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Clubs that thunder

Any two people with a common interest will have an instant rapport. Get a group of folks together with the same passion and, no matter how dissimilar their lifestyles, chances are, you have a club.

“That passion for riding motorcycles is exactly what draws our members together,” says Tyrrell Hart, one of the founding members of the Motorcycle Riders Association, a local club for dirt-bike enthusiasts.

The MRA is a not-for-profit, family-oriented motorcycle club, open to all ages and experience levels.

“Our club is a family organization, so if a husband and wife join, when they have kids, that usually means the kids ride, too. There’s no restriction on age. I think we have some 5-year-olds riding around up there. And,” he pauses, “let’s see … I’m 79, so you can also be old. We’re a busy club with just under 500 members, and we have events all year, like poker runs, races and club rides.”

Since dirt bikes are, for the most part, intended for off-road trail riding, the club has made an effort to purchase land where members can create and maintain trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty.

“We get our money from federal, state and manufacturer grants, and that has allowed us to purchase about 1,500 acres off Paradise Ranch Road, about a mile and a half outside Jacksonville. We have a trailhead and a clubhouse up there where we have our meetings.

“It was way back in 1965 when we first got organized, so I’ve been in this club just over 50 years,” says Hart, who has served in all club capacities at one time or another. “Before that, we were just a bunch of people who liked to ride the trails together. I guess you never get too old to enjoy playing in the dirt.”

While Hart’s club is one of the oldest in Southern Oregon, it’s far from the only local motorcycle club.

Southern Oregon hosts one of many nationwide chapters of the Missing in America Project, whose purpose is to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed remains of American veterans. Since the project’s launch in 2007, well over 3,000 military men and women have been identified and laid to rest in national cemeteries across the country.

“It’s all about respect for our veterans who don’t have someone to carry out that final honor,” says Bud Thieme, Oregon state coordinator for the group. “Most of us are veterans, so there’s an automatic connection there.”

They work with funeral homes and coroners to identify unclaimed remains and look for family members. “If we can’t locate the family, we have a service and bury them with honors at the VA cemetery. Our motorcycle riders provide funeral escorts throughout the state.”

Members of this nonprofit organization work strictly on a volunteer basis, Thieme says. “We do get occasional donations from various organizations, but for the most part, all our expenses are out of our own pockets. For us it’s an honor, our way of giving back.”

The Women in the Wind motorcycle club is an all-female club with over 100 chapters worldwide. It was founded in 1979 by AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee Becky Brown, whose intent was to “promote a positive image of women and motorcycling and educate its members on motorcycle safety and maintenance.”

“We started the Wild Rogue Chapter around 2002, with 13 original members, and two of us are still in the group,” says board member Terrie Martin. “At one point we had 55 members, and we became the biggest chapter in the country, but we settled back into 25 or 30 members and that’s where it seems to stay. We don’t have officers, but we do have a board that handles the club business. The Corset Cruise is our annual fundraiser, and all together I think we’ve raised over $45,000 for Asante and the Cancer Awareness Project.”

Though the common bond is a love for motorcycles, Martin continues, “I think women ride for different reasons than men. Often it’s because they have had something traumatic happen in their lives that they’re trying to deal with. Or I think sometimes women have self-image problems and they ride to boost their self-esteem and confidence. Other times, they are looking for friends and a social group to be with.”

As a group, Martin says, “The Wild Rogue Chapter is designed to encourage women to be mentors and to support women riders.”

— Reach Rogue Valley freelance writer Cindy Quick Wilson at cquickwilson@hotmail.com.

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Members of the Women in the Wind motorcycle club. - COURTESY PHOTO
Flag bearers stand at attention during a 2009 Missing in America Project memorial service for unclaimed remains at the Eagle Point National Cemetery. - MAIL TRIBUNE / FILE PHOTO