Any Given Sunday

By Jeff Skulsky

June 2006

 

The following is the Genesis and History of SGMA from one member’s perspective. I thought it might be of interest to some of you to know a little more about the history of our club and put some of the recent events into perspective along with some of my own observations and opinions – I hope you enjoy the reading.
My goal of this document is to provide a look back at how we got to where we are, some of the exciting and troubled times we experienced and share with you what I have learned over the years – The more things change, the more they stay the same. The issues we face today, are the same as what we faced 10 years ago, and I expect that they will be the same that we will face in 10 years from now.

First my commentary: My opinion is that you need to decide what is important to you – if it’s just the ride – then ride, if its doing something more, then contribute, until you cannot – but we have not, and should not expect/force others to do the same. The club has grown from a foundation of freedom of choice, do what you want, and be accepted by the group, regardless of the choice you make (unless that choice puts others at risk).

 For me, it really comes down to a simple fact. I want to ride when I want, and knowing that I can show up on any given Sunday at Samsondale and find someone to ride with. That’s what it is all about. As well as knowing that if there is an event I want to go to, odds are, someone from the club will be going, and I can join them. Over the past many years, I’ve only experienced 2 times where I did not have someone to ride with – Once, I showed up to early at Samsondale (did not realize the time) and left, before others arrived. Another was my trip to Milwaukee fpr the 100th, no one from the club was interested in joining me.

 I realize that there are doubts in the minds of some on the stability of the club, to those of you who do, let me say this – we have gone through allot, and we have not just survived – but enjoyed our time together – you know the saying, you can’t really feel joy, unless you felt some pain. We are a family, with its ups and downs, new additions and departures – I expect we will continue to thrive for a long while coming. 

 You will see from our past, where we were over 100 strong, and went down to 15, leveled off at 25, had some great rides, parties and benefits. Same old story – A core group did most of the work, and when the work got too much, we did less. We struggled to get folks to show at Samsondale, and at other times, we had a parade for a Sunday ride. Of course the content of the newsletter varied from some great content from the membership (each person was asked to take a Sunday ride and write about it) to times were we only published one page (and at other times, we combined months).

 Enough of the editorial, lets get on with the history. Many of the items listed are taken from reviewing old papers and newsletters, along with dusting off some old memories…. I’ll try my best to stick with the facts, although I’ll probably throw a few comments and may even embellish a bit. I hope you find this of some value – if not, then I’m sorry for wasting your time. I know it was of value to me – remembering where we came from, what we have done and who we’ve riddent with.

 Our story:

 Rockland County Harley Owners Group (RC HOG), Sponsored by Daryl’s Harley Davidson started in the mid to late 80’s. I joined in late 92 and really enjoyed the people and rides. At that time, the group was about 100+ strong, and I met some amazing people, many (including my wife, who I met on a club outing in Woodstock – She was rafting) who changed my life. 

 In late 1993, our sponsoring dealer informed us that he no longer wanted to sponsor a HOG chapter. There were many rumors as to why, but in the end, we held our last meeting on November 20, 1993.

 The leadership at the time proposed, and it was accepted by the active membership, to stay together, so we looked at options (lead by our then chapter president, Bobby). In the end, we decided that we wanted to be known as a Rockland County based organization and the only choice was to start a new club, and Harley would not support us.

 After numerous brainstorming sessions, we came up with Second Generation (eg. 1st Generation was RC HOG). As you can guess both the club name and colors were selected to represent a rebirth (Phoenix arising from the flames). As a matter of fact, one early draft of the colors had HOG spelled out in the flames (but this turned into a copyright infringement).

 The new organization was formed in 1994 as a Harley Only Motorcycle Association (we decided not to go with MC in an attempt to avoid conflict with other MC’s) with 43 of the 100+ HOG members, and our colors getting finalized in November of that year. Our President was Bobby, VP was Steve, Treasurer was Al and Editor was Bill.

 In December of 1996 we received our charter from the AMA.

 Those first years were filled with many interesting and exciting rides and parties. Some annual traditions lasted, and others faded away. We rode out of Samsondale on Sunday’s at 10am, all year around.

 Dues were $25/yr and $3 per meeting with the objective of spending everything in the treasury by years end. We then decided a few years later that we wanted to run some charity events, and needed to raise money, so we began to save. In Late 1990’s early 2000’s, we raised the monthly fee to $5. Then in 2002, to simplify collections, we went to a fixed $80 annual fee ($5 discount from the monthly fee) and the dues have remained flat since.

 We had and have continued to meet on the third Wednesday of the month at 8pm. For a while it was at the New City clubhouse (located bobby’s house), then we moved to the Thiels/Mount Ivy Firehouse, and most recently to the Haverstraw Elks.

Some memories include:

The annual spring kick off (called a “coming out party” in the early years – name changed for obvious reasons) included a bike blessing, the annual Family Picnic and annual Holiday Party. Other annual traditions included Laconia that started in 1997.

Our 1994 Holiday Party was dedicated to Maggie and Charlie, knowing that Maggie was Ill and not long for this world. The club raised enough money to provide them with an all expense paid trip to numerous Hawaiian Islands (She passed on a few months after the trip).

We had a number of different rides and activities throughout the years, and it was all about doing things together – I remember  Daytona, 3 years at Easy Rider Rodeo in Orange county, Lost Wheels, Daytona, Americade, Gooches Garlic Run, Rolling Thunder (to Wall St)  and Myrtle beach.

 I recall a number of us camping out in Orange County Fair Grounds at the Easy Rider rodeo – What a trip that was, allot of very interesting people. Ken and I finding ourselves in the Heart of a fairly scary MC, Vinny disappearing for a while, just to come back scuffed up a bit, and Al losing his glasses, and having to follow John and I home at night, without any eye protection……

 It’s strange/sad as I look at the past couple of years, and see more clicky groups and more people being selective on whom they travel with.

Even the winter rides were exciting – The rule back then was, it only counted if you traveled 25 miles. Many times, we just met in the Cars and had Breakfast. I recall one Sunday morning, the sun was shining, and Cindy and I rode to Samsondale, met everyone and went to a local diner. When we finished, there was 2 inches on the ground (Al took Cindy in her car, and I followed riding in his tracks).

Another staple of our week was Friday Night dinners – And I mean every Friday night, we had a group enjoying each others company, complaining about the check not being split evenly - even during the winter. Meeting to gout out was always at Annie’s.

How about the time that we saw Jeff on the side of the road in harraman with his Girl friend – as we passed he waived. Only later did we find out that he wanted us to stop, as he was broken down.

We always talked about fund raising, of course we always talked about doing more than we did, but that was because most of the club was interested in riding when the could, and only a few had the time to spend and make things happen. SO those that could, did and we tried many things. One year we had a very successful blood drive, We held 3 Country Western nights (from 1996 – 1999), a few mothers day breakfasts and an annual toy drives to name a few. We did what we could, when we could.

Looking back, it’s unfortunate that some of the activities we held have faded away.

 Our Annual Toy Drive was in memory of Hank Tilp – Started in the early 90’s through 2000. We were able to collect toys for the kids at St. Agatha’s, got donations and presented food to People to People, Salvation Army and many other local organizations.

 We enjoyed many enjoyable (7) years of the annual Lobster run that included a ride to Rhode Island, a few nights camping (some folks stayed at local motels), great food (lobster picked up at the local docks) and an awesome time around the campfire.

 We also enjoyed an annual foliage run, and joined many other clubs on their rides. One year we went to a pig roast – that was very different, especially when some of the locals started hitting each other with Hammers……

 Unfortunately, it was not always about the ride, and we did have many problems. After that first year, we ran into a pretty serious situation that started when the Secretary and Treasurer stepped down.

 There were a number of issues floating about, as you would expect when you have a large group of folks with different ideas. But the major issue resulted from some tension with a local MC. It would seem that they were not happy with our choice of Patches, Colors and Wording and asked us to make some changes.

 The conflict was that when we started the club, we got approval from the HA on our colors, so we were in a little bind – who do we listen too – the HA’s or the local MC – Each saying the opposite thing….

 I will not bore you with the details, but what I can say is that no one got hurt, and in the end, many of our members felt threatened and scared. I recall one Friday Night Dinner when a group of folks from the other club pull Bobby out of the restaurant to talk in the parking lot. At first he refused, until they threatened us, and agreed not to get violent if he went outside.

 This was one of many encounters that we had with this club, and by the end of the summer, we were told that we would no longer be bothered (we received some intervention from the outside). At that point, I am not sure it mattered that much to some. As it made us all think about our safety and the safety of our families.

 As I said, no-one got hurt, but Bobby and a number of the members decided it was not worth having a “Patch” on our backs. As a result, in Feb 1996 Bobby made a decision to disband the club. He sent out a letter to the members with the plan to return all monies and assets to the remaining membership. He then solicited the members to join a more anonymous “riding group”  – Personally, I believe that this was done with the best of intentions – to protect the membership from what he perceived as a threat.

 In response to Bobby’s actions, those members that wanted SGMA to continue banded together under the leadership of Mike Renza (Elected VP) and announced that the club would continue on.

 Mike was then voted in as Pres, Steve as VP, Ken as Secretary, Neil as Treasurer and Safety Officer and me as Activities – SGMA had a second rebirth with a core of about 20 members.

 Frankly, I was on the fence for a few months – it was not really possible to stay with both clubs, due to the tension – you had to pick a side and I did not want to. I think Mike and others knew I was on the fence and was not happy about it, but they still accepted me. I really liked Bobby, and thought he was (and is) a great person and strong leader. On the other had, I liked the ride –and liked to ride with the folks in SGMA (Al had been leading the pack since before I joined, and I took the third position for many of the rides).

 In the end, the answer was simple – It was about the ride – and since I enjoyed the SGMA ride, the people and liked to follow Al –that is where I stayed.

 Anyway, the Club went on, and as you can see from the long list of activities noted above, we enjoyed, the members focused on what was important, did as much as we could, and when things got too much, we did less

 Sure there were times when only a few of us rode – frankly, those are the times I remember the best – Like when Steve, Al and I rode down to Cubby’s in Hackensack on Easter Sunday, or we went up to High Point for the day with Maggie or the picnic held at Lake Miniwaska.

 We had issues, and discussions  - the same we hear today - we need to get more folks on the ride, we need to get more folks to help with the activities, we need more content for the calendar, we need to organize the Sunday rides …..

 Over time, we grew, two folks here, three there. And there were the folks that left – some moved, others moved on. We hovered at about 25 for some time.

 Some other dates and milestones include:

 In September 1997 – We got our e-mail address, and we even had a Hotline for a few years (Call to listen to the most recent updates on what’s going on, where the ride was…)

 In January 1998 Mike remained Pres, but a new supporting leadership was voted in.

Ken took office as VP, Roger as treasurer, Neil remained as Safety officer.

Karen took over as secretary and Vinny as treasurer.

 While we were about 25, not everyone could ride. Personally, my life changed after having two children and a job that required me to be on the rode 60% of the time. I found myself going out on Sunday’s at 7am, and finishing my ride at Samsondale at 10am.

 As we continued on, it became a challenge for the core group to keep up with all the activities we wanted – In late 2000, the lobster run and annual toy run we no longer on the Calendar.

 And so it remained for many years…….

In 2002, Vinny stepped down as treasurer, and I was asked to take on the position.  Having some financial background, I reviewed the books and saw an opportunity to put a plan in place to increase our revenues and savings. We then went from an annual bank account of about $3k to where we are today (with the ability to fund the dice run).

 In 2002 we had our first mothers day breakfast and began talking about the MSF course.

 In September of 2002, we ratified the charter and agreed that on Jan 1 2003, we would allow all bike riders, not just Harley owners. This changed the club forever.

In January  2003 we moved the traditional 10am ride to 11am in the winter, and 9:30 for summer months.

 In March 2003, our website was brought on line

 In May of 2003 the Mothersday breakfast turn out was less than expected (by members) and discontinued.

 In july of 2003, the club voted to make safety officers go to MSF and agreed to pay for them and $25 for club members – And to date, no one has organized the class.

 In 2004, Jeff was then elected to VP we said fair well to Al.

2004 was also a major milestone, in that it was the first year of the dice run – we were able to donate $3000 to the ABCF - This organization was selected to show support for those in our club that were stricken with this horrible affliction.

 The following year, we ran out second annual dice run and made Television – we were on Fox news and friends. We upped our donation to ABCF to $5k.

 In late 2004, tension began to build, and we faced another crisis. I believe it had to do with the large influx of people, in a short amount of time. As a result, we had a few charter members leave as they felt the club was not going the way they would like (comments like – we are growing too fast, to many clicks, …)

An idea that was surfaced was to have a clubhouse. A place of our own (Hang our colors on the wall, trophy case,…)  We decided that a clubhouse was not worth the effort to have, and that while it would be a great idea, many agreed that it was not what we are about.

In September, things got pretty heated up and a little interesting, and as a result, one could say that there was a revolt in the works. Some of the newer members (joined in 2004 and 2005) expressed concerned on the club and where the club was going – or not going (many wanted the clubhouse, more formal rules…) as a result, new candidates were added to the election slate – in my opinion, in a very bad way. The elections results showed what the club wanted – to stay as we are and have been. The executive board remained.

 In the end, those folks who were unhappy with the club collectively decided to leave, (about 10) and as with other years, a few other folks decided to leave as well (for their own reasons).

 So here we are, alive and kicking. Some rumors floating around about our demise are a bit off. Over the past few months, I’ve heard some members with concern on our ability to sustain ourselves after the recent departure. While I am never happy to see someone leave the group, what you can see, from the history, is that we have gone through allot, and will continue to thrive and grow, as we change.

I see that each change makes us stronger and reminds us of why we are here – and why we joined. If we decide we do not like what we see, we can try to make a change, but if it is not accepted, then few options exist –but if it is about the ride, then that’s all you need.

 I know for me, what It’s about  – I can show up to Samsondale on any given Sunday for  a ride.

 In conclusion, going through the notes and newsletters reminded me of many of the good and bad times and as I started out saying, made me aware that some things do not change. In short:

  1. It’s all about the ride – any given Sunday – show up at Samsondale and know that someone will be their to ride.

  2. People don’t always ride – if you’ve been with us for a while – you would know this.

  3. Not everyone participates – And that’s the way it will be.

  4. It’s hard to have content in the newsletter –

  5. There will be times we do some great things, and other times that those things fade away.

  6. We will have issues finding people to step up to hold an office of the club.

  7. There will always be click’s and sub groups, but for the most part, most of the members are receptive to riding and traveling with the entire group, rather than their own click.

  8. We should accept what we are and who we are today, and be open to change tomorrow.

  9. We should look for ways to accept and include others, rather than exclude.

  10. Enjoy the ride – whether there are 3 or 30 of us.

 

 

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