The ride’s the thing

ALGONA – For Jon Zahner, one of the participants in the motorcycle pull at the 30th annual A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education Freedom Rally at the ABATE Freedom Park, pulling the weighted sled all the way down the course required simple tactics.

“Keep the rpms up and don’t let her let go,” Zahner said.

Letting her go, in this case, meant not letting the wheels slip, thus losing traction. It did not mean letting his wife, Melissa Zahner, who was riding with him, go. After all, she provided a bit of extra traction.

“They called me the super 98-pounder,” she said.

The couple attend the weekend-long rally to spend time with friends, meet new ones and celebrate an annual event.

“We have three kids,” Melissa Zahner said. “This is where we spend our anniversary.”

Coty McIlquham, of Codett, Wis., was another participant in the bike pull. His 2004 Harley Davidson Sportster didn’t quite make it all the way down the track.

He wasn’t sure how many feet he did pull.

“I couldn’t hear,” he said.

McIlquham likes the easy going, laid back atmosphere, his friendly fellow riders and the bands.

He also likes knowing that he’s helping to support ABATE’s rider education programs.

“I recommend everyone do that,” he said of the various courses and classes the organization offers.

Kent Clemens, Iowa ABATE public relations officer, is proud of the group’s efforts to help educate riders and provide training.

“The money is put into education,” Clemens said.

One of ABATE’s most recent additions is a 160-foot by 220-foot slab of concrete on the site.

“We just got it poured,” he said.

It will eventually bear painted markings and a few buildings, allowing them to offer rider education classes on-site.

“This has been a dream since we purchased the property,” he said.

Clemens said that he’s expecting about 9,000 at the rally this year. A third of them had already arrived Thursday.

The overall event, he said, gives a boost to the area economy.

“Every dollar they spend will change hands seven times,” he said.

That can add up quickly. Many of the participants are limited to what they can bring on a motorcycle. That often includes a tent, sleeping bags, clothing and, perhaps, a passenger, but little else.

“They buy most of what they need here,” Clemens said.

William Moe, and his girlfriend, Jenny Schafer, made the trek to the rally from Clear Lake, S.D. Their tent for the weekend included a small air conditioning unit powered by a portable generator. The cool air is needed by Moe, who has multiple sclerosis. But neither MS nor the temperature was going to keep him from enjoying the long weekend. The couple plans on taking several rides through the area.

It’s Schafer’s first time at a rally.

“It’s a whole new experience,” she said.

Moe has been to several. His plans include some time in a lawn chair near one of the roads going through the campground.

“I’m going to enjoy the time and the scenery,” he said.

For those who spent a lot of time on their bikes getting to the rally, some of their parts can get a bit sore.

Melissa Dittberner, of Gayville, S.D., and Libby Claeys, of Sioux City, help out with that: They have a tent in the vendor area where, for a dollar a minute, they will massage the road stress, knots and various aches away.

The worst aches for riders are on the part of their anatomy they sit on. Aches spread from there. Shoulders, necks and arms take a beating too.

The two have been rubbing out stress for seven years.

“We’ve built a family here,” Dittberner said.

“Yeah,” Claeys said, “we try to stop coming, but we just can’t.”

Larry Riedel, of Rowan, like many riders, carries photographs of loved ones in his wallet and will, without much urging, gladly show them off.

His “children,” though, are a collection of vintage motorcycles.

“I’ve restored 11 of them,” Riedel said.

He brought two of them with him: a 1940 Indian Junior Scout and a 1957 Harley Davidson Model 165.

“It’s the same year as me,” he said.

Riedel takes them out for spins around the camp.

“It’s a neat conversation piece,” he said, referring to the Indian Junior Scout. “I ride it around and meet people.”

The Freedom Rally continues today and Saturday. For a complete listing of events and admission costs, go to the group’s Website at