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Home > Magazine > Motors > Blessing of the Bikes! --this May 13-15

Blessing of the Bikes! --this May 13-15
April 22, 2011

[BUMP from 5/21/07. It's coming up!]

The 39th Blessing of the Bikes in Baldwin, MI, will be May 13-15. It's an amazing weekend of free events...and the biggest eyeful of *diverse* motos you'll ever see. Yet there's really none of the lawless style other meets are infamous for. It's always been family-friendly in our experience, well, relatively so. And it's not one-brand specific. Here's a reply of my pics and report from 2007...


I went up north to our trailer in Idlewild this past weekend. I did a buncha work on the trailer and land. But I also attended Baldwin's annual "Blessing of the Bikes." We came close to seeing it one year but I waited a couple hours too long, after seeing the buildup of jillions of bikes and hearing revving in the air, but when I back got to town, it was empty. This time I made it!

I think it's the biggest and oldest event of its kind in the state. Every spring, at the start of the motorcycling season, a bishop or someone like that, blesses the bikes in a few different towns. This one is the biggy. All the buffs ride through town and to the airport where the blesser is blessing. Then they do a "start your engines!" and ride away. They start gathering a day or so earlier. It's so that the bikers all have a safe season. It's a huge party in Baldwin, occupying miles of the main drag, filling the downtown area solid with motos. There are about 20,000 bikes that attend. It's sponsored by the local biker club Para-Dice. There are several hardcore clubs in this poor area. It draws a lot of spectators and hundreds of vendors for miles, selling mostly black leather. (It's held the first Sunday after Mother's Day, annually.)

What I really like about this event is that it's diverse. Other bike events that I've happened upon seem to be all or mostly Harley bikes. The biggest one, Sturgis is all Harley. Well, when I chanced on the warm-up to this event awhile back I noticed that basically every bike was different. All kinds were on the road. OK, most were Harleys, but still.

I like looking at bikes, so it seemed like a great chance for an eyeful.

And indeed it was!

In one setting I noticed several guys stop and park along the road. I took a photo (below) of their bikes. Each one was from a totally different part of the moto world. Japanese dirt, Italian street, old USA hog and modern Euro tourer. Cool! I loved it.

The main blessing took place at the airport. So I parked on the edge of the detour around town and rode *MY* bike to see the show, my mt-bike, that is. People laughed at my motorless mount but were welcoming. I passed them most of the time, due to their huge traffic jam.

The roar of the motos was really something. A good throaty roar.

So I walked around the airport grounds. I walked every lane of parked bikes. I maybe glanced at 10,000 of them, I suppose. What fun!

There were even some pretty ladies but mostly I was looking at the bikes. Really!

I was looking for my faves. Ones I hadn't seen in years. I like homey versatile bikes. Affordable and easy to work on. Character bikes.

I was also thinking about improving gas mileage. It's now making better sense than ever, huh?! A moto with a trailer could be a good thing to have...

I learned that really all the bikes are different from each other. Every rider there seemed to have done something quite major to make his bike look different from every other. How? The Harleys, despite their vast majority, seem to be even more varied than other bikes. Amazing.

There are several major strains of Harley. The Hog, the spare Sportster, the big packed-power Sportster (or whatever the new super steroided one is called), the homeshop Chopper and the big bux production Chopper (built around a Harley). You could even include the crotch rocket Buell, since aren't they built around a Harley motor?

I was impressed to see how many ways Honda has made a motor. Their Vee was the most surprising to me. I wonder what that bike was/is like...

Since I'm in the luggage biz and since a customer asked if I made moto-saddlebags, I was really checking those out. I learned something. Moto saddlebags and EVERYTHING other piece of luggage on a moto is BLACK LEATHER or leatherette. Heck, most every aspect of bike fashion is black. Crazy! Maybe there's room for my canvas brown/olive look. Think?

Another thing I noticed as that even though the bikes are a total rainbow, with almost no two alike, the riders seem more predictable. The Harley guys are Harley guys. Well, no, the guys on old Harleys are grey-bearded longhairs, scruffy. The new steroid-power Harleys are ridden by tidy young burly guys with goatees. Both age-ranges look to be macho partiers. Fun and energetic, but a tradesman crowd. Rough and blustery. Some newer Harleys have a mellower look---their riders and the other riders of other brands of "big power" street bikes seem t be mostly older businessmen. Some ladies ride smaller-framed Sportsters, usually fancied up. The Japanese crotch rocket riders tend to be smaller and dark haired. Euro and vintage riders tend to look sensible or sharp. I never saw a lady driving with a guy passenger. Awww! : ) And I thought I saw it all, mostly.

I'd personally like someday to get a moto that had a nice sound, was easy to work on, fit my lanky self (most bikes seem SMALL in the seat/pegs/bars relation to me!), could ride on dirt roads AND got good gas mileage. Offhand, I'd like something super aerodynamic. 100mpg, for sure. Fully-faired, or nearly so. But maybe that wouldn't be so hot for the dirt. So maybe I need two bikes eventually. Ha!

I've heard that bikes get about 55mpg no matter what size they are or even if they sport windjammers. Crazy! 65mpg is on the high end for a moto---and only a couple 250cc's get that. Some 250cc's get 45mpg.

So that's my report. Here's some pics...

(Please forgive the many errors and inaccuracies in my captions. I was winging it and I already see some baddies. But I tried. Sadly, the captions are hard to edit. Corrections appreciated! Maybe I can figure out how to change the captions...)

Street scene...

In the grocery store parking lot a mile from our trailer, 3 miles from town...

Here's the variety of bikes I'm talking about....

Now we're at the airport. Hoo-doggie! ...But I should've taken this pointing the other way. I got their tails...

A classic black or old, I can't tell...

Oh yeah!

Oh my! (I saw quite a few of these "S&S" bikes. Production choppers?)

I think this is a Big Dog. They're $30K bikes. I think this one has a little shock absorber. The ones that don't are called Pit Bulls. (I spoke too soon about S&S...I think they're a customized Harley engine...maybe...)

An old-time homebuilt Harley. Oh yeah! The rough stuff...

But of course many classic choppers aren't Harleys. My fave Yamaha 650 is an easy bike to work on and was often chopped. Two out of 3 ain't bad!

Changing our tune, but not completely, we have an offroad Beemer, customized, and maybe an older "airhead" model.

Three black bikes... Nice big ole Bimmer up front. Nice aero pans.

The classic. Called a boxer, I think.

I only saw a couple Guzzis and Ducatis. A few Indians. But the look of this twin engine made me wonder what was up with them. I saw this style on a Honda, too.

So much for good taste! Here's a legend of the 70's. The Purple Water Buffalo! Or a "kettle" as they called them in Europe. This was about the only 2-stroke big road bike. It'll still smoke a lot of bikes! Darn, I should've had him start it up. I haven't heard one in over 20 years.

And a turquoise one!

Back to classy...

Cute little British bike. Oh yeah! (Are you checking out the background bikes, too? Some are bigshots these days. Not my faves, but a selection of the popular "looks" out there today.)

I always thought these looked composed. But maybe small for a six-footer?

...And here's the one bike I've owned. Mine was quite a bit more modified. I really liked it. Especially in hindsight. Mine had straighter bars, different pipes and wheels. Forest green. Sigh... I'd love to see something like it again...

A spiffy one, or a cousin anyway.

A rough brawler. I wonder what it sounds like? Mine sounded good...

I saw a real old guy with a BSA military bike, too. Fun stuff!

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