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August 25, 2003

Deaf bikers plan to roar into town

From: The Capital Times, WI  - Aug 25, 2003

Parade of hundreds will end with picnic

By Bill Novak
August 25, 2003

One of the joys of riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is the "potato-potato-potato" noise from the legendary engines. To Gordon Boerner, however, the joy is in the feel of the "potato-potato-potato" because the 41-year-old is deaf.

Boerner, a mechanical engineer from the Long Island community of Mastic, N.Y., will be one of hundreds of deaf bikers riding in the Deaf Bikers of America motorcycle parade on Thursday, riding from Capital City Harley-Davidson on Madison's far east side to the State Capitol. The CC Riders Motorcycle Club then will host a picnic for the deaf bikers, as well as the general public, at an open house at its Madison clubhouse.

Up to 400 deaf bikers and hundreds of other support bikers are expected to take part in the parade and picnic, said Gerald "Ollie" Oliver, a road captain with the CC Riders Motorcycle Club.

Boerner, who goes by the nickname "Heavy Throttle," has been married for over 10 years to Lenore Boerner, who also is deaf. They have three hearing daughters. Lenore will fly to Wisconsin this week so she can ride with Gordon in Madison and Milwaukee, before heading home to get their daughters ready for school.

The New York native grew up in Woodstock and has loved motorcycles all his life, especially for the sensory thrills. He currently owns a 2003 Harley Custom Fatboy as well as a 2000 Indian Chief.

(The Deaf Bikers of America is not limited to just Harley owners, so other makes of motorcycles, such as Indian, are included in the organization.) "I saw a lot of Harley bikers passing by my house growing up," Boerner said. "The sound and vibration stimulated me when I'd sit in my mom's VW Bug, because the car would be jolted by the bikers going past.

"I love to feel the loud noise from the muffler and motor. When I ride into New York, I feel a lot of the echo from my motorcycle in the tunnels and on the bridges."

The deaf bikers are camping at the Richard Bong Recreation Area in Kenosha County this week and are making several rides into different parts of Wisconsin before heading to Milwaukee this weekend for Harley-Davidson's 100th anniversary festivities.

The Madison picnic for the deaf bikers was first suggested by Communication Services for the Deaf, a telecommunications company that has offices in 28 states including one in Madison. It's an offshoot of a similar picnic held in Rapid City, S.D., which is near Sturgis, site of a huge Harley rally every year.

Communication Services for the Deaf's national headquarters is in Sioux Falls, S.D., so the company had a natural tie-in to the Sturgis rally, said Katie Lerch, a manager at the Madison office.

"The deaf community is pretty close-knit," Lerch said. "Our national office asked us if we could have a picnic in Madison as part of the Harley anniversary party so we were happy to do it."

Communication Services for the Deaf got in touch with the CC Riders, and the motorcycle club offered its clubhouse at 1325 Parkside Drive, off Lien Road on Madison's east side, as the site for the picnic.

"CC Riders was a good connection for us," Lerch said. "They've been a great help."

Oliver said the CC Riders are working with local law enforcement agencies to make sure the deaf bikers have a safe ride from Capital City Harley-Davidson to the Capitol and then out to their clubhouse.

"Between the Madison police, the Sheriff's department and the State Patrol, they are giving us as much help as possible with this ride," Oliver said.

Boerner said it isn't difficult for a deaf person to ride a motorcycle.

"Being deaf is just one of my six senses," he said. "There are no physical limitations. Very simply, I can't hear, but I can do anything else, just like any other human being."

The deaf bikers will start their parade at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Capital City Harley-Davidson. The parade will head east on U.S. 12-18 to County N. It will proceed south on N to Interstate 39-90, then north on the interstate to the Beltline interchange (U.S. 12-18). Motorists are urged to be careful as the motorcycle parade will have to exit onto the Beltline from the left lane of the interstate.

Lerch said between 100 and 200 deaf community members from the Madison area who aren't bikers are also invited to the picnic.

"This is the first time we are doing this for the Deaf Bikers of America in Madison, and it's probably the largest event we've ever done," she said.

Oliver said the CC Riders originally had wanted the picnic to be a private affair for the deaf bikers and the motorcycle club, but because of the cooperation and help shown by members of the community, the picnic will be open to the public.

"So many people have helped organize this, we decided to open it up to anyone who wants to attend," Oliver said.