ON GOLD WINGS THEY RIDE

Story by Jeannie Stone

Gold Wing Road Rider Association, a social organization for Honda Gold Wing motorcycle enthusiasts, boasts over 800 chapters and 82,000 members worldwide with a strong presence in the River Valley.

“We’re not a club with rules; we’re an association,” member Kenny Holmes said. “We have regulations.” His wife Rhonda laughed. The Holmeses, chapter directors for Chapter J of Russellville, were recently selected as the Region H Couple of the Year for the Gold Wing Road Rider Association (GWRRA.)

Chapter J hosted their 16th annual Hobo Fest, at Old Post Park on a recent Saturday. Hurricane Ike was blowing in but hadn’t quite reached Russellville which allowed the hundred or so participants to enjoy the get-together.

“A lot of people were afraid to come out today because of the oncoming storm,” Holmes said. “and the gas prices seem to be affecting everybody. We usually have around 175 in attendance.”

Following tradition, each participant donated a can of vegetables toward the pot of hobo stew Donald and Jan Loveless started early that morning. They had browned 10 pounds of hamburger meat, 5 cans of tomatoes, 5 onions and added Jan’s secret seasonings to the 10-gallon cast iron kettle. The host chapter prepared cornbread and dessert.

“Our members really look forward to it,” Holmes said, “because it’s so simple, and it’s a chance to visit with folks that are sometimes closer than your real family.”

Member Russ Whaley of Cabot said, “We really are like just a big family.” Little Rock member David Blees agreed, “It’s like a family reunion getting together like this.”

“At our gatherings we usually eat, visit and then ride together,” Holmes said with a laugh. It’s the love of riding that binds the friends together.

As Couple of the Year, the Holmes represent Region H and Arkansas. In the last three years, they have traveled more than 40,000 miles on their Gold Wing to GWRRA rallies all over the country and have even traveled to Canada. Together, they have traveled to 27 states, and they’re not slowing down until they make all 50.

“They’re fun to drive,” Holmes said. “They’re a quality motorcycle. They are dependable and comfortable for the rider and the driver.”

“They are designed as a touring motorcycle, and I’ve seen people “trike” it into a three-wheeler and pull a trailer.”

Holmes always wanted a Gold Wing and bought his first one in 1999. He and Rhonda currently ride a 2008 Pearl White 1800 Gold Wing two wheeler. Rhonda laughed, “Our first date was on a motorcycle.”

Member Whaley elaborated, “We have state rallies in addition to these chapter rallies and annual region rallies. You can have a very social calendar with this group, and the members come from all walks of life.”

Rhonda Holmes added, “Once you are a member of GWRRA you are a worldwide member and can attend any function representing your chapter. It’s a great way to make friends from all over.”

Besides fun and fellowship, safety awareness is a critical focus of the group. Every April, The Arkansas District hosts and Annual Education Weekend, and the 2009 event will be staged at the University of Arkansas Community College in Morrilton, and the Annual 4th of July Rally will be held at Tulsa , Okla.

Scheduled activities in the near future include the Horizons Seminar Nov. 22-23 also held at UACCM.

The Russellville chapter welcomes guests to monthly meetings held at Western Sizzlin’ at 6 p.m. every first Saturday of the month. Membership is available to any motorcycle enthusiast regardless of the type machine he drives.

“But why would anybody want to drive anything other than the best? Holmes asked.

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