th anniversary in July 2023. “Of the seven hundred clubs in the United States, we were chosen to be the number one club to go there. We’re excited, we want to bring the love, but it’s going to take a long time to get there, so we’ll start preparing now for next year,” Jordan said.
As many Chapter 4974 members as possible will participate in the Harley-Davidson anniversary celebration. Jordan said: “We’re going to ride the Harley-Davidsons to Milwaukee and back. It’s going to be a great ride, we’re looking forward to it, we’ve got a year to plan, a year to come together to ride there- high, but it’s an honor to be a special guest of Bill Davidson and Harley-Davidson.”
Credit for Cowboy HOG Chapter 4974 so honored by Harley-Davidson goes to the hard work of Van Jordan, Tony Nunez and Chapter Treasurer Sandra Womack according to JW Dalton. “It’s a big statement, of all clubs, to be the first guest at Bill Davidson’s request is absolutely over the top,” Dalton said.
Plans are underway to prepare for the long drive to the big event and back. “We just have to secure the hotels and the route and everything because we’re planning on cycling to Milwaukee and taking them home. We have to plan the trip,” Dalton recalled. “It’s not a short trip, it’s a good trip, a good race, a good race. I know we have a lot of enthusiasm right now for it, but we’ll just have to wait and see, everyone world outside of the HOG chapter, HOG members are invited and we want to make sure they participate.”
Next year will be twelve months of preparation for Cowboy HOG Chapter 4974 to prepare for the second 500 for Life probably again in June 2023 and the big anniversary celebration with Harley-Davidson. The anniversary celebration will take place July 13-16, 2023 in Milwaukee.