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October 2013

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Annual Motorcycle Ride is a
Mile-Long Banner for Brotherhood

More than 400 IBEW members came together in July for the annual IBEW motorcycle ride, the biggest showing since the ride started four years ago. Members from 22 states, 58 locals and nearly every job classification found their way to State College, Pa., for a 170-mile ride over and through the deep river valleys of the high Allegheny plateau.

The ride traveled some near-perfect roads for motorcycle riding. Curving up into hills you could see out for 100 miles and then plunging alongside mountain streams in the darkness of deep valleys hidden by hemlock, beech and maple trees. The ride followed the guaranteed recipe for an epic motorcycle ride: first, find all the nearby shopping malls and traffic jams and identify the route that puts the most distance between you and them in the least amount of time. Second, take the longest, twistiest road on the blankest part of the map and follow it as far your gas tank will let you.

"This is beautiful country, real different from home," said Rapid City, S.D., Local 1250 member Dallas Deranleau, who drove for three days and nearly 1,500 miles to the ride. "You work every day and do your job, and you come here, together, and it's amazing how many of the people I meet I know. It is a real nice surprise."

But riding a motorcycle is fundamentally a solitary activity. It is an active, sometimes aggressive, often meditative state, but it isn't often shared.

Which leads to a common question from people who do not ride: why do people drive their motorcycles hundreds of miles, more than 1,000 for the brave souls with the cast-iron behinds who rode in from South Dakota and Shreveport, La.? It's not like you are doing it with other people, more like doing your own thing in proximity.

Retired New York Local 3 member Steve Shapiro, riding possibly the most outlandish motorcycle at the rally — a V-8 powered three-wheeler with the back end of a 1957 Chevy, fins and all — said he has been coming to the ride since it was just a handful of guys riding around Delaware before the NASCAR race at Dover Downs a few years ago.

"It brings back old friends. There's lots of hugs," Shapiro said. "I was at Woodstock, and this really reminds me of that same feeling. I'll keep riding with the guys as long as I can."

The annual motorcycle ride is one of the few times when the full variety of the IBEW membership comes together. Every job description and accent in this vast Brotherhood is all in one place, from the International President to a newly minted construction electrician. Where else but here would you find a towering lineman from Maine, a business manager for a Midwest utility local and a senior organizer from the Third District sharing a beer and swapping stories in a parking lot?

There is also a more complicated answer to the question of why folks get together to ride, about that time spent seemingly alone on the bike. Riding in a line of bikes nearly a mile long, even if they were all strangers, is not the same thing as riding alone. Everyone is riding the same road, looking out for each other, learning something about the people around them by the way they handle themselves and keep watch over the riders around them.

"The line is longer every year, pulling the IBEW tighter together," said Sal Cioffi, president of the New York Local 3 motorcycle club.

At the end of the ride — this year called the Rattlesnake Run because of the annual rattlesnake round-ups that are common nearby — after seven hours beneath the hemlock trees, roaring past little children standing slack-jawed on their front lawns and bombing over the rail straight highway that tracks through the farmland surrounding State College, every rider has a clearer vision of who the IBEW is, why it works and what it is for.

"One of the best things about being International President is watching how things grow," said International President Edwin D. Hill. "Four years ago we were a handful. Look what we've got going now. It makes me damn proud. We can tell the other international unions, 'That's the IBEW: We stand together and we stand for brotherhood.'"

Ed Mings, International Representative in the Construction and Maintenance Department, planned the ride with Director Jerry Westerholm.


A sampling of the leather vests and license plates from participants in the IBEW's June Rattlesnake Run ride.


New York City Local 3 Motorcycle Club member Richie Andreana.

Photo courtesy LU3MC member George Brown