The Open Road

February 12, 2007
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Daytona, Sturgis, Laconia … Muskegon?

If Muskegon-area bikers have their way, the city will become another name synonymous with bikers, motorcycle rides and a week of celebrating the camaraderie and experience of biking with Muskegon Bike Time.

The inaugural event will take place July 20-22, the weekend traditionally reserved for the canceled Muskegon Air Fair. Muskegon mayor and event board co-chair Steve Warmington said he believes the weekend will lead visitors to stop and stay awhile in the state, experiencing the many rides that Michigan's shore has to offer and eventually becoming a week-long event.

Organizers of the event include members of American Bikers Aiming Toward Education of Michigan, Muskegon Motorcycle Club, Muskegon Harley Owners Group Chapter and various motorcycle dealerships.

"You just go because of the party," said Rick Sly, owner of West Shore Motorsports. Sly, who has more than 100 bikes and has attended events in Sturgis for 25 years with other Muskegon-area bikers, is excited about the event's potential as a destination for motorcycle enthusiasts.

C.K. Spurlock, national promoter and adviser for the Laughlin River Run has been tapped as a consultant. He said bikers such as Sly go back year after year to the different events, but are always looking for new experiences.

"They want to ride," he said. "They want to see new scenery and smell new smells."

There will be plenty of sights and smells as Bike Time will feature events including Bubba Blackwell's Evel Knievel-style stunt show, musical acts, a Supermoto Outlaw Race and a 10-block "Motorcycle Alley" on Western Avenue featuring food, entertainment and merchandise vendors.

With so much to do in the short Bike Time weekend, Spurlock said he hopes that visitors will get a taste of the area and then go home to tell their friends all about it.

"I think Muskegon is probably one of the best-kept secrets in the world," Spurlock said of the riding opportunities and other offerings in the area. "We want everybody to be so busy doing so many different things that they can't really see it all."

When the event takes off, he believes the economic opportunities could be huge, with biker tent cities throughout the Lakeshore. Spurlock cited a Sturgis campground that makes more than $15 million over the two-week event. Businesses welcome the bikers because they spend money, tip well and are polite.

Now we just have to wonder: Who tips better, the bikers or the pilots?

  • After four terms and 16 years of representing the city's West Side, 1st Ward Commissioner Roy Schmidt has decided not to seek a fifth term. His current term ends at the end of this year.

"This is a difficult decision for me because I love this job. I have enjoyed every minute of it and I am humbled by the continued support I get from my constituents," said Schmidt, the longest-serving elected official currently on the city commission.

Schmidt, who has consistently called on state lawmakers to fully fund revenue sharing payments to cities and counties, said he hasn't decided what his future plans are. But the rumor mill has him running for the 76th District House of Representatives seat next year, a post currently held by term-limited Democrat Michael Sak.

"I just know that it is time for me to step back from the city commission now," he said. "I need to really focus on my work and on what I might do politically in the future."

  • In a stunning week for Grand Rapids public relations, last week capped a seven-day stretch in which four Grand Rapids organizations — Spectrum Health, Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, ad house Hanon McKendry and Calvin College — received mentions in the The Wall Street Journal, with none of these having anything to do with late President Gerald R. Ford.

Unfortunately, the mention of Calvin College's New Mexico study abroad program identified the school as hailing from Grand Rapids, Minn.

  • Speaking of Calvin, professors Gayle Ermer, Tom Hoeksema and Glen Van Andel were honored last week by the Michigan Campus Compact with its highest honor, the community service-learning award, for their separate projects with the developmentally disabled in partnership with the Christian Learning Center.

  • On Friday, Michigan Attorney General and McCain Michigan Chairman Mike Cox stopped off on his way to the Michigan Republican State Convention to cut the ribbon on the Michigan headquarters of the John McCain 2008 exploratory committee, which is the en vogue term for early presidential fundraising.

The office is located within the Leonard Street headquarters of the Kent County GOP, so it would seem that Republicans have made up their mind on a candidate. Word on the street is a bit different, however, as many former McCain supporter are still undecided between the Arizona senator and former New York City Mayor and post-9/11 national hero Rudy Giuliani, including former Michigan McCain chair Robert Eleveld, the Grand Rapids attorney who delivered the state's nomination in 2000.

  • The quote of the week comes from Gov. Jennifer Granholm, although she didn't actually say it. It was found in satirical newspaper The Onion, in its report last week, "Thousands Lose Jobs As Michigan Unemployment Offices Close."

"This is a sad day for the people of Michigan," Granholm said to a crowd of part-time reporters and former assembly-line workers Tuesday. "Our state has a long, hallowed history of unemployment, and with these closings, we have lost a vital part of our economic and social fabric."

Also from The Onion piece, "A 'tragic coda' to a once-vibrant industry that until this week defined the Michigan economy and served almost one-fifth of the state's employable population." And, "Since its inception in 1937, Michigan's unemployment benefits system has been among the nation's most productive, outlasting the state's automotive and other industrial and manufacturing sectors to become Michigan's most enduring job-provider."

Classic. We don't know whether to laugh or cry.    

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