William Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Sun, 6 Jul 2003 07:14:57 -0400

July 6, 2003
Riding with the Hells Angels, for charity
Sunday News Staff

LACONIA - What do you wear when you are about to ride with the Hells Angels?
Black, of course. A black tank top with the silver Harley-Davidson logo
across the chest, skin-tight black Levi's and black engineer boots.
Bad choice.
As soon as I hit the 65-mph zone on Interstate 93 riding my Harley-Davidson
Sportster yesterday morning, my tank top rolled down below my bra. It was
too late to turn back. I spent the rest of the day tucking my shirt tail
into my pants while riding.
No matter, it was definitely the right look when I pulled into the
Manchester Harley-Davidson dealership off South Willow Street. There, the
Hells Angel Motorcycle Club of New Hampshire had gathered a small legion of
bikers for a charity ride that would raise an estimated $5,000 for the
Salvation Army Carey House Homeless Shelter in Laconia.
The parking lot was filled with men - all ages, shapes and types. Most wore
black vests emblazoned with the colors of 15 separate motorcycle clubs from
throughout New England. The standouts, of course, were the red and white
colors of the Hells Angels, who made up about 20 percent of the estimated
400 bikers gathered for the 52-mile ride to the Weirs Drive In Theater.
In typical fashion, none of the Angels I tried to interview would talk. Not
even to say no. They just walked away.
"Relax," said Carolyn Falgares, the director of community relations for the
Talarico dealerships, who had invited the media along for the ride. "You'll
be able to interview Spike when you get to Laconia," she assured me.
I tucked my reporter's notebook into my saddlebag.
Leading the pack
At about 10 a.m., with the parking lot jammed with bikes, we started out.
There were no route maps handed out to give direction. You had to keep up
with the pack.
And who knew that the proper protocol was to let the Hells Angels group lead
the pack?
The Angels did. They swarmed in a loud roar of straight pipes to the
entrance of the parking lot. They looked the part, with flames, symbols and
death heads tattooed over most of their exposed skin. It was an adrenaline
"Easy Rider here I come," I thought as I plied my way into the serpentine
line of bikes exiting the dealership.
The motorcycles roared onto Interstate 293, and sped up: 65 mph, 70 mph, 80
mph, and then 90 mph.
"Oh my God, do I want to be doing this??"
Not that there was a choice: Speeding bikes behind me, beside me and in
front of me. Keep up or die.
OK, so it really is an outlaw group.
Fortunately, we didn't go 90 mph but for a minute and then settled down to a
more comfortable speed of about 70 mph.
Running on red
So went the ride, at just 10 to 15 mph over the posted speed limit, to the
exit for Route 28. Then a left turn north toward Hooksett - through red
lights and pedestrian crossings, without stopping - just like a funeral
No car dared to challenge or cut into the two-mile line of bikes. The few
who did get caught in the flow pulled aside to let us pass.
On my left, through much of the ride was Steven Irons, general manager of
the Manchester Harley-Davidson dealership, a co-sponsor and $500 donor to
the event.
When we arrived in Laconia, we pulled into a familiar Hells Angel stomping
ground, the Broken Spoke Saloon.
Stop talking
I heard a group of Angels talking about an accident that had happened at the
beginning of the ride. I walked over to find out what happened and one of
the Angels, who would later refer to me as Smiley, demanded the men stop
"We don't know who she is," he said pointing to me.
Saying I was a reporter from the Sunday News didn't help. Reporters only
write lies, I was told.
In about the time it took to down one beer in 90-degree heat, the Hells
Angels were leading the pack again. This time to the gigantic parking lot at
the Weirs Beach Drive In, where the movies featured on the billboard were,
"Charlie's Angels" and "Terminator 3."
At the entrance we were greeted by the Salvation Army's little red donation
bucket. A Hells Angel stopped bikers to request a $5 donation. Who could
Next to the red bucket and the Angel was a table piled high with 132
T-shirts featuring a motorcycle and being sold by Salvation Army workers.
They were also selling hot dogs, water and other food from a van.
Heaven and hell?
How did this surreal juxtaposition of heaven and hell happen?
Eddie, the president of the Laconia Chapter of Hells Angels, said, "They
sent us a letter six months ago asking for help."
He displayed the letter, dated March 28, from Salvation Army Maj. Karen
The letter said, "We really need some help and sometimes it comes from the
most unexpected places. . . . My thought is that perhaps your Hells Angels
club might be interested in some positive press and TV coverage."
I asked Eddie if he were doing it for "the good PR."
"No," Eddie said emphatically. "There's no ulterior motive. There isn't one
person in this whole organization that made two cents on this except the
Salvation Army."
Spike, the chiseled-faced, muscular president of the Manchester Chapter of
the Hells Angels, added, "That may be hard for people to digest, but that's
the truth."
Spike noted that the Hells Angels have long been noted for sponsoring
charitable rides. Eddie said they will sponsor the event again next year if
the Salvation Army asks.
No business talk
Eddie and Spike would not answer any questions other than those related to
the charity ride. "We don't discuss club business," Eddie said.
Not even questions like, how does someone become a member, or can I buy one
of those death head earrings in addition to the T-shirts you're selling?
Further along in the day, I found myself on the dance card of the Angel who
had demanded the bikers stop talking when I approached them earlier at the
Broken Spoke.
"Hey Smiley," he yelled. "Come with us."
Police arrive
I was commandeered onto a white electric golf cart and taken to the entrance
of the drive-in where the Laconia police had arrived.
"It's total harassment," Eddie fumed.
An officer was questioning the Angels about whether they had permits for the
band in the parking lot or the vendors selling wares under four tents.
Eddie said he had cleared the event with the city manager and the club's
"I'm sure we're on good legal ground," he told Sgt. Doug Jameson.
Jameson explained someone called the police station complaining that there
were thousands of bikes in the drive-in and a loud band.
Jameson said he and the other officer were just doing their job by checking
out the complaint. The handful of Salvation Army workers at the entrance
watched as the police drove off.
I asked Maj. Dickson how it came about that her Christian group sought out
the Hells Angels.
"My husband rides," she said.
Good in everyone
After she saw Eddie's name in the paper, she sent off four letters to places
where people were likely to know Eddie. It worked and Eddie said yes.
Eddie and the Manchester chapter began organizing the event.
Eddie called the Manchester Harley-Davidson dealership and the New Hampshire
Motorcycle Coalition. The club rounded up an impressive show of support from
sponsors, including a $500 check from Headliners Boutique of Nashua and
North Conway.
By 2 p.m., the tally from the ride was expected to exceed $5,000.
I asked Dickson if she thought people would get upset because she partnered
with the Hells Angels.
"Jesus didn't say, 'I'll deal with this one and I'm not going to deal with
that one.' Everybody has good in them and everybody is affected by
homelessness," she said.

 The Union Leader Copyright  2003