By Brandon HENSLEY
Many people start checking gifts off their Christmas list this time of year. Last weekend, Rick Chew checked something off of his bucket list.
On Friday and Saturday, Chew and his longtime friend Denis Kerechuk took part in the annual L.A. Barstow to Vegas Dual Sport race, a 400-mile journey that took about 450 riders from the Southland to Sin City.
The event benefitted Toys for Tots Foundation, and riders had a choice to either bring a gift or donate $10.
For Chew, a member of the Early Rodders, and Kerechuk, this was the first time participating, and it’s been a long time coming for the both of them.
“I’ve always wanted to do it, so this year I said, ‘We’re not getting any younger,’ and Denis said, ‘Yeah, we’re not,’ so we ended up doing it,” said Chew, who is 60, five years older than Kerechuk. “One of the things on the bucket list was to do the Barstow to Vegas [ride], so we can cross that off.”
The bikes used for the event were dual-sport bikes, which are little different than a regular dirt bike.
“It’s basically an off-road motorcycle with lights, horns and turn indicators.”
The event used to be a race from Barstow to Las Vegas in the 1970s but was later expanded to include L.A. and is no longer a race, but rather an experience. Although in the case of Chew and Kerechuk, what they experienced in the beginning was frustration.
They started out in Palmdale early Friday morning but on their way to Barstow they both suffered flat tires, and had to be trucked the rest of the way.
“We both had pretty bad luck,” said Kerechuk, who lives in Alhambra. “That’s kind of a hassle on a dirt bike; the tires are hard to change.”
As expected with a ride like this, injuries played a role for some riders. Chew and Kerechuk were fine, but Chew said there was a rider who suffered a punctured lung and cracked ribs, and another who broke his leg.
But their ride to La Vegas went smoothly.
“Beautiful riding conditions,” said Chew.
The end point of the ride was the Orleans Hotel and Casino, and a banquet was held with an award ceremony, including oldest rider and the one who came from the longest distance.
Kerechuk said he and Chew left the banquet a little early and headed back to Palmdale in their friend’s truck. Chew said he would like to compete again.
“Yeah, we’ll do it again. It’s a great event,” he said.
Kerechuk said time is of the essence for him.
“I’m 55 years old now, and I’m thinking, if everything holds up I should have 10 more years [to ride] … so I want to do a lot of stuff today because I may not be able to do it,” he said. “When you’re 25 you think that 50 years might as well be a hundred years away but as you get closer you realize it sneaks up on you.”
As the holiday season gears up, Chew and the Early Rodders are now accepting gifts for charity every Saturday morning at the United Artist Theater from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m.
For more information, contact Chew at firstname.lastname@example.org.