At this time of year, from 2004 through 2007, you could find me preparing for a motorcycle extravaganza known as the Lake Erie Loop. The concept, developed in the generous and overactive mind of Bill Murar, was deceptively simple; raise money to help pediatric burn victims by seeing whose old, small-cc (225 or less for vintage bikes) motorcycle could make it around the perimeter of Lake Erie the quickest. Those vying for the title would pay an entry fee and raise additional funds for the cause. As a retired firefighter, Murar and his wife Joyce, a registered nurse, knew only too well about the pain of a burn victim and they wanted to blend their passion for motorcycling with their desire to help kids. And so the Lake Erie Loop was born. I’m proud to say I ran in the inaugural event and several subsequent events. I even took the overall win in 2007 with a time of 10 hours 19 minutes for 633 miles—including border crossings and very limited fuel stops.
Anyone who has ever attempted “The Loop” knows how the challenge can get to you. Finding a balance of fuel economy, performance and endurance insures that you need to do your homework to finish, much less win the thing. The roads are littered with Looper lore from Cleveland to Toledo and from Detroit to Niagara Falls, Buffalo and beyond. The participants are true characters of the motorcycle lifestyle from hippies to hipsters, mods to rockers and even a departed character named One Armed Joe. Lance Oliver dedicated a chapter of his book The Ride So Far to The Loop, but the treasured stories of this group are so rich that maybe one day an entire book will be written. The question is, would there be enough oddballs left to read it?
I still lurk on The Loopers Yahoo Group, Lake Erie Loop XI, and a recent post unexpectedly renewed my interest. Keep in mind it is extremely difficult to separate someone’s actual plans for The Loop from braggadocio saber rattling, but it seems a group loosely affiliated with the University of Toledo is working on an Aprilia RS70 with the target of a 250-mile range and 80 mph sustainability. Cool. The Aprilias have a history of doing well at the event.
Our team was always ham and eggers and we used vintage equipment, stretched to within an inch of life—or further, on some occasion. Big gas tanks, meticulous prerace prep and a press-on-regardless mentality was the secret to any success we enjoyed. We managed a first-in-class year one, a first and second in Class III year two, second and third in Class III year three and first overall year four sporting THUNDER PRESS livery. I guess you could have said we were always in the money, but the money always went back to the cause—the kids.
In the early days of the event, a local biker known for his no-B.S. personality who went by the name Uncle Rock once told me that what I and the others were doing at The Loop was “bad-ass.” When Rock told you something was bad-ass, you could take it to the bank. It was my privilege to tell our readers about one of Rock’s storied rides through the snow on the West Virginia Turnpike during a Winter Survival Tactics contest THUNDER PRESS was having back then—probably 2001 or 2002 I’d guess. Sadly, Uncle Rock passed away this past December. While Rock was relating his snowy tale to me, I remember him saying he always stopped to see his mom on the way out of town, because “ya never know.”
Personal circumstances have prevented me from participating in The Loop since 2007, but I was compelled by Rock’s passing to invite you to check it out. He never got to visit the Loopers at their campground, but he’d have fit right in because he was as bad-assed as they came. You’d fit in too if you like getting the most out of a small machine or helping kids. If you go on a big bike, I imagine it would be a lot like taking a trip to the zoo and nobody would think anything of it. They know they’re the weird ones.
The fact that this event has survived for 11 years, given that it takes such unique qualities to participate, is a testament to the competitors and to the leadership of Bill and Joyce.
This year’s event is June 20–22 and you can still support the cause by participating on your big-inch touring bike (lakeerieloop.com).