WAIPOULI — The rumble in Waipouli was not from thunder — there wasn’t a thundercloud in the sky — but rather, from the engines of more than 125 motorcycles Sunday.
“Mine stay broke,” said Russell Haluapo, a longtime motorcycle enthusiast, his feet garbed in local ‘kine rubbah slippahs’ instead of leather boots. “But I come to support.”
Tom Leighton of Two Wheels who organized the Street Poker Run overheard that conversation and chimed in, “You should’ve told me. You could’ve ridden my bike because I’m not riding today.”
Leighton had his hands full trying to organize the event geared towards raising funds to support Kaua‘i’s men and women who will be deploying shortly for Iraq.
“We should raise a couple thousand dollars to help the troops,” Leighton said.
On hand to help were Barbara Nobriga of the family support group for the Air National Guard. She had the help of her sister Kalae Leaver and the pair were kept busy dispensing tickets for the prize cache that swelled beyond the $7,000 mark.
Included among that cache was a special edition Tori Richards Harley-Davidson shirt pillow that motorcycle enthusiasts lost little time getting tickets for.
Angel McFarland and Crystal Horne spent Saturday dressed as leprechauns. They were amazed at the generosity of the community in providing prizes to help the event.
“We were resting at Polynesia Cafe and talking about what we had gotten and where we were going,” McFarland said, decorated with her great-uncle’s military insignia. “When the owner heard us, he topped his original offering of $250 worth of gift certificates to $500.”
Retired general Myron Dobashi, who had the honor of pulling the lucky number tickets, was also impressed with the generosity and support shown by the motorcycle riders, the community and the various businesses.
“I have never been to an event where there were so many prizes given to a single recipient,” Dobashi said. “Thank you to everyone, to all the support you show for our troops.”
Dobashi said the soldiers are heading off to a place in the world that isn’t in very good shape right now.
“They need your support,” he said. “We want to make sure they know they are thought of. But beyond that, they need to be in all our prayers so they come home safely.”
Leighton said this was the first time bicyclists were eligible for some of the fun. About 10 of them showed up in their riding gear to tackle a shortened version of the run — a ride to Kilauea and back.
“That was a pretty tough run,” said Brenda Zaun who was one of the winners for the cyclists. “It’s not something I’d do every day, but it was a good ride.”
For the motorcyclists, the run extended from Kilauea to Waimea with designated stops where the riders had to secure receipts to be eligible for the poker hand drawing.
As the rumble of engines signaled the return of the motorcycles, a tour bus filled with Japanese visitors unloaded so the tourists could get photos and video of the caravan of street bikes.
Enjoying food prepared by some of the Two Wheels staff, the riders waited anxiously for Dobashi to pull the grand prize — a $1,200 travel certificate provided by host Two Wheels.
Dobashi pulled one number — it belonged to Leighton who disqualified himself. The second number belonged to Jason Iwata who was more concerned about not knowing where his final destination was going to be.
“This was really a good fundraiser,” Leighton said. “We’ll take a couple of days to figure out our costs, but all of the proceeds from the lucky number tickets automatically go to the family support groups for the National Guard. It should be a couple thousand dollars.”
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or firstname.lastname@example.org