A group of theatre technicians, whose average age is about 40, riding across country on motorcycles? It could only be one of two things: a midlife crisis or a worthy cause. Turns out it's the latter, as “Uncle” Bill Sapsis of Sapsis Rigging and a crew of seasoned and aspiring road hogs hit the road earlier this spring to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Dubbed the Long Beach Long Riders, the core group of nine riders rode from Boone, NC to Long Beach, CA, arriving in time for the USITT conference on March 16.
The riders were: Michael Banvard, Pat Barnes, Maurice Conn, Cris Dopher, Wayne Rasmussen, Bill Sapsis, Loren Schreiber, Greg Williams, and Alice Neff. The crew helping them on their quest: Sarah Gowan, Joe Norton, Robert Hamilton, and John Mayberry.
According to the group's mission statement, “Many times in the past the people who work in the spotlight have heeded the call to serve with benefit performances, celebrity auctions, and similar functions. We, the technicians and designers who work backstage, believe it's now our turn.”
To make your own donation to the cause, go to www.sapsisrigging.com.
Sapsis kept a diary of their adventures, and was kind enough to let us print some excerpts.
It was a very good day. 425 miles. Good weather. Took about 10 hours but we had serious traffic in Chattanooga and Birmingham. Also, one of the bikes only has a 110 mile range, so we're stopping every 90 minutes or so. Tomorrow's stop is Baton Rouge. Good weather predicted. Here's hoping.
Made it to Baton Rouge. Weather once again was great. It's really hot here. The outdoor pool at the hotel has people in it.
400 miles today. This is the shortest day of the trip. But we're gelling together as a riding group. It feels good. Yes, I'm really tired, but no reason to not keep going.
We said goodbye to the hospitality of Baton Rouge and got on the road, heading for San Antonio. The day was going great, but we knew we had two hurdles to overcome: Houston and the weather. The rain started in Houston. It wasn't much fun, but we all survived in one piece. About 475 miles.
Made it to San Antonio and the Alamo. Got our pictures taken there. Some little kids got their pictures taken on our bikes and then we were off to the hotel. More rain and the screwiest highways in the western world made the ride to the hotel one of the more harrowing trips of the day.
575 miles in 9.5 hours. What a day!
We got a late start due to the work that needed to be done on the bikes in the morning. The guys in the Barnett Harley shop were great. They put the three bikes (Greg with the broken throttle cable, Moe with the ruptured pipes and Chris with, well, electrical problems) at the head of the line first thing in the morning. We got on the road at 1:30 pm. Sounds like a long time but, considering the amount of work done, it was terrific.
The rest of the day was all about riding. The weather was clear and bright: a perfect day for a ride. The headwinds in New Mexico were pretty rough and our gas mileage went way down. We had to stop and re-fuel five times. We did lunch on the NM/AZ border and climbed up into the high Arizona desert. It's beautiful there this time of year. Still lots of green, but you can tell it won't last long.
For those of you who are keeping track: I'm still riding.
Today was the longest day so far. About 550 miles.
It rained a good portion of the morning. I was having visibility problems and had the group stop twice to try to correct it.
We had lunch in Ozona, Texas. A nice little café (The Café Next Door) for a change instead of the usual fast food places. We got plenty of stares from the Sunday Church crowd. The owners of the café made a donation.
After lunch the weather turned really sour. We took shelter from a Texas-sized thunderstorm under a bridge for about 45 minutes. We tagged the underside of the bridge with our sharpies.
The wind has become a factor, knocking us around a bit and playing havoc with our gas mileage. The trucks seem larger and they knock us around too. And with all the stops we had to make, we had to pass the same truck at least four times! And finally, Greg's throttle cable broke about 40 miles east of El Paso. It was looking grim there for a bit but he, Moe, and Wayne repaired it with a Vise grip well enough to make it to the hotel.
The final ride day. A relatively short one; only about 250 miles or so.
Yuma lived up to expectations when the sun came up. The day was bright, clear and hot. When we started out I was in jeans and a T-shirt. The ride through the eastern California desert was relaxing and fun. We stopped along the way for some photos and, in a real “small world” moment, we spoke with a truck driver that Wayne knew.
Then it was over to Loren's house. He has a lovely place in the hills east of San Diego. At Loren's, we met his wife, Katie, had lunch and made plans for getting to Long Beach. This was going to be the most difficult part of the trip: eight bikes and a van on the Southern California freeway system. It was harrowing, to say the least, but we made it in one piece.
As we drove up to the Hyatt next door to the convention center, we met Richard Pilbrow and his wife as they were checking in. They were the first to welcome us to Long Beach.
And so the ride is over. On Wednesday we'll put most of the bikes in the SRI booth; the plan is to fly Loren's bike, and go about the conference business. It's been quite a trip.