There are book enthusiasts. There are motorcycle groups.
And when you combined the two, you get something pretty special.
“We’re pretty excited about books,” Big Badge V said. “Pretty excited about reading.”
Bikers for Books recently spoke to a large gathering of children and staff at the VFW National Home for Children for March Reading Month.
Bikers for Books started with a group of motorcycle enthusiasts who found themselves talking about literature.
“That’s kind of weird, right?” Big Badge V said, as the group of kids and National Home staff laughed.
The group would talk about motorcycle books and books that their children were reading in school. These talks would eventually lead to the formation of Bikers for Books.
“One teacher wanted the kids to do book reports,” Badge said. “But she didn’t have the funding [for books].”
The group thought that it would be a great idea to raise the money so the teacher could purchase the books for her student. And then another idea formed.
“Why don’t we do something with books?” Badge said.
Badge and the other bikers, including Tank, Wrong Way, and Quarter Tank, decided to form a group that encompasses both their love of reading and motorcycles.
“Reading and books touches everybody,” he said. “It transcends everything.”
Badge said he’s a father, uncle, and husband – “I also have to do the ‘honey-dos’” he said, laughing – and one of his responsibilities is teaching his children about the importance of reading.
“There’s so much in these books,” he said. “And we want others to know.”
For Badge and the others, books and bikes are their passion; something that they live and breathe daily, something they can’t live without.
Bikers for Books started giving presentations about books and the love of reading to schools throughout the mid-Michigan area, including Olivet and St. Johns. The group then branched out further, giving presentations to schools in Whalen, Houghton Lake, and Howell.
“We talk to the kids about traveling in books,” Badge said.
“The library is going to have every place you want to go,” he continued. “That’s pretty cool, don’t you think?”
To Badge and the others, the library’s walls have stories about everything in the world. Time travel, stars, ships gliding across the ocean.
Then Badge shifted focus and began to tell a story about his life aboard a ship. The ship left port, and the city’s buildings began to get smaller and smaller. Then there was nothing but the sea.
He met people and got to know the ship. He spoke about placing his hand on the ship’s smooth rail; looking at the ocean’s smooth surface. He saw dolphins breaking through the water and spraying him.
“I sat there and watched them as long as I could,” Badge said. “What were the odds of dolphins going to the same place as we were?”
Badge and the rest of the crew sailed for weeks through winds and clouds.
“You can smell the sea,” he said. “Incredible.”
Then the wind started to pick up and the ship began to rock a little bit. Badge looked out into the dark distance.
“Then I saw lightening,” he said. “Waves getting bigger and bigger.”
“Waves as big as this room,” he continued, spreading his arms wide.
Badge started to get sick as the ship rocked up and down on the roller coaster sea.
“Waves crashing, throws mist up in the air.”
As Badge spoke, the children and adults alike sat enthralled.
“You can taste the salt from the sea,” he said.
But the men were a long way from home, and Badge missed his family. He wasn’t sure, however, how or if they would ever get home because they were surrounded by water, water everywhere he looked.
Badge went to sleep. He got up the next morning and the sea was as smooth as glass. The ship had been at sea for four weeks now, and he wanted to go home to his wife and kids.
The ship’s food had run out and all that was left was some moldy bread crawling with bugs.
Badge finally confronted the captain, asking if he had “any idea where we’re going?”
“He said, ‘Yeah, I know exactly where we are going,’” Badge said.
The captain had Badge look into his eyes and then said, “You’ve got to believe.”
Badge said there were one hundred sailors and only one captain, so it would be easy to take over the ship. But they didn’t.
There was only enough food for four weeks, and the ship was at least five weeks out.
“We’re going to starve,” Badge said.
Then Badge saw a bird. Badge thought about it for a minute, and realized that birds can’t fly five weeks out. He knew he was going home.
And then Badge wrapped up his tale.
“I’m not telling you I went there physically,” he said. “I read it.”
Badge had just described the voyage of Christopher Columbus to America, which he had read in one of his many beloved books.
“My escape is books,” he said.
Next Tank, Wrong Way, and Quarter Tank spoke about their love of reading. Wrong Way – she’s called that because she always goes the wrong way to every place – spoke about reading to her children at night.
“We get a completely different picture in our heads,” she said. “That’s okay.”
“The destination and journey is all your own.”
The evening wrapped up with some questions, and the children and adults mingling with Bikers for Books afterward before heading out into the cold night.
Please enjoy the photos below from the Bikers for Books presentation. Bikers for Books can be found on Facebook.