The Blessing of the Bikes
by Ian Ellis
Recently I saw a church in Eagan advertising “The Annual Blessing Of The Bikes.” Like many people, I am drawn more towards my religion as the years roll by. I also find myself enjoying spending time with others that are re-embracing their religion. So it was natural for me to wonder about whether my ’83 Honda was also becoming religious as it too gets older. Since my bike was made in Japan it would probably be Buddhist or Shinto, so we’d have an interfaith relationship, which is okay with me. But what if my bike wasn’t religious at all but rather, heaven forbid, a Heathen?
When I bought my bike a couple of years ago its title was “confirmed” by the state of Minnesota, but was that truly the same thing as a religious confirmation? I decided not to let my bike risk Purgatory any longer and made plans for us to attend “The Blessing”.
I didn’t know what to wear; was one supposed to dress like they were going to church or going for a Sunday ride? Since I never shave or shower before a Sunday ride would that distract those around me from having a meaningful religious experience? Were full leathers appropriate or disrespectful? Were temporary tattoos only okay if they contained a cross? Did the bikes go up to the altar like the “Blessing Of The Pets” I had seen on TV last year? I had lots of questions.
I called a friend, Pastor Jeff, to ask his advice. Jeff barely skipped a beat and told me these things were usually casual. But being Jewish and not wanting to make a social faux pas, I decided to also call Cross of Christ Church where the Blessing was to be held to ask for further instructions. I was surprised to hear a recorded message that detailed all the information I would need. It went something like; “The 6th Annual Motorcycle Sunday, The Blessing of the Bikes, is a casual outdoor service starting at 9:00. There will be a 9:30 stage show by Butch and the Cruisers and you are invited to stay for a free lunch.” There were also directions to the church.
I woke up Sunday morning to lightning and thunder. By 8:45 the rain had stopped but it was terribly overcast. As I arrived at the church the parking lot was starting to fill with mostly Harley-Davidsons. We milled around in rain gear and leathers chatting and drinking coffee until the stage show finally got going at 10:00. I stood around talking to people, including Mike who rode his BMW to the service. Mike has put over 120,00 miles on the bike. He has to lean the Beemer against a telephone pole since the bike came without a side stand 12 years ago when he bought it. Mike, an airline mechanic, says he enjoys not having the side stand because it becomes the topic of conversation.
After the 50s rock and roll show ended, Pastor Rich a Harley rider, made some very funny ad-lib jokes about hot dogs, Excelsior-Henderson and the seven brats each person would need to eat (due to the weather-related low turnout). I think going to a church where the service includes portions of the Jay Leno Show would be fun. The church choir then started their set as a few fat rain drops splattered the crowd sitting in their folding lawn chairs.
I was struck by two contrasts to the “biker scene” of my youth. The patches on this crowd’s vests and jackets were all about belonging to groups who had mainstream values such as the Christian Motorcycle Association, Blue Knights, HOG, GWRR, etc. Years ago it was the outlaws, who by wearing a large patch on their back identified themselves as being outside the mainstream. Then there was the Eagan Police detail, who were not there to keep the peace, as in my youth, but rather as security detail to watch over the expensive bikes while we were all out back having a hula hoop contest with the band!
At 11:30 the skies turned black, the wind whipped up, the lightning started and everyone headed inside the church, so I decided to head for home. I have to admit that I missed the actual “blessing” part. My timing was terrible, I ended up riding through the worst of the storm, but at least the bike and I got in an unofficial “baptism!”
Since my bike was not able to start on its formal path to religion, I have a new plan. There is an ancient Jewish ceremony that celebrates a baby boy joining the religion. I am going to suggest to my temple’s Board of Trustees that they host a “Motorcycle Saturday &emdash; Circumcision of the Bikes” where everyone takes off their stock pipes and puts on the shorter drag pipes that they have brought with. One thing for sure the food (lox and bagels, chopped liver, kugel, blintzes, etc.) would be excellent!