Amid a vibrating sea of leather, denim and polished chrome, thousands of motorcyclists roared off to Castaic Lake from Glendale on Sunday, kicking off the 15th annual Love Ride charity event.
The ride, which raises money for muscular dystrophy causes, is the largest fund-raiser of its kind in the country. But this year the threat of rain kept away many cyclists expected to attend.
Before the event, Love Ride officials said they expected 20,000 riders--each of whom would pay a minimum of $50 to participate. In all, $1 million was expected to be raised for the charity.
As of Sunday evening, officials said they had not determined how many bikers attended and how much money was donated.
The dark skies and wet roads did not, however, dampen the spirits of the eclectic collection of participants, including attorneys, Hells Angels, politicians and celebrities.
"It's one big family in support of kids in need," said Las Vegas resident Steve McMillan, as he prepared to participate in his first Love Ride. "It's just awesome."
Leading the throng for the 50 miles from Glendale to Castaic was grand marshal Jay Leno, who said he didn't mind giving up his weekend break from "Tonight Show" hosting duties.
"This isn't hard work," said Leno, a longtime Harley-Davidson enthusiast. "It's a lot of fun."
Honorary grand marshal Peter Fonda rode a replica of the Captain America chopper he immortalized 30 years ago in the movie "Easy Rider."
"I can still cross my leg over the tank," Fonda quipped.
Numerous makes of motorcycles were on hand, but the Love Ride has always attracted lovers of Harley-Davidsons. Perhaps that's because the event was the brainchild of Harley-Davidson of Glendale owner Oliver Shokouh, who first staged it in 1984 with 500 motorcyclists on hand.
The riders raised $40,000 that first year. Since then, Love Ride events have donated almost $10 million to the Muscular Dystrophy Assn.