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Making A Difference in Your Community : Labor of Love Helps Change Bikers' Image

October 11, 1994|ED BOND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Love Ride, when engines and handlebars are expected to stretch the 50 miles from Glendale to Castaic Lake on Nov. 13, should raise more than $1 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Assn. But it can also show that Harley riders, with their black leather jackets and outlaw image, can be good guys, too.

"The hard-core rider is only 1% us," said Rick Trotta, 40, of Burbank, who has been riding motorcycles for 25 years, 10 of those on a Harley-Davidson--just as long as he has been a volunteer for the Love Ride.

More than 16,000 motorcycle riders are expected to ride the Golden State Freeway the morning of Nov. 13. They will start at the Glendale Harley-Davidson dealership.

At least 700 volunteers are needed to set up, register, organize and coordinate the mass exodus of machine-borne humans. As the last of the bikers are getting on the freeway, the first will have arrived at their destination, Castaic Lake, said Rick Guillot, another volunteer.

Motorcycle riding has evolved from its rebellious image, typified by Marlon Brando's tough guy and Dennis Hopper's drug-dealing freedom seeker, to a mainstream experience, Guillot said.

"You come for the common interest and the camaraderie of motorcycle riding," said Guillot, vice president of a trucking company in Vernon and a member of the Harley-Davidson Owners Club in Glendale. "It doesn't matter if you're president of MCA or a dockworker at Safeway. . . . There are people who take off their business suits and put on their leather jackets."

Motorcycle riding doesn't compare with any other form of street transportation, Guillot said. "It's the freedom to be on the road. It's a completely different sensation than going somewhere in a car. The smells, the sensations you can experience--you're not caged in."

But volunteers do not have to be Harley riders, or even motorcycle riders. They can even have a squeaky-clean background.

"We're usually not around people wearing a lot of leather," said Sonia Eskandarian, project leader for a group of 65 to 75 volunteers organized by the Disney company who work with the Love Ride. She joined the effort last year. "I wouldn't use the word apprehensive , but some of our people were kind of unsure."

Image is a problem for Harley riders, said Guillot. He recalled when a group of his biker friends rode into an affluent area of Studio City to visit a buddy who had just gotten out of the hospital. Neighbors, alarmed by their appearance, immediately called police.

"They hear the Harley and see the black leather and they think we're up to no good," Guillot said. But the police left them alone after they explained their intentions.

Guillot says his club even visits a nursing home in La Crescenta each Christmas--bringing apple pies.

"People tend to stereotype them (motorcyclists)," Eskandarian said. But her volunteers have learned better, she added. "They've gotten a completely different impression."

Rick Sataloff, an MDA volunteer for 27 years, worked at the first Love Ride. That was 11 years ago, and the event drew a comparatively modest number of bikers, 600.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't even anticipate it getting as big as it has gotten," said Sataloff, who like Eskandarian has no interest in riding. "There seems to be no ceiling to this thing."

Love Ride needs volunteers to help with registration, sorting mail and accounting. To volunteer or for more information, call the Muscular Dystrophy Assn. at (818) 986-1793.

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Grandparents and Books, a volunteer program of the Los Angeles Public Library, is looking for older adults who enjoy reading books to children. Free training in reading aloud and using puppets will be offered at the Panorama City Branch on Thursday and Oct. 20. To participate, call your local library branch.

Getting Involved is a weekly listing of volunteering opportunities. Please address prospective listings to Getting Involved, Los Angeles Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, 91311. Or fax them to (818) 772-3338.

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