Snow fell gently on my motorcycle. The temperature had finally climbed into the mid-30s and the roads, though wet, were clear. I kissed my lovely wife, promised my faithful dog I was coming right back, and set out for one last Moonshine Lunch Run.
These annual treks to the Moonshine Store are now history, but the Moonshine idea continues as ever. Readers of Rider will recall that Terry Hammond, a motorcycle-riding farmer from Casey, Illinois, conceived the Moonshine Lunch Run. In 2004, Terry used an Internet forum to invite other riders to join him for a Moonburger, the signature dish of the Moonshine Store.
Importantly, Terry asked riders to make the run to Moonshine, which is nestled among cornfields and woods in rural southeastern Illinois, in early April. Why then? He wanted to meet them before the start of farming season, which would keep him on his tractor–and off his motorcycle–until mid-summer.
A couple of riders found their way to Moonshine that first time. Over 14 years, thousands of riders made the early spring journey from across the United States, Canada and points beyond. In 2018, Norman Lafleur of Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada, came the farthest, riding a 2007 Honda ST1300 2,319 miles (one way) to Moonshine. Kreis Weigel of Knoxville, Tennessee, made the Moonshine Lunch Run all 14 times; no other rider did that.
Over my eight runs to Moonshine, I asked riders why they had ventured hundreds or even thousands of miles to the middle of nowhere, that time of year. No one said it was for the frequently lousy weather or the flat, straight roads of southeastern Illinois. Many mentioned the Moonburgers. They are really good–fresh, hand-formed beef, flattened on the grill, served on a good bun with cheese and bacon if you like, and lots of condiment options.
But it wasn’t burgers that made this annual gathering exceptional. It was the opportunity to connect with other people who embraced the same challenges to get where those burgers were served. The Moonshine Lunch Run nurtured a fellowship among people who typically shared little more in life than a passion for riding long distances on a motorcycle.
Moonshine also reflected the values of small-town America. Casey, which is about 13 miles from the Moonshine Store, has become a second hometown for more than a few long-distance riders, your humble scribe included. I never found another community more welcoming to motorcyclists, and it went far beyond all those signs and banners that proclaimed “Welcome Riders.”
In the days surrounding the Lunch Run, local businesses, including Bolin Enterprises, prepared meals for us. Renee Honselman made us cinnamon rolls. They didn’t expect us to pay them for the food. Instead, riders donated whatever amount felt right and all the money collected–every nickel–supported local causes such as the food pantry, a music scholarship and the local volunteer fire department. Even the coveted Moonshine Lunch Run T-shirts were donated and the money riders paid for them went to charity.
April 14, 2018, marked the final “official” Moonshine Lunch Run. Annual events have a way of evolving from the original, and it was time. Gladly, the Moonshine Store isn’t going anywhere. The Tuttle family (no relation to Rider’s Mark Tuttle) is still serving Moonburgers to farmers, oil field workers and anyone else who shows up between 6:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. when the grill closes.
Some Moonshine Lunch Run veterans plan to return next year, even without an official event. I sensed wide agreement that people making their own runs to Moonshine–or anywhere else riders choose to gather–is more in keeping with Terry Hammond’s original concept.
Curiously, April’s ride to Moonshine brought me full circle. Before any of us knew this would be the last Moonshine Lunch Run, I planned to ride there with Steve Efthyvoulou and Michael Boucher, the same two friends who joined me on my inaugural trip to Moonshine. When I learned the news, I suggested we take the same route we took my first time–and the experience was textbook Moonshine.
There were 20-degree temps in New Jersey, wide-grin twisties in southeastern Ohio and furious crosswinds in Indiana. We sheltered under a canopy as wind-blown rain added some rural Illinois seasoning to our Moonburgers. That rain stayed with us for 500 miles into Pennsylvania. The next afternoon, snow was falling as I pulled into my garage in Massachusetts to enthusiastic welcomes from my wife and dog.
If it had all been easy and uneventful, it wouldn’t have been Moonshine. Those who made the Moonshine Lunch Run appreciated the challenges and gained the rewards. As Terry Hammond would have said, they “get it.”
So this isn’t good-bye. It’s an invitation to “get it” yourself. Pick a spot, invite some friends–and go ride!