ken zipp vietnam vetThe story of the bikers chasing down an SUV after the driver ran over motorcyclists is horrifying. It's making people fear bikers and think they are out to hurt or intimidate others on the road. This is not true. I know this firsthand.

Meet my father, Ken Zipp, on the left on the Harley giving a handshake to a disabled veteran on Memorial Day in Washington. He is a Vietnam Veteran and Purple Heart recipient. He belongs to Rolling Thunder, an organization that helps veterans. My dad has willingly given countless hours of his time to this cause. The name Rolling Thunder came about because that's what it sounds like when all the bikers ride together. He rides in a pack. Sometimes all within the Rolling Thunder organization, sometimes with friends outside the group -- sports bikes, Harleys, custom-made, all are welcome. We cannot discriminate against bikers because of this incident. Just like we cannot discriminate against SUVs. To help you, I should tell you more about my dad, a biker.

My father owns two Harley Davidsons. He mostly wears Vietnam Veteran t-shirts which are sold to raise money for vets of all wars. He is also a man who dresses up like Santa every year and brings the biggest smiles to his grandchildren's faces. That's my dad with my son, who loves his Pop Pop and his motorcycle and sleeps next to a photo of him on his bike every night because "he misses him when he's not around." My Pop has also dressed up like Santa for veterans at the local VA equipped with gifts purchased with monies raised from various Rolling Thunder fundraisers. That Santa suit has gotten a lot of use and brought a lot of joy.

dad santa child

My father and Rolling Thunder often are asked to honor fallen soldiers when they come home. He and his group have lead processions for far too many veterans who have given the ultimate sacrifice. My father is about honor and respect. And it's not only within his group and the causes they represent that my dad gives his time. Last month a local woman who my parents knew only because she worked at the place they get their film developed called my dad. Her husband had tragically died in a motorcycle accident and she knew my dad was a part of Rolling Thunder through small talk and seeing his photos. She asked him if there was any way he could get some friends together to lead the funeral procession. She said it would be something her husband would have loved. This man wasn't a veteran -- he wasn't even someone my father knew. But something made my dad say yes. It was raining that morning and even though not the best idea to ride a motorcycle in the weather, my father and one of his friends led the funeral procession for this man. My father felt this gesture on his part was a small way to help this woman, and her infant child, grieve the loss of her husband, a fellow father.

My father, the biker, makes me proud.

If I needed to convince you further that not all bikers who travel in packs are bad, meet Kenny Gorton. Kenny is a friend of mine since high school and biker with the Defiant Crew in upstate NY. DC is a group -- a brotherhood of bikes -- who support each other and their neighbors.

kenny gorton

He might look like trouble, but Kenny is a sweetheart. He agrees that bikers are stereotyped, but there is a lot of good they do, too. "We (Defiant Crew) just threw a benefit for a good friend of mine who has cancer. We were able to raise $4,500 for him. Our group is about doing good for our community, and taking care of the people in it."

There are brotherhoods and sisterhoods of bikers all over this country who are doing good deeds and who enjoy a ride through our city streets and our mountains. They aren't menacing. They want to help others. They donate their time and energy. They would come to the aid of someone in need.

We still don't know the whole story of the bikers versus the SUV -- and this is just one incident that unfortunately has made people fear all bikers. There was wrong from both sides. Mob mentality is scary, and just like how it seemed some of the bikers reacted with that kind of thought, joining together to hate all bikers is doing the same thing. There are things we can take away from the story, like being mindful of how we react -- this is true for both parties involved here. We also need to share the road -- this is true for bikers and drivers. Be kinder. Be more aware. And most importantly, we should never stereotype. Ever.

Did this make you change your mind about bikers?

 

Photos by Michele Zipp, Ken Zipp; last photo Kenny Gorton