The shortest distance between two points used to be a straight line, but modern physics has tweaked that popular expression. Now the shortest distance between two points is the path that light takes to make the connection.
In the case of the Fourth Annual Peace Officers Memorial Run, heralded as the San Francisco Bay Area’s foremost motorcycle event, it was a matter of 55 miles between San Jose and Hollister, California, connected by the light cast by honor and duty.
Making those calculations was the event’s cofounder, San Jose police officer Bucky Harris. Himself a cop for 20 years, Harris is well aware of the traditions of the area’s peace officers stretching back to 1887. He is a motor officer by profession, and a Harley rider by avocation, specifically a Road King.
A lot of Harris’ colleagues ride bikes, all kinds, and he’s put on a ton of miles, but it was the 55-mile stretch between the San Jose Sheriff’s Department and Hollister’s Bolado Park that recently drew his interest. “About five years ago I got this idea we should do something to commemorate officers who have died in the line of duty in Santa Clara County and get the public involved. There are a number of events that occur to recognize these officers but mostly within the police departments. My idea was to use the motorcycle as the medium to bring the public into the experience.”
Harris is all too well aware that 40 peace officers have paid with their lives since records were kept, the last only a few months ago. Sharing his idea for a commemorative event with friend John Boyles, they recruited volunteers and launched their first event in May of 2000, the date coinciding with National Police Week. About 800 bikes showed for the first Santa Clara Valley Peace Officer’s Memorial Run, then over 1,500 the next year, that figure more than doubling to over 3,500 the following year. It was obvious that people did care, as the path was lined with spectators waving American flags and cheering on the waves of motorcyclists who had rolled in from all parts of the state.
The event began with a solemn memorial service at the San Jose Sheriff’s Office, where the names of the fallen officers were recited to the hushed crowd. “The main focus for me is the ceremony where the names of the fallen are read so that the public understands that there are officers out there dying for their community,” explains Harris. “I know a lot of people attend the event because they like to see those roads shut down so they can ride their motorcycles, but they also understand why we have this run. We break the day down to a memorial service that’s a sad affair, but then we follow it with a celebration of their service to their communities with a barbecue and band at Bolado Park.”
While the general public attended this year’s run, its ranks were swelled by members from a number of law enforcement motorcycle clubs from all over California as well as H.O.G. chapter members, the Gold Wing Club, the Vulcan Club and the Blue Knights. It was poetry in motion since security was tight but light and no one worried about their bikes. That included Jerry Newton and his daughter Collette, who had ridden from Paso Robles on their 2002 Honda Sabre. “We don’t just get on the bike for short runs, we ride,” says Jerry. Dave and Wendy—who rode in from Sacramento on their ’91 FLHS—added, “We had a great ride and a great time. We’ll be back next year.”
For $20 you had a great chance of winning a 100th Anniversary Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, since only 1,200 raffle tickets had been issued. The bike’s gas tank had been shipped to Milwaukee where none other than Willie G. himself signed it. The bike was provided by Brian Cardozo of San Jose Harley-Davidson, the event’s major sponsor.
The winning ticket was held by one lucky guy, Brad Cairns of San Jose, who went home with a $20,000 motorcycle bought for $20. “He and I bought tickets together,” says Kevin Keller, general manager at San Jose H-D. “Brad, who didn’t have a bike, turns to me and says, ‘Don’t bother buying a ticket, I just bought the winning one.’ Then when they called to tell him he’d won, he thought it was a joke. He’s still in a daze.”
Funds raised by the event went to provide support to the families of fallen officers as well as to provide scholarships for deserving high school students in Santa Clara and San Benito counties. Last year’s event raised $20,000.
It felt pretty safe leaving your bike parked anywhere on the fairgrounds, too, since a big chunk of the crowd were police officers. We met a bunch of local guys, like motor officer Bob Keyarts, who puts 40 hours a week in the saddle for Santa Clara County, and Department of the Treasury agent Joseph Escalante on his ’88 Police FLH, along with his lifelong buddies private investigator Gregory Yancey on a 2003 Fat Boy and Officer Ruben Sanchez on a 2000 Dyna Glide.
Oddly enough not one traffic ticket was issued during the whole event.
For information about next year’s event contact:
- Bucky Harris, (408) 989-4867
- John Boyles, (408) 410-1421
San Jose Police Officers’ Association
1151 North Fourth Street
San Jose, California 95112
San Jose Harley-Davidson
1551 Parkmore Avenue
San Jose, California 95128
(This article Fourth Annual Peace Officers Memorial Run was published in the September 2004 issue of Rider magazine.)