by Jackie Suthers
In the Beginning
by Jackie Suthers
Everything started in October 2000. By everything, I mean that Ted and I were unhappy with the progress being made by motorcycle groups in Nevada (see the bit about ABATE of Nevada in 2000). We wondered why we could not do what they were doing - poker runs, debates and the like, but do it in an effort to change the legislation regarding the helmet law. Granted, this was all generated from a great two week run to Sturgis and home. Just for the record, we were "required" to wear a helmet from our home in Battle Mountain, NV to the Nevada-Utah state line on the trip out, and didn't wear them again until we hit Jackpot, Nevada. Yes, we wore them for less that 400 miles, but we diligently hauled them for more than 2,000. But, we did find out that they would hold things quite well - dirty laundry, rain gear and of course the souvenirs we bought!
Through the use of the Internet we began looking for people with similar views and found Steve Shmerler and gave him a call, knowing he would laugh at us, but hey, it's just a phone call. He didn't laugh. In fact, we talked for a good hour or so and were told to give him some time and call him in a week or so. Okay, here's where Ted was getting juiced and I was getting nervous. We called a week later and Steve conference called us with one Richard Quigley. Now I had read some of Quig's info and I knew this one would laugh at us and probably fuss at Steve for wasting his time. He didn't laugh or fuss. Instead, he gave us instructions, ideas and other reading lists. Ted was getting really excited now and I was thinking 'damn, this could be interesting.'
We read (for days and days), looked at other websites, reviewed statistics and sent out a general email to all sorts of folks to see who might be interested. Monty Jensen now enters the picture, and is followed a few days later by Joanne and Brian Brentlinger of Sierra Scooter Scoop. In the meantime, we have made our break with ABATE of Nevada and many enemies and good friends. What a kick!
This is when Quig tells us we need to get Bianco interested. The name rings many bells; we read a great deal about him. We finally call him and he's in, but with even more reading, more instructions and lots of words of wisdom and caution. I'm in awe to say the least. Here is where life takes a turn - we are dealing with legends now! The biggest names in Freedom Fighting are on our email list! Then we get in touch with Tony "Pan" San Felipo - okay, look up nirvana in your dictionary, and you have our state of mind. It was unbelievable to say the least! From a small town effort, to a statewide drive to national assistance! Believe me, this is as good as it gets! Or, so we thought.
Locally (and Battle Mountain is a very small town) we had the support of four people that ride, and eight that don't. We chose a date for the Freedom of Choice Ride and started figuring out how we would pull this off. We won't go into the details - suffice it to say that it was a full time job and the Nevada Legislature was in session in that year. We made numerous trips to Reno and Carson City t on getting the newly introduced Assembly Bill passed to eliminate the helmet law and to try and drum up support for the Freedom of Choice Ride. What we did accomplish was seeing our government in action (or our government inaction) and how games are played there. It was amazing and sickening. Assembly Bill 88 failed (read "The birth and death of a Bill")
But we felt as if we had made some steps in getting support for the Ride - we were told to anticipate up to 500 attendees.
The big day arrives! It is Thursday before the Freedom of Choice Ride! We have survived many obstacles: the t shirt guy who put an old Honda on the shirt rather than the logo we had chosen; the threats of other 'groups' to cause us massive public embarrassment; the 'involvement and concern' of a Nevada "Motorcycle Leader" who hated what we were trying to do (but used the event to his advantage); and were averaging about three hours sleep a night and holding down full time jobs. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things when you keep the potential outcome in perspective. Through it all, one constant was there: the towns of Battle Mountain and Austin, Nevada were behind us 100%. You don't get support like that everywhere.
We had just finished setting up what we could at the rodeo grounds when a police car pulls in with three bikes behind it. One guy is riding a Buell and wearing a teeny tiny helmet (Kevin Dimmick), one is riding an old chopper and looks to be having some miles under him (Richard ?) and the other one is HUGE! He and his bike are big, a little scary looking (Konrad Jagst) and I'm wondering what in the hell have I gotten myself into. The scary guy asks if I'm Jackie Suthers. I hesitate before answering, thinking I'm not sure I want to be. He shakes my hand and gives me his name. I know the name - it's the riding buddy of my hero Quig! Now I'm happy! Quig pulls into the motel an hour or so later, Steve Bianco has tons of trouble and can't make it (but was there in spirit - I swear we could feel it!) Steve Shmerler - who got all this started - can't make it because of work. Okay, I guess this freedom fighting stuff is costly and no one really supports it financially, so we do what we have to. It just happens to suck every now and then.
After forcing me to wait, I get to meet Quig. Remember that I've talked to him on the phone, had extensive e-mail dealings with him but only saw one picture and it was from a distance. I have a severe case of hero worship going. We go to the motel, and this monster-sized dog greets us. It's cool; Taz only wants tummy rubs. And there sits Quig - just as I sort of imagined him. Long beard, big smile and a hug! Okay, I'm happy now! Tony Pan is another hotel room, but we have to wait to meet him - it's a long flight to Reno from Chicago and he's in need of rest. Plus, I have to attend a barbecue sponsored by a local group.
Saturday dawns sunny, warm, and absolutely beautiful! The sound crew is there, the bikes are showing up and things are looking good! I do some introductions; Tony talks first, then Kevin, then Quig, then our Assemblyman Don Gustavson then Ted. I spoke at the beginning and end, but not very well and we will ignore that. Sierra Scooter Scoop has the highlights! Now we head out to Austin - it's 94 miles away. My helmet is in someone's truck and Ted is wearing his.You see, we sort of told Mr. Gustavson that this was not going to be a protest ride, and it wasn't supposed to be. Let's just say the spirit moved me. The spirit got to Ted as soon as crossed the city limits. We had planned ahead and had $180 sitting at the house to pay the fines.
The Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) had swung around once to stop those law-breaking, lidless riders, but changed his mind when seeing that the vehicle behind us was our esteemed Assemblyman - Gustavson. Damn the luck! Should have made him lead! We rode all the way to Austin, had a great lunch and met some fantastic people. We headed home. We were literally one mile from the city limits when we got three tickets! Quig's tape recorder had dead batteries and I was dying! Lo and behold, Vicki and Richard Clifford had batteries - in their video camera!! Now we have a picture show ladies and gentlemen! Read "The Stop In Nevada" for details. We have accomplished our mission! I'm waving my ticket like I won the lottery!
The rest of the weekend was great. We made life long friends, learned so much, and the memories can be captured into one thing I said to my husband Ted - "Thanks for giving me the best weekend of my life." I meant it too. He had worked so hard, tolerated so much and never gave up. I would have, but he kept pushing and it was worth it.
Ted & Jackie riding Free!
Would we do it again? Yeah. But, we have made enough progress with this one step and the results that hopefully the next time we have a Ride, it won't be to fight for our freedoms, but to revel in them!
These folks have been real good to us!
If you can send any business their way, please do.
Last updated: April 2003
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