MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
From the flames, a collaboration of twisted steel and rubber roared into the open, bellowing an addictive mixture of smoke and sound as it forged onward. Two giant, gleaming horns sat fixed in its head as a single, fiery eye cut through the darkness, a leather-clad figure riding atop its back, mastering the insane mechanical beast with a white-knuckled grip.
This sight was common as Marines, sailors and civilians, uniformed in leather jackets, jeans and riding boots, swung into the Hadnot Point Annex parking lot for the 2010 Poker Run, hosted by the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Department of Public Safety, Nov. 19.
“Due to the upcoming holiday period, every Marines needs to be assured they know how to conduct themselves safely,” said Christopher Field, safety compliance officer for 2nd Marine Division. “Motorcyclists have this Poker Run, which gives them exposure to the mentorship program as well as further lessons on how to safely operate a motorcycle.”
Motorcyclists from Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River gathered in the annex parking lot while riders from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point met up at their base’s rally point. The event was a day-long ride, taking participants through Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point installations as well as three points throughout Emerald Isle.
“Riders choose their own route to get to all the checkpoints, and at each one they are given a playing card,” said L.E. McLawhorn, lead instructor for the Navy and Marine Corps Traffic Safety Program. “They end up with six cards total, and they pick their best five-card poker hand.”
When the Poker Run is completed, the hands are matched against each other and prizes will be given out to the rider with the best hand and the one with the worst hand in both sports and cruiser-bike types.
“A lot of poker runs are conducted by other organizations for charity or promotional purposes, but ours is for the safety benefit as well as to just have fun,” said McLawhorn.
That is the beating heart behind the Poker Run’s existence; that while riders are enjoying a day off from work to ride with other motorcyclists, they are abiding by the proper rules, wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and learning from one another.
“A lot of the riders here don’t ride in a group, which involves different riding factors as opposed to riding alone,” said Staff Sgt. Eddie Heath, maintenance chief with 8th Engineer Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 25, 2nd Marine Logistics Group. “It’s about motorcycle networking, meeting and riding with those you wouldn’t normally see.”
When all the riders returned from the route, the poker hands were recorded and matched, eventually turning out the four prize winners to an eager crowd. Navy Capt. Robert Etheridge, a dental officer with 2nd Dental Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, won the overall event with a full house of eights and sevens.
“This event gives everyone the opportunity to further build a brotherhood that their units already have made,” said Etheridge. “While you’re out riding with your buds and enjoying a beautiful day, you should be honing your skills. Every time you go out and ride, you should be further learning.”
At the end of the day, a total of 130 registered participants from the three bases rode in the event with another 20 riders along for the ride. Not a single motorcyclist was injured, and while not everyone walked away with a prize, they rode with enjoyment and safety.
“Everyone met new people and even scheduled future riding days,” said Sgt. Michael Cunningham, operations noncommissioned officer with Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. “It’s a learning tool for everyone, constantly learning new lessons on the road.”
For more information on future DPS motorcycle events, call 451-0146.